Hotel Moment episode #56: "Defining luxury and elevating hotel service"
Hotel Moment episode #56: "Defining luxury and elevating hotel service"
The Hotel Moment podcast — episode 56

Defining luxury and elevating hotel service

In this week’s episode of the Hotel Moment podcast, Karen Stephens, Revinate’s CRO, and Dr. Jeffrey O, Chief Executive Officer at St. Justine, depict what it truly means to be a luxury hotelier. They explore beyond the standard definitions of luxury and ultra-luxury and connect these ideas to exemplary service. Dr. Jeffrey also shares his perspective on the changing digital landscape and how to use hotel technology to enhance a luxurious guest experience.

Tune in to develop a new understanding of luxury in hospitality as well as inspiration for how to increase the level of service at your hotel.

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Meet your host

Karen Stephens is Revinate’s Chief Revenue Officer and runs the sales, marketing, and customer success teams. She has more than 20 years of experience in the industry alone.

On the Hotel Moment podcast, Karen speaks with leaders to draw out their experiences and insights. She is also a Francophile and Prof K — a coach, a mentor, a guide to the people who work with her.

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Karen Stephens: Hello and welcome everyone to the Hotel Moment podcast. I am your host, Karen Stephens, the CRO of Revinate, and I am so delighted to be joined today by Dr. Jeffrey O, who is the CEO of St. Justine. Welcome, Jeffrey.

Dr. Jeffrey O.: Karen, it’s truly a pleasure to chat with you. I appreciate you finding time to, to set up this conversation.

Karen Stephens: Well, I have to tell you, I have been very excited myself because today we are gonna get into the world of not just luxury, but ultra-luxury. So I think, you know, like myself, like I’m sure many of us who are in this industry, love hotels, love hospitality, but you are really working in a, in a segment that is so wonderful and beautiful.

So I’m very excited to jump in. Thank you for being here.

Dr. Jeffrey O.: Lovely. Thank you. Thank you so much. Great.

Karen Stephens: So before we get going, I always ask my guests, I’ve got 5 questions just to kind of warm us up and give our audience a little bit more of an idea of who you are. So if you’ll indulge me, I’ll start with our first question, which is, when did you start work in the hotel industry and do you remember your first day on the job?

Dr. Jeffrey O.: I certainly do. I sat there working in hotels. In 1994, I was working in a property, in Mar —- property in Baltimore, Maryland, and on a street called Press Street. I still remember that. It’s a long time ago. And first day on the job — was it was exciting. It wasn’t eventful in a negative way. It was just exciting.

I was eager to get started and I just wanted to dig in. It was fun. I had lots of fun. And it was, it was great.

Karen Stephens: Wonderful. Okay. That’s great. I love that. All right, second question. What was the most uplifting moment so far in your career?

Dr. Jeffrey O.: Oh, where do I start? Right about, so it’s a lot. I have so many, but one that really comes to mind is it was a very special moment for me.

I was working in a Mariott hotel in Texas, and I had a gentleman and his wife, and a young daughter come up to the front desk. And I interacted with them during their stay and, you know, checked on them several times to make sure that we’re having a great stay. And the young girl who was probably 8 or 9 or 10, I can’t quite remember how old she was, actually walked up to me and said, “when I grow up, I’d like to be hotel manager.” So, she was having a conversation with her parents and I was staying, she looked at me and said, “I’d like to be hotel manager when I grew up” And, and I was deeply touched by that because you know, you don’t often find people saying, when I grow up I want to be a hotel manager, right? You know, people say, I want to be a doctor, a lawyer, I want to, you know, be an engineer and all of that. You don’t find as many people as who should, I mean, in my opinion, I think more folks need to embrace this hospitality.

Karen Stephens: Yeah.

Dr. Jeffrey O: I think more people need to have aspirations of careers in hospitality. So I was quite touched by that. It was a very small moment. It wasn’t to, most people probably would laugh at this and say, “oh my God, that’s nothing to me.”

It was everything coming from right, such a young person. And I was quite touched and I thought that was just brilliant. And I still remember that.

