Knowland Names Former Hyatt Exec Jeff Bzdawka as New CEO
Jeff Bzdawka, new CEO of Knowland, talks of three Ps that led him to the industry’s oldest and one of the most respected data-gathering firms. The people and the product are top-notch at Knowland, he feels, but it’s the third, positioning, that uniquely qualifies the former vice president of technology of Hyatt for this role.
Between his leadership roles at Hyatt and tech-travel companies TravelClick and Pegasus, Bzdawka understands how to turn data-driven research into actionable insights. That skillset may be the most valuable commodity in meetings and events as the county emerges from the pandemic.
“Ultimately, it’s about driving results,” he said of using technology to assist good old-fashioned hospitality. “The last year has been horrendous beyond belief. And we find ourselves well into recovery, but recovery will not be real in hospitality until groups and events come back strong.”
Bzdawka takes the new job at a time when all signs point north. Knowland, an AI-powered platform, has been providing a steady stream of good news in its monthly reports.
Most recently, it found that the U.S. group meetings volume increased 28.4% over last month and is close to narrowing the difference to 2019 totals. When factoring in leisure travel, hotel occupancy is about 90% of what it was pre-pandemic. That missing percentage, Bzdawka asserted, is likely coming from large convention central hotels that do not draw as many families ready for that long-awaited vacation.
Bzdawka's familiarity with the hotel side of the business should only enhance Knowland’s ability to address key data points so planners and suppliers can make informed decisions. For instance, hotels will be able to use the information on actualized meetings to set rates that maximize revenue potential without offputting groups looking to meet on-site. “Data is power,” he said succinctly.
“Jeff is an exceptional technology leader, and we’re excited to bring his knowledge and leadership to Knowland,” said Lance Fenton, partner at Serent Capital. “His track record of building customer-focused solutions, scaling teams and driving growth will be essential as Knowland continues to grow and advance.”
Independent hotels without the resources to get a holistic view of what kinds of meetings are convening when and where certainly benefit from Knowland’s data collection. For large companies, where Bzdawka comes from, the service “takes off the blinders.” Meaning, Marriott or the other large brands will have a greater understanding of the industry because Knowland’s agnostic nature factors in all types and sizes of hotels, regardless of brand.
As meetings, particularly under 500 people or less, return, the hotel industry finds itself in transition. Like other service industries, it is struggling to fill vacancies created by furloughs and layoffs during the pandemic. In some cases, valued staff is retraining and onboarding for a post-pandemic world. Too often, though, those individuals that hotels and their guests counted on simply are not coming back.
Knowland is one of the tools new staff can use to quickly familiarize themselves with trends within the industry. That knowledge can turn into finding that sweet spot of making a profit without event planners feeling like they’ve been gouged.
“It's providing actionable insights for qualified leads,” said Bzdawka .