After many years of trying, we finally convinced Ilse to leave her steady career at Sabre and come strengthen the Mews team with her talents. With our latest funding round closed, the business growing rapidly, and one of the key priorities being making the business scalable, whilst retaining the personal relationship we have with our customers.
One of the big industry pains around PMS solutions is the lack of support, slow response time and huge fees for extensions. Mews is fighting this trend, as we feel software should be accessible, friendly and interactive. As we grow we try to surround ourselves with talent that believes in this same logic and who are passionate about service and hospitality and are eager to build a technology company which echoes those values.
So, as part of a new series where we introduce our Mews family and what makes us special, Matt sat down to interview Ilse:
MW: Ilse and I met 12 years ago, fresh out of university and both starting our graduate program at Hilton on the same day. A decade of hotel and technology experiences later our paths crossed again and I couldn’t be happier that she’s finally said yes and joined Mews.
So, Ilse, what is your background in hospitality?
IK: My love for hospitality comes from when I was a kid. My dad worked (and still works) at a hotel and I knew from an early age on that I would like to work in hospitality. After spending a gap year working in Brighton (UK) at a small 3* hotel (which very much resembled Fawlty Towers!), I started at the Hotel Management School in Maastricht. After my graduation I worked for Club Med and NH Hotels for a while, before getting accepted into the Hilton Elevator Programme.
The fast-track management programme taught me everything I needed to know about hotels and hospitality. After 5 years I decided it was time for a change as I wanted to see what else there was to learn about the “other” side of hospitality, so I joined Sabre Hospitality Solutions (a CRS provider). I joined their Global Training Team for a couple of years before continuing in the Sales Department.
MW: What, in your view, are some of the challenges of the hospitality industry from a technology perspective?
IK: I think the biggest tech challenge today is the speed at which technology is changing, and meeting the expectations of the modern connected guest. Travellers are so used to being able to do everything online on their smartphones and unfortunately the hospitality industry has struggled to keep up with this demand, let alone to stay ahead of the game.
Hotel systems are often legacy solutions and changing to more modern systems usually represents a massive impact on their Operations, plus it usually incurs a high cost. These legacy systems are outdated and haven’t kept up with the latest developments, yet they are present throughout the hotels Operations (just think – the Front Desk PMS system, the restaurant POS systems, the conference & banqueting systems etc), hence changing is a big (and expensive) decision for hoteliers.
Another major challenge for hoteliers is to work with technology to offer a truly personalized solution to its guests. Today’s travellers may not care about accruing loyalty points and earning free nights, but they are definitely looking at a more personalised approach. The problem is, very few hotel companies know how to handle this challenge and incumbent technology providers are not able to offer any full solutions, this provides a huge opportunity for young startups to bring some much needed innovation.
MW: So , what made you jump the corporate ship and join a startup?
IK: I realised that after 7 years of Sabre it was time to broaden my horizon. Having worked for 2 major American hospitality companies (Hilton and Sabre), I felt it was time to start a new challenge whereby I could put the things I have learned into practise at a small company. Our aim is to conquer the Property Management market and I am hoping I can contribute to this using my experience from my previous roles. I am also super excited that I can put my own vision into practise and help Mews grow to where they want to be. Not having strict guidelines and SOP’s feels like challenge sometimes, but also as a huge liberation!
MW: So why Mews, you must have had lots of other offers?
IK: A couple of reasons really. You and I have always stayed in touch during and after our Hilton Elevator experience. I have followed Mews from the day that Matt told me he was joining the company and I have seen the amazing growth and passion from the start until now. This leads me to believe that Mews has a great future ahead of it and the growth opportunities are enormous.
I have also known that the PMS market is very fragmented and that really no PMS has the right answer today for hoteliers. I believe that Mews can be that game changer and I am super excited to be a part of this.
MW: That’s really wonderful to hear. So, one month into the job, what are some of the things that keep you up at night?
IK: Hahaha, it’s easier to ask how I ever sleep. It’s been a crazy month getting to know everyone and everything, learning new systems and procedures. The one thing that worries me (but it’s a good worry to have) is the amount of implementations that we have to deliver on these coming few months. The market has obviously embraced Mews and is anxiously waiting to get started. My job is to ensure we live up to the expectations of our clients and all are brought on board quickly, efficiently and professionally.
MW: What are some of the trends you are seeing in the industry that excite you?
IK: I think the biggest thing that I am seeing right now is that a lot more hoteliers are willing to shift their focus back to the guest experience. If it means getting out of their comfort zone and moving into the new era (technology wise), then now is the time to do so.
Ilse Kous - Director of Operations
Matthijs Welle - CEO