Tech Into Nashville: Amanda Hite – STR

STR, Amanda Hite, TechIntoNashville
STR, Amanda Hite, TechIntoNashville

What keeps hotels competitive is their ability to compare operations and performance metrics. This is known as “benchmarking.” For hotels and tourism, the global hotel brands all rely on one tech company to report and measure location performance accurately against industry standards. This company is STR.

Based in Hendersonville, Tennessee, STR is a leading global data benchmarking and analytics provider. The company, which consists of 300 worldwide employees, serves 70k hotels in 180 countries. Though not every major hotel uses STR, they are presently the only company for global hotel benchmarking standards. This makes them a thought leader for the hotel and tourism industries. 

STR wasn’t originally formed as a technology company. Formerly “Smith Travel Research,” STR was founded in 1985. At that time, it was originally conceived as a database for hotels operating in the U.S. 

However, over the course of 30 years of operation, STR matured into a full-fledged technology company. Already rooted in research services, STR was able to transition easily into the kind of company the hotel industry needed. 

A Wake-Up Call for the Hotel Industry

President of STR Amanda Hite has been with the company since 2006. Surprisingly for the chief executive of a technology company, the term “technologist” is not one she would use to describe herself. Rather, it was her love of business strategy and research that brought her to STR. Amanda came to the company after serving as the director of research for the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce. She has been the president of STR since 2011. 

“Over the course of the last five years, STR has been leaning more into technology,” Amanda says. This is no accident. STR wanted to become a technology company. Fortunately, the means for achieving this would present itself in 2019. It was then that STR was acquired by the CoStar Group out of Washington. The CoStar Group made its name providing commercial real estate information, analytics, and online marketplaces. Wanting to increase its value to customers, the CoStar Group made a billion dollar investment into different tech companies. STR’s acquisition for $450m was a major part of this strategy, as it gave the CoStar Group an entrance into hospitality. 

The need for stronger analytics (instead of monthly analytics) came from a few events that shook up the hotel industry. In particular, 9/11 created a need for daily hotel analytics. 

“9/11 was the first time where people were truly afraid to travel,” Amanda says. She explains that because people were afraid to get on airplanes, no travel was happening. Nationally, this was the first incident of its kind. Concerns about how much money was being lost brought about the desire for specific, daily benchmarking reports.

A Full Suite of Analytics

According to Amanda, three main numbers are captured daily for hotel analytics reporting. These numbers are the rooms available in a hotel, the number of rooms sold, and the daily revenue. 

Of course, STR clients may want deeper metrics outside of those three main reports. In the early 2000s, STR clients began to ask for P&L data for hotels. They also wanted to collect the same data globally that they were getting from American hotel properties. STR was happy to provide this information. In 2008, the company expanded its suite of reporting services. Since its services were no longer just a database, STR felt that the name “Smith Travel Research” didn’t fit. That same year, the company rebranded to simply “STR.”

Amanda recalls, “That is when we realized that we needed to do more with our own technology to meet evolving needs of hotel clients. This has helped keep STR as ‘the gold standard’ for hotel reporting.”

In the coming months, STR will be replatforming its product through a five-phase process. Previously, STR was emailing its reports to its 70k clients as individual spreadsheets. Distributing this information individually, client by client via email is a time-consuming delivery method. 

“One of the advantages of the CoStar Group acquisition was that we could finally build a single software product that brings all our information into one platform,” Amanda explains. “As a result we’re able to offer more significant analytics to our hotel clients. You can see all of the data points together, and do some really cool data visualizations that link causes between different data points.” 

To date, STR’s databases had been stored on an SQL server. Now, the company will keep its server, but it will migrate its operations to an Amazon Web Services (AWS) platform. 

“This is a really exciting project for our technology team!” Amanda says. “All of our people are getting new training in AWS to make sure that they have the tools and know how to use it.” 

Ensuring the Best Stay Possible

This new STR system will begin its client pilot phase in Q3 of 2022. To meet this projected timeline, Amanda says that the company needs to hire personnel now. 

“We’ve been trying to hire developers ‘fast and furious,’” Amanda says. The company currently has a team of about 60 technology employees in its Hendersonville office. 

Amanda continues, “We do not have enough front end or back-end developers today. We are trying to hire as many developers as we can.” These developers will be working in React JavaScript, .NET, and C#.

STR operates as a competitive employer. Amanda says that the company must go above and beyond normal workplace expectations if it’s going to attract and retain quality tech talent.

She states that the company culture is committed to the people. This ethos drives coworkers to bring one another up through continued improvement and development, helping them grow as people when possible. 

“It’s what we’re known for,” Amanda says. “It lets us have as much fun as you can have at work!”

STR plans on growing into other industries, such as real estate. This vertical is one which CoStar Group already serves. 
For further information about STR, be sure to visit its website and social media.

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