More With Michael Blake

SCHAUMBURG, IL—A shift at the executive level of Hotel Technology Next Generation (HTNG) has left Michael Blake taking up the mantle as the organization’s EVP and CEO. The executive will officially assume the CEO title on Aug. 1, when Douglas Rice retires.

Rice, a founder of the organization in 2002, was its first permanent staff executive, and grew HTNG from a grassroots startup to its current position as a trade organization that serves hospitality technology globally. HTNG is a not-for-profit trade organization that fosters, through collaboration and partnership among hoteliers and technology providers, the development of next-generation solutions.

For his part, Blake has been an active HTNG supporter, serving on HTNG’s Board of Directors and as its treasurer from 2012 through early 2015. He has also held the CIO position at both Commune Hotels & Resorts and Hyatt Hotel Corporation, and senior financial positions at First Data Corporation, Kaiser Permanente, Sears and United Airlines.

As CEO, Blake will oversee day-to-day operations and supervise a staff of nine. The position reports to an all-volunteer Board of Governors and president, drawn from top-level IT executives from 21 hotel groups from around the world.

Blake was the subject of “Industry Insider” in the June 7 edition of Hotel Business on page 29. Here is more from that interview.

—Nicole Carlino

As the retiring CEO and a founder of HTNG, Douglas Rice’s impact on the organization can’t be measured. What lessons do you plan to take from his leadership and legacy? It will be difficult to replace Doug, who is renowned in the industry, but I have been fortunate enough to work with him for eight years while I served on the Board of Governors. We’ve built a strong foundation of trust. I have already learned so much about the inner workings of the association from Doug, and he has introduced me to many helpful contacts on a global scale. As an association, we will continue to grow and build on his accomplishments.

How would you describe your leadership style? What would you say are your greatest strengths, and how will your past experience help you in this role? I like to lead by example because it’s a good way to set the tone and expectations. I encourage teamwork and collaboration. I also think it is important to allow staff and workgroup members flexibility and freedom to foster growth and improvement. What I can bring to the table is a vast knowledge of IT and hospitality, and enthusiasm and eagerness to introduce new technologies to hotels given my past experience. With the staff at HTNG, I’ll be open to new ideas and changes where appropriate.

Regardless of how feasible it is or how close to the technology we are at this point in time, do you have a dream technology you’d love to see implemented in hotels at some point? The Internet of Things (IoT) is a real game-changer. The explosion of mobile, combined with IoT location-based sensors, will enable hotels to provide a high level of personal service. Now, couple this with a newfound understanding of data, and my needs will be met before I can articulate them.

When your tenure as CEO is up, what stamp would you like to have left on HTNG and the industry as a whole? If I do my job correctly, I hope to be remembered as the leader of HTNG who facilitated the development of new technology models for hospitality that improved the industry and guest experience, and increased the effectiveness and efficiency of hotels through a healthy ecosystem of technology suppliers. Beyond that, I want to ensure that my successor inherits as solid of an organization as Doug has left me.