Karen Stephens: Yeah, that’s really sweet. And you never know when you’re inspiring people, so how cool, especially a young person. That’s really cool. Okay, so the, now this is gonna be, like I said, I asked all of my guests this, but I’m really looking forward to this answer for you, from you.

So, what is the most striking experience that you’ve had personally so far in terms of a holiday, or a stay, or food? So, in your personal experience, what have you done that has been the most striking? And I’m, I’m sure you have a long list.

Dr. Jeffrey O.: I’ve had, I mean, I’ve had wonderful experiences. I travel all over the world.

I’m in different hotels, different, you know, countries, continents. So you know, I travel quite a bit. So when you’re so used to traveling and encountering amazing hospitality, and at times that falls a little bit short. You know, you sort of, I don’t want to say you sort of set a high bar, right? But I remember going to Jamaica with my wife on, on, on a visit years and years ago, and I’m not going to mention the property.

I don’t want to be plugging a particular property, but this property was absolutely amazing. And, we walked into the property, and the General Manager and the Front Office Manager came out of the hotel to welcome us right in front as soon as we pulled up, right in front of the building. It was a small, intimate hotel, around 80 or 75 odd rooms.

And they came out to welcome my wife and I, right outside, you know, the building. And then, you know, we walk into the, into the hotel. We went to the counter to check, check in the front desk reception desk, to check in. And they said to my wife, “you don’t have to wait in line. You guys don’t have to wait in line. Come over here, sit over here. We’re going to, you know, check you in. We’re going to bring your keys over to you.” So we went and sat in this area, this nicely appointed area, and they brought us, you know, coffee, and wine, and offered us, you know, all this different you know, you know, things, and we’re really excited by that.

And then, they brought us the keys, checked us in. And then after checking us in, I remember the gentleman saying to my wife, “Ma’am, let me take your bags from you. Let me take your, you know, purse, your pocketbook. You don’t need to walk around with that.” And I tell you, if you know my wife, she’s not going to part with her pocketbook. Absolutely not. She’s not going to.

Karen Stephens: No woman does Dr. Jeffrey.

Dr. Jeffrey O.: Yeah, so she paused and looked at the gentlemen like, “I’m not giving you my pocketbook.” But the guy insisted and said, “Listen, I promise, you are in safe hands. I don’t, when you are, you’re in safe hands. You don’t have to have any sort burden. You don’t need to carry anything. You don’t need to do any work. You need to just be here to relax, and have an amazing time.”

So my wife reluctantly handed over her pocketbook to this gentleman, and the gentleman walked us around the building. He showed us the building. Here’s the restaurant, here’s the second restaurant, here’s the bar. You know, here’s the pool. I mean, watching, you know, did a tour of the hotel before taking us to our room.

Now get this, we get to our room and he has the key before he opens the door. He takes his shoes off. And I’ll never forget this, he takes his shoes off, like he’s about to walk into hallowed ground. He takes his shoes off, and then he lets us into the room.

So. I am just blown away because it’s like, my goodness, this is amazing. And this is just the arrival experience. Nothing else, just the arrival experience. So I was almost tempted to take my own shoes off, and I thought to myself, “No, I’m not taking my shoes off. I paid for this room anyway.” But the arrival experience was so absolutely brilliant. So perfectly choreographed and orchestrated that it blew me away. From the GM coming out, the front office manager coming out, offering us champagne and, and, and, and, and wine and, and, and, you know, coffee and tea. Choose whichever one you want. And then taking my wife’s bags, walking us around the property, taking us to the room. And then, you know, opening the door, taking his shoes off, and he walked us into the room. It was just amazing. That was just remarkable hospitality. I’ve had many amazing experiences, but that is just something that sticks out.

Karen Stephens: Wow, that’s fantastic. And I, I love it that, you know, it’s all about that very first impression that really sets the tone for the whole stay, and then you can really relax and just enjoy.

It’s fantastic. Okay, so the next question. Have you met any celebrities while you’ve been working in hospitality?

Dr. Jeffrey O.: I have met several. I’ve met many, many celebrities. I’m not going to tell their names, so just say I, you know, I don’t, obviously,

Karen Stephens: Not a name dropper.

