17 Top Technology Professionals Inspiring Innovation in the U.S. Hotel Industry

The U.S. hospitality sector is experiencing a massive transition from vintage hotel experiences towards more tech-powered service offerings across the industry. This increased interest in hotel technologies has not been easily triggered and has taken almost a decade to inspire. 

Today we take a look at eighteen of the most influential hotel management professionals who have inspired hotel owners to discover the world of hospitality technology solutions.  

Alexander Shashou

Alex launched ALICE – his first startup – with his co-founders in 2013. Since then they have built their operations platform into one the fastest growing technologies in the hospitality space, with a global customer base of 2,500+ hotels, a global team of 150. The startup has raised $50M, with Expedia Inc as its biggest backer. ALICE has been recognized for its great culture, winning inclusion on Inc. Magazine’s Best Workplaces and #1 Place to Work in Hotel Tech Report. 

Born and raised in London, Alex grew up in the hotel industry, received his bachelor’s degree from the Wharton School of Business and began his career at Goldman Sachs. He’s become a sought-after hospitality thought leader, speaking on technology and innovation in hospitality at conferences around the world and being honored with The Hotel Industry’s Next Gen Leader Award by HX in 2018.

Dr. Michael L. Kasavana Ph. D

The most decorated, respected, and revered name in hospitality management, Dr. Michael Kasavana (Ph. D), is an Icon of the hospitality industry. His undisputed knowledge, breakthrough research, opinions, insights, and lectures are wisdom feasts for hospitality professionals.

Dr. Kasavana is a NAMA endowed professor emeritus, teaching hospitality business at Michigan State University. His cutting edge research into ecommerce, I.T., and payment processing technologies are a treasure trove for hospitality professionals. He is also a Certified Hospitality Technology Professional (CHTP).

Professor Michael Kasavana has authored six books, while he has also authored a vast number of academic journal articles for hospitality.His book, Managing Technology in the Hospitality Industry, is one of the most popular university course books taught across the world. 

Dr. Kasavana’s most recent research analyzes the impact of technology on hospitality industry productivity and competitive advantage. It was during this time that he coined the concepts “V-Commerce”, “V-Engineering”, and “Menu Engineering”.

Dr. Kasavana was awarded NAMA Industry Person of the Year in 2011, and also holds the MSU Distinguished Faculty Award. The HFTP inducted Dr. Kasavana in their International Technology Hall of Fame, and he was also presented with the Distinguished Lifetime Achievements Award from FS/TEC for foodservice technology innovation.

Zoe Connolly

Zoe Connolly is the founder and CEO of Hospitality Spotlight, a leading sourcing firm for senior professional talent in the hotel and travel industry.

Her pioneering work and relentless recruiting has connected top hotel groups with some of the most prodigious hospitality professionals. Zoe has a resume featuring experience from startups to Fortune 500 companies.

A passionate traveler with a deep interest in technology & linguistics, Connolly was inspired by her voyager instincts to create Hospitality Spotlight.

Today, Zoe’s Hospitality Spotlight partners with management companies, independent hotels and travel tech companies to deliver them the best resources for their unique needs. In addition, Zoe is a member of the HSMAI (Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International), Association of Talent Acquisition Professionals, Hotel Executive Editorial Board, and a eHotelier Contributor.

A family girl who loves to socialize, Zoe loves cartoons with the kids and dreams of mid-century decor ideas. Connolly enjoys a cup of coffee with friends and is renowned for her cheesy jokes.  

Mohammad Shoaib Ziaee , CHTP

Mohammad Shoaib Ziaee is a pioneer of the hotel technology management sector. As the Director of Information Technology at Advanced Hospitality Technologies Inc., Mohammed has coined his name as one of the most revered technology compliance consultants for mid-scale & upper scale hotels.

Mohammad is a CHTP (Certified Hospitality Technology Professional), certified PCI certified professional & trainer with over 3 decades of information technology experience in the hospitality industry. He has had the opportunity to collaborate with global hotel brands including the Marriott Group, Hilton, IHG, Wyndham, Choice, and several other franchises.

His enthusiastic interest in hospitality technologies & Information Technology systems fuels his hunger to learn and educate hoteliers about the coming evolution of the industry. Among some of his top authored works are his educational articles emphasizing the importance of PCI compliance, cybersecurity and staff training for hotels.

