Managing an independent hotel is a grind, especially in a cut-throat environment like New York City.
For Bozhidar Bachvarov, though, nothing was going to stop him from pursuing his dream. Bachvarov began his hotel career in 1999 working at several properties in Manhattan. In 2001, he attended New York University and studied hotel asset management. In 2003, he began managing a 50-room, family owned property called the Wall Street Inn, located in the heart of the financial district near the New York Stock Exchange. Nearly 20 years later – after countless hours improving all departments across the hotel – Bachvarov is extremely proud of the Tripadvisor Traveler’s Choice Award the hotel received in 2019.
“Everything was going real well until around March 15,” he said recently, echoing sentiments felt across the entire industry after COVID spurred a travel lockdown.
Ownership at the Wall Street Inn chose to keep the property open. However, demand collapsed immediately, and for months, the only guests were occasional emergency responders. Bachvarov knew that to survive in a new normal, parts of the business had to evolve. Turning to technology was a no-brainer.
“I count myself among the early adopters of technology in our industry,” he says, noting the success of technology implementations like SMS guest messaging. “Even though we’re a small company, we’re fully integrated with the world.”
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Connecting with guests in a completely new way post COVID-19, hoteliers that rely on tightly integrated systems to build guest profiles, share data in real time, and personalize each touchpoint along the customer journey will lead their markets in recovery.
Despite budget challenges, The Inn at Wall Street continues to explore technology that will improve the guest experience. Bachvarov says guests love the convenience of engaging with the hotel on their mobile devices, particularly international guests with language barriers who can use a messaging platform to communicate.
“Everyone has a mobile phone in their pocket these days,” he says. “Before that convenience, guests who didn’t speak English would have a tough time communicating with staff. Now your mobile device will help translate that message for you.”
The Wall Street Inn is implementing keyless entry now, and management is currently piloting SHR’s Maverick CRM to better engage with past guests regarding new hygiene procedures and new rate packages, including opening some rooms as office space.
“Technology is of paramount importance today because we are in a fourth industrial revolution. If you’re not current in this environment, you’re going to have trouble,” Bachvarov says. “When people say our industry is backward on innovation, it’s not entirely true. It depends on the individuals who are running the hotel.
“I was very interested in new technology early on, and I was frustrated that the integrations were not often there,” he says. “The platforms were not speaking with one another, and different vendors were not working well together. The goal was always one solution that connected to the PMS, but there were not very many vendors who understood that well.”
The Inn at Wall Street deployed SHR’s Windsurfer CRS in 2016, and Bachvarov says revenue jumped 35% as soon as the hotel had improved GDS and OTA connectivity. “We have a very robust CRS that connects us to the GDS and OTAs and powers our own web-booking engine,” he says.
He’s looking to Maverick to help more precisely target new and different segments of demand.
“You cannot build proper guest profiles manually,” Bachvarov says. “Implementing these technologies is not as challenging as it might sound. I searched and did my homework and found the right provider.”
by Jason Q. Freed