Dr. Jeffrey O: Yeah. I have to take protect that privacy. I don’t want to mention their names, but I tell you, I’ve met several in, in my hotel life. You know, people who are, you know, house of names, folks who are just, you know, really, you know, great people. Now that if you were not quite as nice as you would expect them to be, but I thought maybe they were having a bad day, and it just maybe they had a rough flight. Maybe they just, you know, have their own issues had their own issues going on, and they weren’t terribly friendly to my team members. A couple of them, well, most of the folks that I’ve encountered who are celebrities, who are famous people, have been really, really pleasant to deal with — really, really just, you know, great people.

Karen Stephens: Wonderful people.

Dr. Jeffrey O: Very, very, you know, I’ve met quite a few, quite a few, but I’m not going, not going to mention any names.

Karen Stephens: I appreciate that, and I think our audience will understand more when we talk a little bit more about your business today because you know, that’s all part of the, part of the thing, right?

It’s respecting that privacy.

Okay. Last question. Who are the women at work you have been most inspired by?

Dr. Jeffrey O.: Oh, where do I even start? How much time do you have?

Karen Stephens: I’m so glad.

Dr. Jeffrey O: How much time do you have? How many names? Is it like a cap on the number of names that I can mention?

Karen Stephens: How about —

Dr. Jeffrey O: There’s so many, so many.

Karen Stephens: Let’s do, let’s do let’s do 2. I know that’s really hard. And we’ll just say that I know that there’s a lot of, lot of amazing women, so if you can think of 2 names.

Dr. Jeffrey O.: That’s very, very difficult. That 2 is very, very difficult. I’m gonna be leaving a lot of folks out and you know. I’ll mention Koala is a great friend of mine and you know, just an amazing lady in hospitality based in the UK.

She does a lot of great things for the industry. I’m a huge fan of her work. There’s Leticia Proctor, who’s you know, an amazing lady, does great things. I mean, how many can I name? I mean, I wish I could, you know, you let me name 8 or 9 or 10 and you know, but you don’t have enough time. But there’s so many wonderful folks who are doing amazing things — people that I’m learning from on a daily basis who are helping me grow as a person. And that’s just 2 names. There are a lot more of them that I can, I can name. You know, Andrea Bufanti, and, you know, many others. Peggy, many others, you know Peggy Berg and, it’s just so many, right? I mean, yeah, where do I even start?

Karen Stephens: Which is wonderful. What a great, what a great problem to have.

Dr. Jeffrey O: Yeah. Yeah.

Oh, that’s great. Well, thank you for that. I really appreciate it. So now I’m excited to jump in and really talk about St. Justine. So if you could give us a little bit of an idea of what that is for our, our audience members who are not familiar yet with the brand and the concept.

Dr. Jeffrey O.: Thank you. I appreciate that. St. Justine really is an ultra-lux brand that’s like no other. I mean the execution of the brand, the kind of ideas we, we implement, and we are rolling out, we’re planning to roll out, and just things that you don’t see with any of the brands that are out there.

There are many amazing ultra-lux brands out there, but the word ultra-lux is often binded around people — banding that term around very, you know, it’s sort of throwing it around quite often. “Oh ultra-lux”.

Luxury really has to be discriminating in a positive way. Itas to be different. It has to say, “We can’t do that, but we’ll do this.” You know? So it’s really having those aspirations of delivering the most amazing experiences that anyone can possibly find. We believe that is not predicated on how great the spaces you’ve got are. Luxury is really predicated on not just the spaces, but also the people.

It’s about great people delivering great service in great spaces.

So you’ve got hotels that are beautiful, they look very nice. You walk into them. They’re very sterile. There’s no humanity there. There’s no warmth. There’s no personality there, right? Because all that people focus on is just, you know, the experience of physical, physical client, the physical asset.

So we’re focused on developing assets where the people who work in these assets are 100% focused on taking care of people who have a very humble spirit. Because you cannot truly deliver hospitality if you’re not humble. I mean, service comes from to serve. You have to be able to serve. I mean, we all know the story of, of, of you know, a famous person. I’m not going to mention the name because of, obviously this is not, it’s not that kind of, you know, podcast, but, who washed the feet of their followers, right? Out of humility.