Mohammed is usually on the circuit visiting hotels to deliver timely insights and training to hotel staff. His spare time is spent strictly with family and playing some high endurance tennis. His mission to encourage healthy living also motivates him to take long bike rides and soak in the energy from nature.

Pete Simpson

Peter is a veteran crusader of the hospitality industry, with over 3 decades of experience in I.T. management 16 of which were spend in technical roles with renowned RMS developers Micros Inc. By the time ORACLE acquired it, Simpson had positioned the Micros Cloud Business as an industry leader.

Now the Senior Vice President of Global Business at Protel Hotel Software GmbH, Pete is working on a leading edge ERP or EHF (Enterprise Hospitality Framework) based on ESB technology. The software will seek to offer seamless integration of core hotel operations, enterprise data, distribution, guest experience and enhanced retailing.

Simpson has historically contributed a wealth of ideas and knowledge into the hospitality sector, but his authored works are just hitting the internet. One of his most inspiring articles “buying hospitality technology in the future” is an excellent read for hospitality technology enthusiasts.

Ira Vouk

Ira Vouk is not just a hospitality professional, she is a “hospitality technology innovator”. A co-founder & former VP of hotel revenue management system i-Rates (now Xcelerates), Ira now works as the product strategist for hospitality management suite provider CloudBeds.

Ms. Vouk brings together almost 2 decades of hospitality technology management experience, and was ranked as one of the top 5 revenue managers in the U.S. in 2013 by HSMAI (Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International).

A sociology & marketing majors, Ira has expended her knowledge and ideas to develop several technology breakthroughs for hospitality. Her illustrious list of professional certifications include CHA (Certified Hotel Administrator), CHSP (Certified Hospitality Sales Professional), CRME (Certified Revenue Management Executive), CSPO (Certified Scrum Product Owner).

In addition to her contributions to the hospitality industry, Ira has also furthered the development of the industry with multiple literary works. Her 2018 book “Revenue Management Made Easy” was a top hospitality seller on Amazon. She also writes as a guest author on the Hospitality Net website, with some brilliant revenue management articles for hoteliers to learn from.

Ira is also a professional Revenue Management consultant, providing her expertise to help hotels improve revenue numbers. After reading through her works and looking at all her accomplishments, there are two words in my mind for Ira Vouk, resolute and dedicated. She brings a passion and energy into the hospitality industry that is a need of our technology influenced age.

Frank Wolfe

A legendary name in the hospitality industry, Frank Wolfe (CAE) is the CEO of HFTP (Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals), the biggest hospitality technology conference in the world. Frank has been a part of the HFTP since 1991 when he joined as the organization’s Director of Education.

After becoming the youngest association CEO in North America in 1994, he has constantly envisioned innovation in hospitality. An honorary speaker, Wolfe has also authored various articles on hotel operations and hotel technologies on Hospitality Net and other platforms.

Frank has also been featured in Lodging Magazine’s (2000) 75 Profiles in Leadership ranking of iconic hospitality contributors. In 2002, the HFTP honored him with the HFTP Paragon Award for his inestimable contributions to the hospitality industry.

Recognized as the Technology Trailblazer by HotelBusinessMagazine in 2010, Frank Wolfe was inducted into the International Hospitality Technology Hall of Fame in 2011. In 2019 Frank dedicated himself as a senior research fellow at the prestigious Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management. Recently, Mr. Wolfe was inducted as a Fellow of the Institute of Hospitality.

Frank’s invaluable contributions towards educating the hospitality industry on technology and its various applications are a great source of inspiration for modern hoteliers. He is also a regular speaker at HFTP and HITEC conferences.

Lyle Worthington, CHTP

A CHTP, hospitality technology consultant, advisor, mentor and CIO advisor, Lyle Worthington can be termed the complete “hospitality technology management” package. He is the former Global President of the HFTP.

Worthington began his illustrious career 23 years ago as a software developer. Today, he is a CIO advisor for renowned global hospitality franchises including CIO of The Student Hotel based in Amsterdam.

In addition to serving on the boards, committees, and councils of several hospitality organizations, Lyle has been a true advocate of technology in the hospitality industry for 2 decades.

Lyle Worthington is a prominent speaker at hospitality & technology conferences, spreading his intuitive ideas across the hospitality landscape. He is also the author of several articles educating the industry on leading edge technology applications. Worthignton’s also features as a guest author on Hospitality Net and Hospitality Upgrade.

