Interview: Travel and Hospitality Tech Icon Aaron Shepherd Reveals Why a Tectonic Shift in the Industry is Underway | By Alan Young – Hospitality Net – Hospitality Net

In the realm of hospitality, the topic of technological innovation has long been a point of contention. The ever-evolving expectations of guests rule the hospitality industry, yet hotels are firmly rooted in tradition, almost to a detriment. Over the last few decades, as technological innovation has swept across other industries and sectors at an increasingly rapid pace, hospitality has found itself lagging, needlessly anchored by a reliance on legacy systems. These systems have not only proved to be inefficient but, in fact, deleterious to the continued growth and evolution of independent hospitality brands, both big and small. The writing was on the wall: it was time to embrace a new way of doing things, and, in fact, service traditions could be better upheld when backed by technology built to scale and match the demand for innovation.
It was precisely this dilemma that informed the conception of Above Property, a unique microservice ecosystem that empowers continuous development and refinement of hoteliers’ critical business processes. Above Property Services (APS) offers the only platform that can evolve seamlessly in response to industry demands, with over 1,100 web services driving more than 10,000 unique features and capabilities to break hotels free from the notorious constraints of legacy technology and processes. Finally, it seems, an era of innovation is upon us, and hoteliers find themselves in a position to embrace incredible new innovations across core hospitality platforms, such as Distributed Reservations, Inline Revenue Management®, Channel Management, Property Management System (PMS), and more.
In anticipation of HITEC 2021, I had an opportunity to speak at length with Above Property CEO and co-founder Aaron Shepherd to discuss the future of hospitality and how AP is positioned to change the way hoteliers think about technology.
An industry veteran, Shepherd has been building travel-related systems for over thirty years. During that time, he became increasingly aware of the challenges facing our industry from a technological perspective. “Traditionally, hotel and travel systems can’t scale, and they have a really tough time breaking out of the mold,” Shepherd shares. “So we had to start over again from scratch, and that’s what we did with Above Property. We collapsed down all the different silos and put them all together into a big collection of services.”
“Hotels, in general, are very willing to do guest-facing upgrades; whether that be remodeling the lobby or upgrading the linens, but they don’t typically spend a great deal of money on the travel technology side of things,” Shepherd continues. “Travel companies, hotel companies, and rental car companies often look at technology as a cost to doing business, as opposed to a driver of business and demand. That’s been the bad news of the last thirty years.” Fortunately, that seems to finally be changing. Large and small companies are now ready to look at the technology as a mechanism for driving demand and profit, and Above Property is leading the charge.
So, how exactly did the Above Property team deliver something to the market that was truly scalable and able to meet the needs of the hospitality industry and other sectors? Shepherd shares that flexibility and functionality were the main drivers behind the APS offering, as well as speed and scalability. “It took a long time to get the right technology pieces in place and to be able to scale effectively, but we’ve accomplished that. In Phocuswright in 2014, we announced that we had broken 100,000 transactions per second at a 50 millisecond response time. When I was with prior companies, we struggled to even get a fraction of that with traditional technology stacks,” Shepherd shares. “We spent a lot of engineering time, capital, and creative thought processes to make it so we can live in a carrier-grade world, where we can be a power plant for hotels and travel companies.”
Above Property’s flagship product is Above Property Services (APS), which offers thousands of different API endpoints categorized into microservices, domain services, composite services, and application-level services. “We have this wide variety of deep functionality from a service-layer perspective. For hoteliers, this means if you want to have your own website for a booking engine, you already have the APIs available to you. If you want to create your own front desk application, you already have the APIs available to you,” explains Shepherd. “Everything that you need to run your business, there are APIs that are already there for that. In addition to that, we support almost every version from 2005 onwards of Open Travel, and we also support all versions of HTNG. We can live in essentially any ecosystem out there, and we are adding new connections all the time. And so, from a systems perspective, we’ve built out all of the parts and pieces that are needed for hoteliers to either build their own solution or use our solution right out of the gate.”
Traditionally, technology has required users to change the way they do business in order to use the technology. “We’ve built this travel platform that has been set up from the beginning to be able to handle any business model,” says Shepherd. “Across my whole career, that’s been the industry mantra, and that’s where people get in trouble.” With APS, it doesn’t matter what the business model is. APS can adapt to it.
“As a lot of people know, I’ve made a career of building up a company and then selling it to a big player before moving on to the next one. At each of those junctures, I actually went through, and I reinvented how to build these systems,” shares Shepherd. “We now have a platform at Above Property that can basically run the whole travel industry; it is literally scalable at that level, and that’s incredibly exciting to me.”
In addition to serving hotels, Above Property has spent several years working with a major rental car company to provide them with a state-of-the-art revenue management solution. The unique design of this database allows them to absorb all the traffic from all of their reservations and tickets across their entire business line and produce the enhanced analytics, dashboards, and revenue management toolkit required to run their business effectively. “We primarily work with hotels and rental car companies, but we have plans to move into other verticals as well,” explains Shepherd.
To watch the full interview on the HITECtv platform, please click here.
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A seasoned business and technology visionary, Alan is co-founder of Puzzle Partner, a leading PR and Marketing firm. He is recognized for his provocative insight into how emerging technology impacts industries and how leaders can better connect with their customers and employees for sustained growth.
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