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HT Talks Tech: Alex Cisneros, CCO, Mint House

Delve into the latest tech developments shaping the hospitality sector with exclusive insights from a seasoned industry insider.

In this exclusive Q&A with Alex Cisneros, Chief Commercial Officer for Mint House, Cisneros offers valuable insights into the hospitality industry's trajectory for 2024. He addresses pressing topics such as the escalating role of AI, the delicate balance between technological innovation and human touch, the resurgence of business travel, and travelers’ growing emphasis on sustainability. Discover how Mint House, renowned for its commitment to excellence and sustainability, is pioneering transformative practices to enhance guest experiences while embracing environmental stewardship. 

Given AI's growing prominence in hospitality, are companies at risk of doing more harm than good by implementing AI without proper data foundations?

It's undeniable that AI presents a multitude of opportunities for the hospitality industry, from personalizing guest experiences and pricing to optimizing operations and call centers. However, the success of AI implementation hinges on the quality and diversity of the data it's trained on. Our industry must prioritize and have a well-defined structured approach to ensure alignment with organizational goals and maximum value generation. Firstly, understanding the company's specific opportunities and challenges as well as the data/technologies behind those is very important. Conducting a comprehensive analysis of existing data assets, technological infrastructure, and available resources sets the foundation. Next, defining clear objectives and success metrics helps in directing the AI development process effectively. Collaborating across departments to gather diverse perspectives and gain alignment is fundamental.  Additionally, establishing robust data management practices and continuously evaluating models and techniques are essential to refining AI models and adapting them to evolving business needs and market dynamics. 

As technology continues to play a crucial role in the travel sector, how can the industry strike a balance between innovation and maintaining the human touch in guest interactions and overall experience?

There needs to be a right balance in order to deliver exceptional guest experiences. While technology enhances efficiency and convenience, it should complement, not replace, genuine human interactions. First, although personalization remains paramount in the hospitality industry and AI and automation will become essential, these solutions should complement rather than replace human interactions. Second, integrating technology through the customer journey is key. We need to make every interaction simpler for guests and our customers. Leveraging technology to enhance staff capabilities can help deliver exceptional service.  Third, investing in meaningful and relevant training programs that emphasize soft skills like communication, empathy, and problem-solving ensures that staff can effectively engage with guests on a personal level, even as technology evolves. 

As more companies require workers to head back to the office, the same goes for required business travel. How much will this impact occupancy, particularly during traditionally slow weekdays? 

The resurgence of business travel is poised to have a significant impact on occupancy levels, particularly during weekdays that were historically slower for leisure travel. During COVID we saw an increase in weekday business but more recently we have seen less occupancy on Sundays and Thursdays. The impact of companies requiring workers to return to the office and reinstating business travel on occupancy levels, particularly during traditionally slow weekdays, is likely to limit the opportunities to mix leisure and business travel. We have seen a return of business and group travelers, and they certainly are taking advantage of longer stays. The economy continues to show many positive trends and companies are adjusting their travel policies and budgets based on the positive trends. We are constantly monitoring and adapting to travel pattern dynamics and we expect this year to be very positive for business and group travel while leisure will continue but consumers will be looking for the right price and experience to take their next trip.

Sustainability is becoming increasingly important to travelers. What practices and eco-friendly technologies are gaining traction in the industry? How do they contribute to a more responsible and fulfilling guest experience?

It’s truly inspiring to witness the growing awareness and action in sustainability but when it comes down to it, it’s not just about following a trend. For us, it's a fundamental philosophy that drives everything we do. Our goal is to set the standard and become the model for future eco-conscious establishments in the travel and hospitality sectors. At Mint House, we’ve made it a goal to minimize our carbon footprint and environmental impact, from deploying smart technology to eliminate plastic key cards and enhance energy efficiency across properties, to smaller yet impactful initiatives such as partnering with sustainable brand alternatives. Take a look at our collaboration with sustainable brands such as ‘Boxed Water’ which produces 36% less carbon than plastic and aluminum water bottles, ‘Public Goods,’ a one-stop-shop for 100% recycled and sustainable versions of consumer goods, and ZYBRA, a bike ride-share company that offers an eco-friendly transportation alternative – these are all examples of our commitment to a more holistic, sustainable approach to modern hospitality.

Do you anticipate an increasing number of travelers turning their attention to lesser-known destinations in pursuit of unique experiences without exceeding their budgets this year?

Cities like Greenville, Birmingham, and St. Petersburg offer a wealth of attractions and activities that appeal to travelers seeking authentic and affordable experiences. These destinations often provide a more intimate and culturally immersive environment compared to heavily touristed areas, making them attractive options for budget-conscious travelers looking to explore new places without breaking the bank. Additionally, the appeal of our apartments that offer the consistency of hotels further facilitates budget-friendly travel. Overall, as travelers prioritize value and authenticity in their experiences, the appeal of off-the-beaten-path locations like Greenville, Birmingham, and St. Petersburg is likely to continue growing in the coming year.

Alex Cisneros is Chief Commercial Officer at Mint House


Alex Cisneros is Chief Commercial Officer at Mint House. He’s the former SVP of Revenue Generation and Analytics at Red Roof Inn, VP of Revenue and Distribution at Wyndham Destinations, and Analytics at AT&T and NJ Transit.

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