Lyle is a skydiving enthusiast and is ready for a jump every chance he gets. He is also a lacrosse player and coach.

Jeff Zabin

Jeff Zabin is the founder & CEO of I.T. market research firm, Starfleet Media. He also features as the Director of Research at Starfleet. Jeff has contributed rich content marketing and lead generation services to the hospitality, retail, and healthcare industries for over a decade.

Jeff began his career as a book publisher for Houghton Mifflin, and later served as a peace corps volunteer in Bolivia. Since his return to the hospitality industry he has helped launch eight different companies, including the famous Timely & Timeless Exquisite Clocks Emporium.

Zabin is the author of several business management books including The Seven Steps to Nirvana (McGraw-Hill) and Precision Marketing (Wiley). He is also a consultant for several educational publishing companies, and also serves on the advisor boards of non-profit organizations like the Taproot Foundation and New Options.

Jeff has also authored several articles on hotel technology featured on Hotel Technology News. His featured articles on Hospitality Net are some excellent works that we have also taken insights from.

David Heckaman 

David Heckaman is a decorated operations manager with over 20 years of experience in technology and the hospitality industry. A Hotel Management & Development graduate from the University of Central Florida, he began in operations with independent hotels. 

David is a charter member of Hospitality Technology Next Generation (HTNG) trade organization, co-chairs the HTNG Infrastructure & Device Forum, Registered Communications Distribution Designer (RCDD) and is also a Cisco Certified Network Administrator (CCNA).

His first role as regional technology manager came at Stormont Trice Hotels, where he headed various technology development, project management initiative and installations.

David joined the Bethesda Crestline Capital and assisted in developing Crestline Hotels & Resorts and also integrated their new back office system. Heckaman also interconnected all Crestline hotels & resorts.

Since 2001, David has been with the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group. His influential technology development at the group’s North American flagship hotel has allowed them to position their asset as the international hospitality technology leader in the area. He has overseen project management & technology deployment at 6 major Mandarin Oriental assets including those in Paris, Barcelona, Riviera Maya, and Las Vegas.

In addition, David is the head consultant at his Heckaman Group LLC, a consultancy company that provides hospitality  & lodging businesses technology guidance project reviews, and networking with technology vendors. Mr. Heckaman is also the co-owner of engineering & design firm StructureWide LLC.

David is an inspiring speaker and frequently appears at conferences, seminars, and workshops to discuss modern technology applications in hospitality. He has also authored a handful of articles primarily focusing on LTE & mobility solutions in hospitality.

Robert A. Rauch, CHA

Robert A. Rauch is the president of premier hospitality management and consulting firm, R.A.Rauch & Associates. Mr. Rauch is a pioneer of the hospitality business, with 35 years of dynamic hospitality industry experiences.

Robert completed his bachelor’s degree in Hotel Administration from Western International University, following a master’s degree in Tourism Administration from Arizona State University.

Not only is Robert termed the ‘hotel guru’, he is also a fascinating author on hotelguru.com where he publishes his innovative ideas, intuitive life lessons, and latest industry trends. His hospitality insights newsletter is one of the most educational hospitality industry publications available online through his blog.

During his life as a hotelier, Robert has held various business management positions including General Manager at Hilton’s Embassy Suites. Mr. Rauch is a CHA (Certified Hotel Administrator), in addition to serving as chairman for a number of tourism companies.

He has contributed to the development of multiple hostel brands, some of which he owns and manages himself. His firm, R. A. Rauch & Associates Inc. currently operates hotels in California, Arizona and Colorado with several under development.

Karen O’Neill

Karen O’Neill has been with the hospitality industry for well over 20 years. She is considered a thought leader and a leading source of knowledge for hospitality technology ideas. She is a graduate of the University of South Carolina, with a Bachelor of Science from the College of Hospitality, Retail and Sports Management.

After a 15 year spell with MICROS systems, ending up as their VP Hotel Sales and Strategy, Karen founded KnockOut Hospitality Consulting LLC. The company streamlines and manages hotel operations with technology.

Ms. O’Neill joined StayNTouch in 2015, a cutting edge PMS solutions provider, as their VP of Sales & Marketing. She later joined Knowcross as President of the Americas to enhance the brand name across the American continents.

Ms. O’Neill offers a very educational feed on LinkedIn, with some superb technology focused articles on her StayNTouch blog.