And there are people who are amazing leaders, and I think the best leaders are leaders who are humble. And if we are working in hospitality, we’re dealing with people from different cultures, different ethnicities, different countries.

We have to always be humble. We have to always put ourselves aside, right? And not say, “Oh, I can’t do that because I am this.” So we are all about delivering all the trimmings, all the flourishes of luxury, of ultra-luxury. But we also want to do it in a fashion that’s compassionate. That’s very humble, you know? And that’s really important.

You don’t have to have your nose up in the air to deliver luxury to anyone. So a lot of brands think, “Oh, you have to do that. You have to be stiff. You have to be, not warm. You have to just know.” You have to be like the guards are Buckingham Palace, and you just see them. They don’t really respond to you. They’re there, you know, they’re great people, but you know, they’re just kinda there, right?

So hospitality needs to be warm and, and St. Justine is only about that in terms of creating an experience that 360, is absolutely circulative, it’s absolutely outta this planet in terms of the arrival, the departure, the in stay, the amenities that you get, how they delivered to you, the, the intense level of personalization, to a degree that’s almost obsessive, that’s actually obsessive.

So luxury is an obsession, you know, doing things that absolutely wow the individual and have them so amazed that they think, “Oh my God, I’ve never had this done to me in any hotel I’ve ever been.” So for us, it’s all about customization. It’s all about personalization, and it’s all about humility.

Being able to do all of those things and it aggregates. And people see that. They see how much passion you have for them, how much you care about them, how you’re willing to go the distance to take care of them, and not just talk about it. And they say, “Oh my God.” Every person that we meet at St. Justine for us is royalty, and we truly mean that, royalty.

You come in a St. Justine property, you’re going to be treated my royalty. And that’s so critically important to us. If you have a complaint, we’re going to make sure that complaint is absolutely resolved. You’re gonna get calls from the people who run the company. Not just people who run in particular hotel to say, “Listen, we are sorry.” You’re going to get calls from people who you know, who typically would not pick up the phone to call the guest. And they’ll call and sincerely say, you know, “I apologize. How can I make it right? I’d like to offer you this. I’d like to do this.” And really show true humility.

So I could go on, and on, and on all day, you know, you don’t have enough time. I think you’ve got only 30 minutes.

Karen Stephens: Yeah.

Dr. Jeffrey O.: But again, it’s all about humility. Extraordinary hospitality delivering humility. Great amenities. Great spaces. 360 hospitality, round the clock. Reflexive. Always there. Always there. No excuses at any time.

Karen Stephens: That’s fantastic. And I understand there’s kind of 3 pieces of it.

Correct. So there’s SJ Luxe, which is a, a technology platform. Can you talk a little bit about the underpinnings, if we just kind of go through each of the sections? So let’s start with, with SJ Luxe. What is that?

Dr. Jeffrey O.: I appreciate that. SJ Lux obviously stands for Lux.

Karen Stephens: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Jeffrey O. Luxury, right? Lux. SJ Lux is a tech platform.

Some have mentioned or likened it, afew people that we’ve spoken to said, “Oh, it’s like Airbnb, right?” Airbnb is a terrific brand, but SJ Lux is different because we are offering the full spectrum of luxury assets on 1 platform.

So when you go on SJ Lux, you’re going to be able to book a private jet if you want to. You’re going to be able to book a private yacht if you want to. If you want to submarine, that’s going to have you do an undersea expedition, you’re going to be able to do that. If there’s someone offering an experience to go to space, assuming you a company that’s offering that, you’re going to be able to book that.

Luxury properties, of course, are going to be on the platform. Lux revealers are going to be on a platform. People are going to be able to book experiences, customize experiences, curate experiences for them, and every person who uses the platform is going to have access to curation. So you don’t just book and go away.

