New Knowland CEO Jeff Bzdawka Talks Transition

Former SVP of Global Hotel Technology for Hyatt shares why he moved to Knowland, how he plans to lead the company and what kind of impact he hopes to make.
Michal Christine Escobar
Senior Editor (Hotels)
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Yesterday, Knowland made the exciting announcement that Jeff Bzdawka -- former SVP of global hotel technology for Hyatt -- would be taking over as its CEO. The announcement comes approximately six months after Knowland announced the sudden passing of its former CEO Robert Post. Knowland emphasized how Bzdawka’s hotel tech background at Hyatt, TravelClick and Pegasus Solutions, positions him as a major asset for the Knowland brand as it seeks to help the hotel industry rebuild group business after the devastating effects of COVID-19.

Hospitality Technology reached out to Bzdawka to learn more about how his background has prepared him to lead Knowland and what kind of impact he hopes to make in his new leadership role.

What was it about Knowland that impressed you enough to leave Hyatt?

Quite simply stated, three P’s are what caught my attention. First, Knowland has an amazing team of People. People that care, people that know the business, people that are passionate about the business and providing great solutions to help our customer drive profitability. Second, Knowland has a proven Product offering that enables our customers’ sales teams to identify high probability profitable group opportunities. And lastly, Knowland is Positioned as a critical hotel partner with a stronger value proposition than ever before to help our hotels recover through the last phase of recovery (i.e., the return of meetings and events). Hotels need group sales to regain profitability – transient demand (leisure or otherwise) can only take the industry so far. To return to pre-pandemic levels for occupancy and profitability, group and meeting sales are crucial.

How has your time at Hyatt prepared you for this role at Knowland?

Having led property technology at a major chain, such as Hyatt, as well as having been an executive at two industry leading technology providers, TravelClick and Pegasus, has positioned me well to take on this role. I consider myself a hotel operator first and foremost and understanding how technology can be used to effectively close gaps and improve performance and profitability. I believe this insight will help Knowland further our mission. My time at Hyatt and experience as a BI supplier have given me the experience to bring hotel operations and technology together to help drive value for the industry using Knowland solutions.

What kind of impact on the hotel industry do you hope to make via Knowland?

The final stage of recovery in the hospitality industry is related to the return of meetings and events. We will help hotels understand how to use their limited sales resources to get the maximum results, so they are not responding to one-off RFPs that don’t fit their hotel profile or don’t have a booking history that shows a high probability of booking their property. Especially today, we will be helping hotels spend time on the business that will fill their hotel rooms throughout the week plus add high value sales & catering revenue. Helping our hotels return to profitability more quickly is what we are hyper focused on.

What kind of leadership style do you have and how is this influenced by your technology background?

I’m a firm believer in the Service Profit Chain, whereby you focus on customers and colleagues above all things – because there is a proven relationship between profitability, customer loyalty, and colleague satisfaction, loyalty, and productivity. This coupled with my view on using technology to scale care and enable change as a functional strategy, with the planks of the strategy being to simplify life; create better experiences; and drive results that matter to our customers.

Any other comments?

Hotels need group sales to regain profitability, and from what we see in the market -- over 400 percent growth since the beginning of the year-- meetings are back but things have changed. Beyond getting passed this surge in weekend wedding demand, hoteliers need to stop chasing one-off RFPs and start pursuing opportunities with higher close rates and greater long-term potential. The success of our industry is based on building strong, high margin reparable business throughout the week – including Sunday through Thursday. Knowland has the insight to help hoteliers prioritize on the business that will be more likely to book them, deliver long term value and accelerate their return to profitability.

Knowland applies its proprietary algorithm and real-time analytics to its robust database of over 16 million actualized events. By enabling smart, productive selling that is designed for the times we live in, particularly when hotel teams are doing more with less, we help our customers avoid wasting time chasing bad business. This knowledge also allows for higher close rates and increased sales while improving profitability!

I firmly believe that Knowland is a critical tool to help hotels, chains, management companies and other meeting and event venues through recovery. Being able to leverage data science to sell smarter will be more important than ever before, and I believe that the Knowland product is positioned to help thousands of hotels, CVB and management company users do their jobs smarter by helping them find and win business that fits their hotel profile.