David Berger

David Berger is another hotel technology trendsetter in our countdown. As the developer of the first hotel voice hub, Volara, David is a celebrated hospitality veteran with nearly 20 years of professional experience. David is a BA focused on Political Science from Emory University and holds a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from the New York University School of Law.

Mr. Berger also resides as the Chairman of the Digital Currency Council. (The DCC was created to support the development of best-in-class professional practices in the digital currency economy through training, certification, as well as connectivity with peers and prospective clients.)

David also enjoys a fair share of interest in finance. His experiences at Campden Wealth & Private Investors Collective display his diverse skillset. David was also an early Bitcoin investor, hence his love for digital currency.

As a guest contributor on multiple digital platforms, David has offered his professional insights & opinions on several hospitality technologies. His articles on the hotel guest experience, and voice technology in hospitality are highly intriguing reads.  

David Berger’s Volara is the official and exclusive partner of Marriott for the pilot tests of voice technologies. The company is also developing voice-based solutions for leading brands like Viceroy, Melia, Two Roads, and several renowned hotel franchises.

Jordan Hollander

CEO & co-founder of Hotel Tech Report, Jordan Hollander is a research intelligence guru of the hospitality industry. His website is the #1 rated review platform in the hotel technology sector. Holding an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management majoring in finance and marketing, Jordan has spent a dynamic career in hospitality business.

Formerly a member of the Global Partnerships team at Starwood Hotels & Resorts, his contributions to the SPG loyalty program made them one of the most popular hotel groups in their segment. Previously, Hollander was Director of Business Development at MWT Hospitality where he supervised multiple technology & real estate deals.

Jordan has created some superb content when it comes to hospitality technology. He reviews the latest hospitality technologies, provides the latest trends & insights, and delivers his opinions on perspective solutions that can help hospitality businesses.

Christine Killion

Christine Killion is the digital editor of Lodging Magazine, a rich source of hospitality news, insights, trends, and technology ideas. She is a Bachelors of Arts with majors in journalism from Temple University.

As a fellow editor, I have closely followed Christine’s work. And her content has indeed been inspiring and highly informative with some great ideas thrown in. Her perspectives on technology trends, leading hospitality insights, and hotel operations are lucrative reads for all hoteliers.

Considering she is not a hotel technology professional, the inspiring aspect of Ms. Killion’s writing is her amazing comprehension of the hospitality industry and its technology applications.

For hoteliers seeking new areas to develop their expertise & knowledge, Christine’s blog is an excellent place to start. Her articles on Guest Data and multi generation travelers are great reads to get an insight into the constantly changing hospitality industry.

Margaret Ady

Margaret Ady is co-founder of hotel management suite developer, Apaleo. Formerly a marketing maestro for Germany’s SnapShot and TrustYou before that, Ady has already featured in the Top 20 Extraordinary Minds in Sales, Marketing and Technology countdown by HSMAI.

A graduate from the University of Southern California with degrees in Economics and Psychology, Margaret has been part of The Walt Disney Company and The Oprah Winfrey Network. She has also served as a marketing consultant for 20th Century Fox and Nielson.

Ms. Ady is an astute hospitality technology manager, with a great portfolio of educational articles to support her efforts. Her brilliant writing has covered a number of areas of hotel technology, identifying interesting applications and integrations at hotels. 

A storyteller, Margaret loves creating interesting content for marketing, education, and to build strong partnerships.

Nicole Dehler

Nicole Dehler served over a decade in the regional division of MICROS systems. Her expertise is celebrated in the areas of Product and Project Management of Property, Sales Force and Central Reservations Systems. She later worked as an OPERA consultant for a while.  

Nicole is a popular author on Hospitality Net and Hotel Online platforms. Her articles on mobile technology and property management systems are a definite read for hotel owners. 

Today Ms. Dehler works at StayNTouch, leading the property management systems development, strategy, innovation, and growth. A warm-hearted and socializing individual, Nicole’s self-motivation and innovative thinking are the drivers of technology education for hospitality.

Toshi Soda

Director Of Sales & Marketing

Toshi Soda is Director of Sales & Marketing at Advanced Hospitality Technologies, a leading fully managed hospitality technology solutions partner. As director of marketing, Toshi is constantly on the circuit engaging & sharing leading-edge technology insights with clients, hotel owners, and hospitality companies. He now assists hospitality professionals with his expert knowledge and insights via online articles, meetings, and conferences.