You don’t just book and get an email. You book and you get the follow-up. You book and you get people follow up with you, not only after you booked, but during your stay, and after you stay. So you book to go to, for, for instance, you go to stay at, at the villa in Province, or you go to stay in, in, in a place in Monaco, or Miami, or somewhere. When you stay at the property that’s a St. justine property in any of those places I mentioned as examples. You are not going to go in there and not have service because some facilities, some peer-to-peer lodging, you know, places don’t offer the service.

So I go on vacation. My wife and I love to travel — travel quite a bit, you know, to different parts of the world. So you go to a, a house, and you’re renting on vacation. It’s supposed to be luxury, but there you are. You’re doing dishes on your luxury vacation, right? You’ve been planning all year. There you are. You vacuum the carpet because you know the kids have crunched all over the floor. There you are doing the dishes.

You get what I mean?

Karen Stephens: Yeah.

Dr. Jeffrey O: So in my opinion, that’s not a luxury vacation. Cause when I want a vacation, I want to unplug. I want to absolutely unplug, and don’t have to worry about doing laundry, doing the dishes, you know, vacuuming and all that kind of stuff.

Karen Stephens: Wow.

Dr. Jeffrey O.: So at the St. Justine property, every property on our platform is going to offer services, which means you’re going to have access to a concierge, you’re going to have access to a boat. If you wanted a chauffeur to take you somewhere, you’re going to be able to get access to that. If you wanted a fitness trainer to come to your rental or a residential property that you’re renting, or hotel where you’re staying, you’re going to be able to have access to all of that.

That’s true luxury.

Karen Stephens: Yeah.

Dr. Jeffrey O.: Lots about doing the distance, not doing it halfway. So all of this is what SJ Lux platform is about. So yachts, jets, luxury hotels, luxury villas, you know, private islands. If you wanted to rent a private island, if you wanted to rent an art museum with your husband, or wife, or boyfriend, or girlfriend, or significant, you know, other, for 1 day, you can get all that done.

All of these experiences can be curated — customized for you. And then you have folks who are going to follow up with you, check on every aspect of your stay, and make sure that it’s absolutely what it should be. And if you fall short, then you’re going to have the service that needs to take place to make sure that we do not lose you as a customer.

It’s really taking luxury to a level that’s really, you know, stratospheric, if I can use that term, where we are managing every aspect of the stay to a level that’s really nano. That’s really, really obsessive.

Karen Stephens: Mm-hmm. I love that. What a great concept, because you’re really able to have access to all of this.

You know, as you mentioned, it could be a jet, it could be a yacht, could be a private home, could be of course, a luxury, beautiful, luxury hotels all over the world. But it has that kind of extra layer of a curated, almost sounds like a, you know, a concierge service, curated service to just make sure, like, in addition to the beautiful hotel and the staff here, you have another layer.

Is that the way to think about it?

Dr. Jeffrey O.: Yes, you do.

Karen Stephenes: Okay.

Dr. Jeffrey O.: And all of those folks are the ones working behind the scenes, and in the front lines working together to make sure our experience lives up to expectation, to your expectations, not just up to it, but will absolutely exceed your expectation. So all of that, they’re going to make sure all these pieces happen.

And now we’ve got a really interesting AI, you know, technology that we’re building into the center that’s going to do a high level of profiling where we know everything about you, that you want us to know about in a, in a great way, that we can use to customize the experience to a level that’s really, again, obsessive. Obsessive, I mean, a level of detail that is really, really obsessive.

And so all of that is built in. So the SJ Lux is that platform a one-stop for luxury — all things luxury. So you have, again, hotels, luxury properties, you know, jets, you know, islands, experiences, excursions, you know, all of that on 1 platform. So it’s, it’s a massive undertaking, but truly, truly exciting.

We can’t wait to, to have it launched. Technology is already, is already built. It’s already developed. We just have, so we are going through the test and face currently, but it’s all done, completely done. And we expect that in the next probably by May of this year, we are going to be able to go live with the first batch of luxury assets on that platform.

So really, really exciting. SJ Lux.

Karen Stephens: Yeah, that is wonderful. You know, you’re speaking my language when you wanna talk about artificial intelligence and using it for good. You know, we, we also have a platform where we use machine learning, and taking a lot of profile data to help hoteliers market specifically to specific segments, and also take care of ’em on property.

