Skip to main content

HT Talks Tech with Appellation CCO Ed Skapinok During HITEC 2023

Learn Skapinok’s reason for attending HITEC, insight into his company’s use of CRM tech and its booking platform, as well as his opinion on how AI can help the hospitality industry.
Ed Skapinok, Chief Commercial Officer, Appellation Hotels

During HITEC 2023, Hospitality Technology had the chance to sit down and catch up with Ed Skapinok, Chief Commercial Officer at Appellation, a new, culinary-forward brand of luxury hotels.  In the year since Skapinok last spoke  with our magazine, Appellation has been hard at work perfecting its internal tech stack. And while Skapinok is quite happy with what the company has achieved, he made it clear that he had no intention of sticking his head in the sand and ignoring any of the new tech debuts coming out at the show. Read on to hear Skapinok’s reason for attending HITEC, insight into his company’s use of CRM tech and its booking platform, as well as his opinion on how AI can help the hospitality industry.

[Interested in hearing more from Skapinok? He's a featured speaker at Hotel Technology Forum, our annual hotel technology event. Click  here to learn more about the event and to register for it!]

On Attending HITEC

We’ve had our tech ecosystem designed and determined for over a year now, but I still come to HITEC for inspiration because there are always new technologies that are worth learning about. Additionally, I can see what others are doing with their technology to help me determine if I have any blind spots that need to be addressed right away.

On Appellation’s CRM Tech

Everything we’ve done with our tech ecosystem is built around Salesforce technology, and it’s driving our artificial intelligence, machine learning and personalization engine and how we’re personalizing our website and the guest experience. We were really excited when they agreed to partner with us. As a new brand and new company, we weren’t sure if Salesforce would go for it. But they essentially told us that they wanted to partner with us because Appellation is trying to do something totally different that could “change how technology is deployed in the travel industry” – their words not ours – and that was a great feeling. So, we’ve been working closely with them for the last year, and we’ll be releasing some new technology using Salesforce on the backend to help activate customer information.

On Website Design

When an individual visits our website, our technology immediately begins to build a profile on that person. As that person interacts with the website, and our technology learns more about them, the website itself begins to adapt and will present different content, offers and even pricing based on what it thinks is most likely to cause a sale.

However, we now know that we have two very different audiences visiting our website. One is the typical guest who wants to book a room, a spa service or visit one of our restaurants. The other is a developer who is looking to partner with us or maybe a lender looking to do a construction loan for us. We decided to develop a separate website for the investor/developer community since the consumer website is designed to optimize sales and provide personalized offers.

On Upgrading the Booking Process

We developed our own booking engine that enables us to sell all of our inventory – rooms, dining reservations, spa experiences, golf, etc. – all via a single process. This means that we also have only one customer record – whether that’s on the website or the app – which is different from what many other companies are doing. They may have a separate booking engine for the spa, separate booking engine for dining, a separate booking engine for rooms, and they try to reconcile the customer records from different platforms. But that creates multiple steps for the consumer. We want our guests to be able to book everything from the same place. That way, if they don't want a room right now, they can book spa and dining or a learning experience and then  come back and book the room later.

On Artificial Intelligence

I'm interested to see how hoteliers will use AI. I think there still needs to be a lot of wayfinding, though I anticipate everyone will soon use it in one form or another. For us, the three main areas where we’re interested in using it is for: labor, marketing and revenue management.

When it comes to AI and labor, I often hear people talking about using this technology to replace staff, but that's not our approach. Rather than looking at eliminating positions, I look at staff hours and how our staff uses their time and then ask myself how AI could help our team be more effective and as efficient as possible.  If AI can give our team members some hours back in their day or week, then we can begin to think about what else they can work on to maximize our company’s success, whether that be serving our guests more attentively or seeking out new potential customers. As the technology evolves, we will certainly see these kinds of changes to labor models.

When it comes to marketing, we’re using Salesforce’s EinsteinGPT to help detect relevant customer information in our database and ultimately create even more tailored marketing messages

When it comes to revenue management, one thing that AI technology can do is spot relationships that a human could never see. For example, perhaps it will be able to tell that there is strong likelihood that someone who loves to mountain bike and drink Pinot Noir will also be a yoga enthusiast and should receive one of our yoga offers.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds