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Trends and challenges of hospitality technology: An interview with Jan Hejny, co-founder of HotelTime

At GuestJoy it is crucial for us to establish profound, long-lasting relationships in the hospitality industry because we integrate with many different channel managers and property management systems. One that we can definitely recommend is HotelTime. This Czech company is present in so many countries, providing a Property Management System (PMS) for various different types of accommodation. We interviewed Jan Hejny, the co-founder of Hotel Time, asking him about his personal interests in the industry and the current trends and challenges a hotel can face.

Q: So what brought you to the hospitality industry?

Jan: I actually co-founded HotelTime around 16 years ago. Getting into hospitality for me was a logical step. I am not the first one in the family; my father actually bought a hotel when I was around 10, and operated it throughout the ’90s. Thus, for me hotels have been a natural environment, I loved spending time there.

I was also keen on computers. Ever since my childhood, there was always a computer nearby me. We had one at home and my father had one at the hotel. First I just played games but then I started experimenting with programming and taught myself how to program. I think I was about 13 when I joined a local IT club at my school and we had the internet! That was a big thing back then, in the early ’90s.

“During the weekend I was at my father’s hotel. I thought to myself, there must be a program that would help! So I created my first computer program to store all the data and bookings at the age of 15.”

  My father found it a tremendous help in managing his hotel! The great thing about this was that I loved working on it and in the end, he was so satisfied that he started paying me money. Later on, I joined an IT company to work at. I met a group of like-minded people, and we started discussing a program that would allow hotels to get bookings via the internet. It was 2002, so this idea was something extraordinary. Remember, it was times without connections, no broadband, no smartphones, no OTAs.  Hotels would not even have websites yet. To book a hotel, you actually had to visit a travel agent or walk up to the reception. Nowadays we just call this a booking engine.  

Those were the times… indeed technology has skyrocketed since our childhood. If you were already so keen on the newest tech in the early 2000’s HT must be keeping up with that. Tell us what’s so innovative about HotelTime:

Jan: I made the decision to go fully cloud-based in 2003, which was incredibly risky back then but had paid off ever since! All of our customers would connect to the internet via dial-up, so we had to develop a system where the amount of data transferred is very low so it can transfer quickly. Non-cloud-based systems or those that were originally server-based are very slow because there is a huge amount of data circulating. We needed an efficient system that now allows us to connect via mobile connections, for customers with limited bandwidth and to customers that have EDGE connections or are in remote places. What is really unique about us is that all of our people have a strong connection to the hospitality industry, almost everyone in our company is a former hotelier. Our strength is that we know our customers, we understand their challenges because we have been there. We can identify the problems they face and know how to help them efficiently. Sometimes I get the feeling that IT people drive hospitality tech, but for us employing people who actually understand hotels is key. Focusing on well-informed and experienced customer support is what helps us deliver a good product and great service. Read up on the benefits of a cloud-based software  

Mixing business and pleasure.

Q: What do you think are the challenges of the hospitality industry at the moment?

Jan: There are so many of them, I can not generalize the markets, because the UAE is so different from the UK or Sri Lanka… The struggle we generally see though is that their PMS is not cloud-based, or only partially cloud-based. There are many legacy server-based systems, often not very good, but they have strong connections. This holds back innovation and prevents a shift to the cloud. Although some hotels don’t even have a PMS! And the ones who do often end up having one with restrictions, such as 3-5 year contracts that do not allow for any development and new technology. These days technology advances every day, so signing a contract like that would just prevent hotels to improve. There are also suppliers that force you to buy expensive hardware for on-site, or ones that are not integrated with any 3rd parties. Integrations are a key trend. Nowadays it’s not enough to just have a PMS a hotel needs a tech stack that includes a channel manager, revenue management systems and upselling and rating platforms, such as GuestJoy. There are PMS providers who do not provide integrations so a hotel is losing out on the newest technology. About 40% of our customers still do not have a channel manager, which is surprising. Hotel Time is an open platform because we would like to encourage our customers to get whatever tech is suitable for them and provide them with options. This means they can have as many add-ons as they want to. In my opinion, the price is also something that is holding the industry back. Sometimes PMS companies ask for tens of thousands of euros only as a setup fee. Not all hotels are really able to afford that. And then on top of this immense amount of money the contract is long… to think about the expenses during that life cycle it just doesn’t add up…  

In summary, the huge implementation fees, being server-based and lack of integrations, do not allow more innovative systems to replace them.

Q: We are both hotel tech companies so have a lot of customers in common. Do you hear any feedback from them about GuestJoy? And what is your personal experience with it?

Jan: I honestly love GuestJoy. The system, the company, the people behind it. It is great to see forward-thinking people who also just want the best for their customers. I get a lot of feedback that our customers love the product, it is easy to use and generates a lot of extra revenue for them. GuestJoy helps our common customers do the job they would otherwise do themselves. It really is just an effortless way to get high revenue and good reviews.  

Q: As someone in the hospitality industry, you must love to travel! Tell us a bit about that, do you have a funny story?

Jan: There are so many of those! I travel a lot for business all around the world, I am keen on new places, which are out of the ordinary and situations which you can’t prepare for in advance. My funniest memories are those of Kenya from my first visit. We got arrested during the night by undercover policemen for not having our passports on us – who knows if they really were the police? See, you can never truly plan what is going to happen to you… One of my fondest memories is from my travels in Sri Lanka, I went to personally help out a hotel and everyone was just so kind and welcoming. Everyone I met in that country truly appreciates our product and tried to find ways to help me get the best travel experience possible. I love these genuine moments when people from different cultures meet.  

Q: And finally, what is the place you would love to travel to?

Jan: Oh, anywhere in the Pacific! Fiji, Vanuatu, or another island where I could go scuba diving. Another one is New Zealand.

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