Outrigger Hospitality Group’s new VP/CIO focuses on security, AI

HONOLULU—In an effort to tackle the ever-changing technology landscape in a way that’s beneficial to its properties and guests, Outrigger Hospitality Group has tapped Henry Schwartz, who has been in the hospitality space for more than 20 years, as its new VP and CIO.

“I was fortunate to be involved with the Outrigger system transition for the last two and a half years and gained key insights into the operations of this iconic hospitality brand,” Schwartz said. “My strong attraction to working for Outrigger Hospitality Group stemmed from the incredible opportunity to gain international experience—as Outrigger has premier beachfront properties around the globe. Additionally, I feel fortunate to be in a position to participate in the organization’s growth and manage the IT operations at an enterprise level while the brand is on the brink of significant innovation. I’m also looking forward to managing a larger corporate team filled with industry thought leaders and all-star IT professionals.”

Prior to Outrigger, he was with KSL Resorts for more than 20 years, most recently serving as VP of IT. He also co-founded a private CPA firm.

“I am proud of the accomplishments we achieved during my time at KSL Resorts,” he said. “During my tenure, I oversaw the successful transition of more than 20 destination resorts to KSL Resorts management with a wide variety of transition requirements—among them, the successful transition of Outrigger Hotels and Resorts to KSL ownership. Furthermore, my team led the design and implementation of security standards to support industry security requirements across all systems. We centralized the company ERP to improve reporting and reduce costs, as well as implemented a company-wide business intelligence system to further streamline reporting and support revenue optimization.”

Outrigger has tasked its new CIO with developing and implementing global IT strategies, initiatives, capabilities, policies and procedures to support the hospitality company’s goals and direction.

“I see my role at Outrigger Hospitality Group being similar to my KSL Resorts role, with a few exceptions,” he said. “Outrigger has a larger established base of premier beachfront properties in unique international locations. In addition, Outrigger has various centralized systems that provide for greater standardization. Lastly, at Outrigger, I will have the opportunity to apply IT technology strategy at the enterprise level, rather than in a property-specific manner.”

Outrigger’s portfolio includes Outrigger Resorts; Ohana Hotels by Outrigger; Hawaii Vacation Condos by Outrigger; Kapalua Villas Maui; and Honua Kai Resort & Spa Maui, the portfolio’s latest addition.

“During my first three months at Outrigger, I plan to first determine how IT can best support the business goals of the organization,” he said. “I will review the IT processes across the organization to establish best practices and determine a roadmap for a way forward in order to implement an IT strategy for acquiring properties to support Outrigger’s strategic and ambitious growth objectives.”

In existence for more than 70 years, the privately held company—which has expanded from Hawaii to resort destinations in Fiji, Thailand, Guam, Mauritius and the Maldives—currently operates and/or has in development 38 properties and more than 7,000 rooms.

With technologies changing so fast, hoteliers are doing their best to keep up with the pace, relying on IT professionals for direction on what’s trending in the industry. For example, depending on the brand, guests nowadays expect guestroom technologies—including smart TVs, thermostats and showers; keyless entry; and a texting concierge—when they stay at a property. For owners, while these technologies are nice to have, they must also enhance the guest experience, which is where Schwartz is putting his focus in his new role as CIO of Outrigger.

“I’ve been keeping a close eye on guestroom technologies that improve the guest experience, including technologies that individualize the guest experience from the time they book their stay, guest messaging communicated throughout their visit and even post-stay communications,” he said.

While guestroom technologies play a large part in connecting guests with properties, they also incorporate what guests bring with them. Staying on top of what’s trending in the consumer market is the only way for hoteliers to accommodate the needs and wants of its guests.

“I’ve also been paying attention to guest entertainment trends—specifically, systems that support technologies the guests bring with them,” Schwartz said. “I am curious to see how AI in the guestroom will evolve—especially as ongoing data privacy laws increasingly impact the ways organizations communicate with customers. I believe these systems will improve and streamline customer marketing and booking experiences as they evolve.”

Even though many properties and guests are relying on technologies to enhance the guest experience, there are challenges. “At the forefront is data privacy and the need to create seamless transactional experiences for customers and guests,” he said.

While many hoteliers are walking a fine line between privacy and security, there are other issues they’re managing on a daily basis, including increasing technology costs, which many industries are looking to reduce.

“Other challenges include keeping IT costs under control,” he continued. “With more systems operating above-property in the cloud, there has been a significant increase in operating expenses; the challenge for hospitality companies will be to control costs while providing the required operational and business support of the brand, while also paving the way for successful and sustainable future growth.”

As for the future of Outrigger’s IT infrastructure, Schwartz’s outlook is fairly straightforward: “My vision for Outrigger IT is to create an agile IT organization that maintains a secure infrastructure while accommodating business and growth objectives.” HB