And I think what’s important to note, well, first of all, we know that consumers don’t mind you using their data if you’re using it carefully.

Dr. Jeffrey O.: Absolutely.

Karen Stephens: And you’re delivering value, right? So, I can only imagine, you know, 1 of your members, they might not know where they wanna go if, if the world is your oyster, you know, all of these experiences, so to, to be able to leverage technology to deliver curated, like, “Maybe these look good to you. Would you like this?” And you can kind of tell, so I — That’s super exciting.

And that kind of dovetails into, so the next part of this is the Infinity Lux Travel Club. So what is that all about? Does this mean you get to take a bunch of vacations every year?

Dr. Jeffrey O.: It’s an extension of SJ Lux actually. You’re going to be able to go to SJ Lux, and you click your button and it’s going to take you into Infinity Lux. Infinity Lux is conceived as the world’s, most exclusive and most expensive travel club. So it’s really, it’s really an invitation-only club where certain people who are, you know, really high network individuals who are looking for such access and convenience, are going to be able to have all of their travel managed.

And it’s not a conscious service in the traditional sense that people are helping you book travel. It’s actually you getting access to certain benefits by being a member of Infinity Lux is you also having access to a world. People who’ve got a lot of money, because think of it as like a network. So you’ve got, right, not just access to the luxury assets that you’re going to be able to access by being a member of Infinity Lux, but then you also have people who are your fellow members, who are people who are very, very successful. You know, CEOs and celebrities, and all of these folks you know, who are high network individuals who are part of that. And these folks get membership benefits. So if you are a member of Infinity Lux, for instance, you could decide that you want, you know, to book a trip last minute to somewhere, you know, London, New York in, in Milan somewhere. And all you have to do is just let us know. Now we have your own persons assigned to you. They take care of everything that you want from booking the jet, booking, you know, the stopover if you need to stop somewhere, if you want to, you know, go on a cruise, you know, a private cruise — anything you can possibly want that can be done that’s within the realm of possibility is gonna be taken care of.

And not only do you have access to these assets by virtue of your membership, which is pretty hefty, it’s a hefty membership.

Karen Stephens: Sure.

Dr. Jeffrey O.: Again, it’s invitation-only. It’s not, it’s not for everyone. Once you, then you also have access to all the people who are part of Infinity Lux that you’re going to be able to interact with, you know, online and offline. So.

Karen Stephens: Wow.

Dr. Jeffrey O.: So it’s, that’s, that’s Infinity Lux, and it’s, it’s so, that’s it.

Karen Stephens: That’s it. Wow. That is cool. I mean, you know, one can only hope one can aspire that maybe someday you get invited to something like that, right? So, okay. Then the last piece of the puzzle, you’re actually opening up your own, your own hotels, your own branded St. Justine hotels.

Is that right?

Dr. Jeffrey O.: We do. We, we, we do. We actually have got St. Justine, the, the ultra luxury properties coming online, and then we’ve got JOS hotels as well, which is, I’m just mentioning it now for the first time, we haven’t actually launched that yet. That’s gonna be launched in the next couple of months. You’re gonna start hearing about St. Justine hotels, and that’s J O S, so JOS hotels is upscale brand within our family of brands. So JOS hotels, you know, when you think of upscale, you think about Marriott, Hilton, and Hyatt. So that will be JOS hotels. That will be sort of in that category.

Karen Stephens: Okay.

Dr. Jeffrey O.: Since Justine, obviously it’s an ultra lux brand, so we know there are only going to be a few properties that fit that profile of ultra lux.

If you think about the 4 Seasons or Ritz Carlton, there are only so many of them across the globe, right?

Karen Stephens: Right.

Dr. Jeffrey O.: You’re not going to find, you know, 2000 4 Seasons hotels or 2000 Ritz Carltons. You’re probably going to find, I don’t know what the current account is, it changes, you know, often, but it’s probably 150 around that area. Give or take 10, you know, something like that. It’s the reason for that because ultra-luxury is exclusive, right?

Karen Stephens: Yes.

Dr. Jeffrey O.: If it’s on every corner, you know?.

