As a hospitality and tech enthusiast, to my dear friends and family there was nothing more logic than me switching sides and landing in this industry: the hoteltech. This rapidly evolving part of the hospitality industry always had my interest since it is driven by innovation and data. New initiatives, disruptors and challengers draw my attention as hotelier. In this column, Ask Mark, I will share my point of view from both perspectives, these being the old hotelier and the new techie. The subjects of each column will be based on topics I discus in the field. 

This month topic: “Is it time for hospitality to let go of our tailor-made obsession?”

A lot has changed since I switched from Hospitality to Tech, as described in my previous blog. I realized what an email addict I had become. In my previous role as Commercial Director, I received between 100-200 emails a day. Although this sounds like a burden, it always felt quite normal, and it was just the way things were. But having back2back meetings most days, this meant my mailbox was always a job to be done during my weekends or evenings.

When I talked about those e-mails with my new (mostly millennial) colleagues they were flabbergasted. It is not that we don’t communicate within this start-up. In fact, I believe we communicate even more than I am used to in all my corporate jobs. Only we communicate using different tools than email, such as scrum, short messaging, and many quick interactions. The only emails that arrive in our mailboxes are from suppliers, customers, or partners.

This makes me think about the days I spend as Commercial Director. The regular of a banquet sales or reservations agents starts with opening their mailbox since that mailbox determines their ‘to do list’. Every organization came up with their own way categorize these emails and manage their workload. Often without a clear insight which of those emails are most profitable or which emails require priority. But why are we working for our mailboxes instead of our mailboxes working for us?

Now, looking back at my time as hotelier, I clearly see a bottleneck. Due to staff shortage hoteliers and hotel customers tell me that the response time to a request is taking longer than the market desires. When a respond takes too long, customers often send a reminder email or approach another venue. This is what creates the vast number of emails coming in each day. That is why we invented Michiel, the AI mail bot and predecessor of Please ask m. But what is the root cause of this problem and even more important what is the best solution?

Fascinated by this appearance our growth and strategy manager, Charlotte Krist, did research on the technological development of the meeting market. Or should I say lack there off. She concluded that there is a 20-year delay in progression within this segment compared to the hotel sector. Within the hotel sector we saw change arise with the creation of e.g., and channel managers. The ability to change in the more traditional meeting market is a challenge since all live by the mantra that the human factor and tailor-made work makes the difference. So, does this mean that the human factor and tailor-made work can only be achieved by remaining addicted to our so traditional mailbox? With all the slow response times and manual work as consequences?

I read two books about these issues: “je email de baas” (the Hamster Revolution by Mike Song) and “Wie heeft mijn kaas gepikt” (Who moved my cheese by Spencer Johnson). If I look back at these readings, it seems that the challenge of changing this ingrained habit of being addicted to the mailbox, has been around for years. Yes, change is always hard, especially at the beginning. So as meeting industry we must start by ourselves and identify the real problem. If we dare to be critical to our own industry (supplier and buyer) we might conclude that staff shortage is not the real problem. It is our own ability to embrace change and the fear to discover the unknown world of automation. So, I believe I can conclude that the mantra ‘Tailor made does make a difference’ can be true. However, by looking critically at your processes, it can bring efficiency and more time for personal connections. Cause in the end, that so beloved mailbox is screwing you with work all day.

Do you have suggestion for the next topic, please let me know. Always interested in meeting new people or discussing topics affecting our Hospitality (and tech) industry. Reach-out to me via LinkedIn at