[Ask the Experts] Jerry Trieber, CPA, CHAE, CFE, CFF

As we lead up to HITEC 2012 in June, HFTP Connect will be talking to various hospitality professionals about hospitality technology through the Ask the Experts column.

A Financial Expert’s View on Hospitality Technology

Jerry Trieber, CPA, CHAE, CFE, CFF, is director of field accounting for Crestline Hotels and Resorts and the HFTP global treasurer. Trieber is a frequent speaker at HFTP educational conferences, where he educates the industry on internal controls, fraud prevention, Sarbanes-Oxley Act compliance and PCI compliance. He is also a member of the HITEC Advisory Council.

How is your specialty  changing? How will it evolve over the next two to five years?

My “specialty” is hospitality operational finance, which has been changing concurrently with changes in technology. Every year when I attend HITEC, I see new technologies that change the way hospitality finance operates.

For example, there are software packages that have practically automated the income journal process such that the income journal can be prepared with the click of a mouse (it typically takes an hour or two or more to complete a manual income journal). There are machines that fully automate general cashiering functions, handling deposits, due backs and change requests. There are business intelligence programs that allow me to see how my hotels are performing daily (so that I no longer have to wait until the end of a month).

In short, technology is changing the landscape of hospitality operational finance, creating more efficiency at lower operating costs. And in the next two to five years, this phenomenon will only increase.

What are some important strategies for security – data and guest?

Important strategies for data and guest securities are continuing to revolve around PCI Compliance/credit card data security and personally identifiable information security. I also think that physical guest security will continue to be important, as we have recently witnessed stories of unauthorized entry into guest spaces by cameras and other unwanted guests.

Strategies here will include:

  • Maintaining vigilance over credit card data security rules and standards;
  • Training front line managers and staff regarding PCI Compliance;
  • Training front line managers and staff regarding reviewing guest identification upon arrival; and
  • Possibly installing more cameras throughout hotel public spaces (camera technology has become significantly more available and less expensive over the last several years).

Name three areas within hospitality technology that are evolving the most?

As the global traveling community becomes more and more environmentally conscious — and with Gen Y using technology more than other generations — hospitality technology is evolving to meet those needs.

  1. The Cloud — Until a year or two ago, “The Cloud” was simply something in the sky that obscured the sun; now, everyone is using “The Cloud” for data storage. Some technologies even allow for PMS operations to be fully “in The Cloud.”

  2. Smartphone Usage – Travelers with iPhones or other smartphones constantly ask, “Is there an App for that?”  The usage of personal smartphones to handle tasks such as changing the channels on the television in the hotel room, paying for the hotel stay, and the like, are now possible.

  3. RFID systems – From guestroom keys to wristbands to “toll tags.”

Since you’ve been in the industry, which technology do you think has changed hospitality the most?

Since I’ve been in the hospitality industry (during the last 14 years), I think that smartphone technology has changed hospitality the most.  In late January 2012, LodgeNet, a provider of in-room guest entertainment, said that it was going to release a smartphone application capable of acting as a television remote control in a hotel guestroom.  There are also smartphone and iPad applications that act as restaurant menus, methods of payment and more.

As a user of technology, the smartphone has changed the way that hospitality technology interacts with guests.

From a back-of-the-house perspective, though, I would say that “The Cloud” has changed hospitality the most.

What is your favorite hospitality-related mobile “app” that you use?

The HITEC mobile app.  It has everything that a HITEC attendee needs: education information, vendor information, show hours and maps of the show floor.

With a packed itinerary during HITEC, it is great to have an app that I use on my smartphone to get me where I need to be on time. All I need to do is to look down at my smartphone and do not need to consult my daily planner.

Now, if there were only an app available that would talk to the vendors and sign contracts for me, but I am not sure that Siri does that yet!

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