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Josef Lapka @Mews: We want to be the revolution in hospitality

Like any other meeting, I had this year, Josef and I met on Zoom first. I really wanted to catch him for a chat because all the innovation and rebranding happening around MEWS caught my attention. We spoke about innovation, what are the changes in the industry and his personal experiences in hospitality and at MEWS. 

Flora: Can you start by telling us about yourself?

Josef: So I actually studied English and performing arts, I wasn’t really sure where that would lead me. Then I found web design, graphic design and later programming.

My first role at Mews was developing innovative distribution technologies but due to the changing dynamics the pandemic brought to the industry and, as a result, Mews my role quickly became focused on building our B2B business via the Mews Marketplace and open API as Product Director. 

My passion has always been traveling, visiting new places. So you see the map behind me? I am not allowed to scratch anything off on my own, only the places I visit with my daughters and wife. At the moment I live by the seaside, I love to swim and go paddleboarding even in this UK weather. 

However, I am originally from the Czech Republic. Prague is probably my favorite city, even though we left when I was 8. I am just very attached to it. We moved back there for a year so my kids could experience Czech school life and culture.

F: I also love the Czech Republic, my favorite place is České Švycársko, where I have spent a summer. 

Josef: That is marvelous, it’s a wonderful part of the country. I actually have a close connection with that place, my dad is from around there. A fun fact: they filmed Narnia there. 

Josef and his family on holidays

F: Tell us about MEWS. You are surely one of the most famous and innovative PMSs out there. What makes you so modern and innovative? 

Josef: I would say that the main difference is the vision set by our leadership team and our constant desire to think differently about the guest experience. Our people here look at things from a completely different angle, and we push, push, push until we break through. 

There are countless features you can develop, and many trends to jump on, but to set the trends, that is difficult. It requires a lot of tenacity. The mindset of not being afraid to fail and keep going until it works is something that is part of Mews’ culture and I think it’s what sets us apart.

The amazing individuals of the team, Matt, Richard, our CTO Honza and CPO Jirka work extremely well together. You could almost call it a hybrid team, as half have had careers predominantly in the hospitality industry, the other half our experts in respective fields. That blend of hotel expertise and external industry expertise is a great way for us to constantly question the status quo but grounding that in deep hospitality knowledge.  

We are always looking for new ways to improve. I feel lucky to work in a team like this. 

Rather than chasing the creation of new modules, our API allows partners like you or anyone else to connect to any part of the PMS to provide expert functionality in specific areas. This is pretty amazing, it’s open, and it’s free 

Flora: Indeed, actually our Development Team loves that about you. Hospitality works best if we are open and welcoming. Not just with guests, but technology-wise as well. We are all thriving to provide the best solution for hoteliers, why not make it open, so they can decide and connect whatever they need. As I speak more and more with hotel tech experts, it becomes clear that open, cloud-based platforms are the future. Open API, and a tech stack, as in hoteliers getting multiple products that work together smoothly. 

Josef: And this is really the key to understanding what Mews is. We have our own ideas about how to shake up hospitality and we are taking our partners with us on that journey. 

This is no secret, we would like to be as transparent as possible and allow everyone to access MEWS if they’d like to. 

Transparency is something very important for me. The first day I started working at MEWS I sat in on a meeting that had about 35 new starters and the finance team presented the entire revenue and expenses of the company. You don’t get this with other companies, they usually like to keep that info to themselves.

This kind of transparency translates to everyone and everything else, we are comfortable saying: that we don’t necessarily do guest messaging or upselling the best way, but we have many partners who have the technology and expertise for that. And we would like to empower those partners. 

The main thing is innovation and technology. Even in sales and marketing pitches we prefer to talk about the vision, the future and how we are simplifying hoteliers’ lives and enabling them to deliver a much better guest experience. Of course this is part of GuestJoy’s core initiative as well.

Our central message is that we are always going to be the most innovative product in the industry, and we are changing the industry, just like how online-check in and upselling changed the airline industry. 

At the Lincoln Memorial in D.C.

Flora: How do you see GuestJoy and MEWS working together in the future? 

Josef: Partnerships are extremely important for us, as I mentioned we like to enable our partners, that is why we focused on the API, full automation, so MEWS could work like an app store, where the hotel can access your software with a simple click. Ready to use. That is where we need to get to in this industry. 

This is how we could work for smaller hotels, our products complementing each other, they might not need all the features, but we know that many of our partners do certain features much better than us. 

Flora: What would your advice be to hoteliers in this strange world? 

Josef: Hang in there. Everyone is waiting to be able to travel. Of course at the moment it is tough to decide whether to shut your doors or stay open and how to handle your staff.

Now the key is how you manage your assets, and there are many properties out there from private hotels to large franchises to rentals. Hang in there, use this time to make sure you can automate operational tasks once everything starts up again. Look at the manual processes you do, your distribution models and marketing.

If you are spending less time on these tasks, you can engage people to book with you directly, and spend more time on your marketing. Not to mention cross-train your staff, and be busier with upselling. 

With all this you could squeeze out more revenue and decrease your distribution costs overall. 

If I had a hotel – my ultimate goal, I would love to own a hotel myself. I know that in a way I am being naive about the different challenges that hoteliers face every day, but if I had a hotel I would find it extremely difficult to operate. 

However, I would remind myself that people want to travel. We saw it during the summer, as soon as the lockdown lifted people went on traveling. They were streaming to get out from where they live. 

Flora: So if you owned a hotel what would it be? 

Josef: A 30-50 bedroom luxury boutique, city center Prague. I left when I was 8 but I will always have a connection with that city. 

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