Karen Stephens: Every corner there is no, there’s no, no offense to the other mid-size brands, but, yeah, exactly.

Dr. Jeffrey O.: If it’s on every corner, it’s, it’s not ultra-lux. It’s just so, but we’ve got some exciting locations coming up that we are really, really happy about.

We’ve got Saudi Arabia. We’ve got Dubai. We’ve got Miami. These are our markets. We are really, really interested. There’s a potential location that we are looking at in California currently. We don’t know how that’s going to work out, but really exciting stuff that, that’s going on. We can’t wait to have the first property online so folks can actually walk in and see what the, St. Justine experience is truly about. And again, if you look at the folks behind the brand, these are folks who are steeped, you know, in luxury and that’s what, you know, that’s what the calling card is. These are, these are folks who understand it, they’ve done it at different levels, and they get what it takes to create an experience that’s absolutely extraordinary for customers to guests.

Karen Stephens: Absolutely. Just for our listeners out there, it’s really the who’s who of luxury that it sits on the board of directors for, for this company. So I, I encourage everybody to go have a look. This is, this is the real deal and it’s very exciting to see you know, this level of hotel out there. It’s gonna be really cool.

All right, well, you know, I just wanted to hit a little bit more, since this is a technology platform, or a technology podcast, but how do you think hotels can be technology-forward while complimenting and respecting the human element of hospitality, which is the staff?

So you talked a lot about staff. How can technology complement that so that whether you’re giving, obviously you’re giving the ultra-lux level of service, but I think, you know, for all hotels, service is at the center, how can technology complement that?

Dr. Jeffrey O.: I think technology should be used to enhance what hotels do, obviously. And that’s true for a reason, right? I’m stating the obvious. I think when we talk about things like robots, and AI, and all of these technologies, there are people who get a bit apprehensive. They’re like, “Oh my God, you’re going to take away people’s jobs. You’re going to dehumanize the, the personalization, you know, the whole concept of, of hospitality.”

I think technology is wonderful. I think it can be used to enhance what we already do to personalize the experience, to customize experience, to, to enhance all the processes that we’ve got going on in our property. So, that’s my view for of technology. I think, I don’t see it as something that’s, that’s going to get in the way of the human interaction if companies are smart in adopting technology, right?

You don’t want to have technology replace humans, but you want to have technology augment or, you know, enhance what people are doing to create efficiencies, and make things easier for the associates, and also for the guests. So that’s what my view has been. I’ve always said this, technology’s like you moving a train, you can stand in front of it or you can get inside of it.

That’s my belief. So we don’t have any choice for those of us in hospitality. We can moan and cry all we want. “Oh my God. All these apps. All this AI. All these robots.” All of that. Well, every industry is getting impacted by technology, right? It’s, it’s, it’s like a wind that’s blowing. It’s going to affect everyone.

That’s, you know, that’s, that’s an industry. We’re not going to be exempt from it. We need to find ways to capitalize on it, to monetize it, right? To use it to drive returns, higher returns to our stakeholders. We can’t take the approach of, “Oh my God, this thing is, you know, the big, bad wolf that has come to devour, you know, our lives as we know it.” So technology should be an enhancer, if I can use that term.

Karen Stephens: Yes, yes. And I love the train analogy too. That’s a really good one. You’re either on it or you’re standing next to it and it’s passing you by. So where do you wanna be? Get on the train.

Dr. Jeffrey O.: Absolutely, absolutely. And companies like yours have, you know, you really leverage technology to support hotels.

I mean, what Revinate does is truly impressive. And I’m not saying this because you’re obviously interviewing me on, on the, on your podcast, but you are doing great work. You’re allowing, you know, you, you know, collating guest feedback, right? You have a platform where you are able to take that guest feedback, provide it to hotels, and they can learn from it, take those learnings, and use them to improve guest, you know, customer service delivery, and improve their guest satisfaction score. That is so critically important. That feedback look, that feedback is so critically important. So your work is impacting hotels and helping them know their customers, know how their customers are, thinking and helping improve the experience that they deliver to their customers. So that’s a great example of how technology can leverage you know, yield positive outcomes for not only for associates, but also the end users. I mean the customers who are receiving the service.

Karen Stephens: The service, yeah. Well, thank you for saying that.

We, we do have a long history in guest feedback. That’s where we started. And I, and I think that that remains kind of the, the core of understanding of, of what we do. But I think what’s been really cool over the last few years, and a lot of what we’re releasing this year is actually leveraging all of the data that comes into a property, whether it’s from a PMS or a POS, and collating that into a risk profile, applying the machine learning.

So it’s really, it’s really what you mentioned about AI and being able to power all of that has been very exciting, and we’ve been able to evolve that over time. So, but thank you for saying that. I appreciate that. Yeah, absolutely Jeffrey. Absolutely.

Dr. Jeffrey O.: It pays in that, in that category. I mean, there many tech companies in the hospitality space, but your’s certainly, you know, really comes to mind.

Karen Stephens: I mean, oh, thank you.

Dr. Jeffrey O.: Because you’ve done it for so long and you, you built up your brand equity, you know, a long time ago, so, yeah.

Karen Stephens: Well, and this is all we do. All we do is hospitality, which, and I’m really grateful for that because that, I love this industry so much.

And everybody I get on this podcast, I just, it’s, it’s so fun. You know, to hear about how people came into the industry and how much we all love it. I mean, we could all go sell anything. You know, you could be selling luxury cars, you could be selling anything, but hospitality just has that special, special thing. So I love it.

Dr. Jeffrey O.: I love it.

Karen Stephens: That’s great.

Dr. Jeffrey O.: When I meet people who are hospitality people, I feel that these are my people. These are kindred souls. These are people who speak my language, and you feel connected with them. In a way that you never, you know, you never feel like anyone is a stranger. I mean, I, I meet people and I feel like I’ve known them. I’ve never met you before, but I feel like I’ve known you all my life just in the past you know, several minutes that we’ve been, you know, having this conversation. So hospitality is something that, once you get, once you catch that bug, so to speak, you know, I probably shouldn’t use that now, that, that, that line, cause I’m recovering from a bug like I mentioned to you prior, right, prior to this call. But once, once, once it bites you. once, once you get into that spirit, it just, it engulfs you really. And I love what I do. I love, I will know what any of, any other industry, and I don’t know why for the life of me, you know, more people would not want to get into our industry.

It’s a beautiful industry. I’m a shameless panderer, you know, plug the hospitality industry shamlessly. I mean, that’s my life’s work. And I, and I’m eager to evangelize about the industry that we love so much. It’s amazing. The people are amazing. And I, to people who are not working hospitality, looking for work, come check us out. This is the best place to be. Come check us out. It’s the best.

Karen Stephens: It’s the best. We’re inspiring dreams and helping people relax and have beautiful life experiences. What could be better? Right?

Dr. Jeffrey O.: I love it. What could be better? I feel like we’re in church.

Karen Stephens: I know, right? Amen.

Dr. Jeffrey O.: I feel like saying Amen. Amen.

Karen Stephens: Let’s do it. Amen. Hey, that’s right. Oh, that’s great. Well, thank you Dr. Jeffrey O. This has been amazing. Can you tell our, our listeners where to find more information on St. Justine?

Dr. Jeffrey O.: Yeah, St. Justine. You can go to St. Justine luxury, or you can go to send, you’re going to find information about all of our different initiatives.

We’ve got a few more things coming up, but we don’t have enough time to cover all of them on this, on this particular podcast. So I appreciate your giving me time, and I thank you for the work that you and Revinate are doing. And I really appreciate it. And I thank you for your time. Awesome.

Karen Stephens: Thank you very much. It’s been a delight.

Dr. Jeffrey O.. Thank you. You’re kind. Thank you. Have a lovely rest of the week.

Karen Stephens: You too. Thank you so much.

Dr. Jeffrey O.: Thank you.


Hotel Moment episode #56 quote graphic about humility in hospitality.

Delivering luxury experiences with humility

The technology transformation is inevitable

Hotel Moment episode #56 quote graphic about using technology to enhance hotel operations.

Using technology to enhance hotel operations

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