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Reimagining Hospitality. IN ASSOCIATION WITH


Reimagining Hospitality.




The Student Hotel is redefining how the hospitality business model works in a world of changing guest behaviour. And that means a new approach to technology.


hange has not been one of the watchwords of the hospitality industry, according to The Student Hotel’s Chief Digital and Experience

Officer Mark Liversidge. “The hotel business, in my humble opinion, hasn’t really changed in generations,” he says. “It runs on the same formula. It’s driven by the same industry metrics with the same workaround to overcome the


shifts and changes that are going on around it. “Brand portfolios delivered by the hospitality management companies are massive. They’ve got up to 20, 30 or 40 brands in their portfolios, yet fundamentally it’s all just been the same space and service with different carpets and wallpaper. “The engine it works on is the same. Most of the guest utility is the same. The decision making of the business models is the same. It’s simply a drive to get more flags in the ground and operational rooms. Fundamentally, none of it is serving the evolution of the guest. And their ability to pivot is hugely constrained. Conventional hospitality technology does not allow them to move with fluidity or agility.” What we’re trying to do is different; staying at TSH is not just about the rooms, it’s about a community experience. TSH’s hybrid hospitality concept is designed to welcome students, tourists, neighbours, entrepreneurs and business






Mark Liversidge Title: Chief Digital and Experience Officer Company: The Student Hotel Industry: Hybrid hospitality Location: Amsterdam

Mark is responsible for the technology stack, digital platforms and guest experience, placing technology at the core of TSH hybrid hospitality model. Mark held a variety of executive roles in consumer markets with Orange, O2, CSL, Macquarie and Hilton Worldwide. He has a master’s in strategy and innovation from Oxford University and is a graduate in European Studies from Durham University. Twice in the Global Top 40 Under 40, named Asia’s Most Influential CMO and awarded in branding, marketing, digital, mobile and retail design. Mark advises sporting charities and is a passionate sportsman, currently a youth coach at Bath Rugby in the UK. www.thestudenthotel.com



Mark Liversidge: 5 Points to Effective Leadership Mark Liversidge has honed his approach to leadership “over time, working across a broad spectrum of companies in different industry sectors, different organisation models, different ownership structures, different cultures globally and sizes of team from single digits to 700”. It comes down to five points.

1. Be culturally aware “It’s critical to be culturally aware. And that’s culturally aware in terms of the context of where the market operates in terms of geography both for your internal team and also your customers, and then the actual community culture of your business. You have to understand that very quickly on entry into any organisation. And you have to keep that at the forefront of your thinking.”


2. Be contextually aware “This is where you go down to an individual level, understand each individual’s journey. I don’t buy into leaders who think that people are going to want to stay with that company or that team for lifetime. That just simply doesn’t happen. It’s not normal. So understand the context of an individual’s journey, where they’re at, what they want to get out of their time in your team, in your organisation, and where they want to go next. And be respectful of that and try to assist them on that. Because if you are open and engaged in that journey, then you will get more out of them while they’re with you.”

3. Set direct strategy and objectives “Every time I’ve observed failure, it’s because of a lack of harmonisation across the group of people. What’s important is to set clear direct strategy, objectives and timeline, then to step back and allow the people and the teams to work out the journey and not be prescriptive or descriptive in how they’re going to achieve those outcomes.”

4. Put in the checkpoints “Have set communication and engagement cycles with the team, with your internal clients, and externally, with your partners and your customers. And I think it’s very important that people understand what that communication cycle is, so that they know they’re going to be engaged and given downward information, but also have the opportunity for feedback. And then with that communication, ensure commitment of action based on the collective observations and findings of that communication and engagement cycle.”

5. Give people space “It’s critical to harmonise around the individual. Give people space to explore their capabilities, allow people to step into the space that they feel they’ve got within themselves, allow them to make mistakes, allow them to challenge your thinking by trying things that maybe you, with your experience or perspective, don’t necessarily think is the right outcome, but then learn from them as they learn. In order to facilitate that, be super flexible in your engagement as an individual. And I see this as four roles that I have to play in engaging with somebody and the mix is dependent on the individual and where they’re at and what that person is like: between being a director, being a mentor, being a disruptor, and being a defendant.

The Breakdown And you think about those things, then in terms of the full package overall, to be an effective leader, my belief is that you have to spend two-thirds of your time in that last element, which is one-on-one individual time, and you’re spending 20 per cent on your strategy direction and your communication, and you’re spending 20 per cent on maintaining cultural and contextual awareness.





“Activating all types of space use within a single harmonized technology system” — Mark Liversidge, Chief Digital and Experience Officer, The Student Hotel

student accommodation (PBSA). That is also a rapidly evolving market, as higher education morphs from a concentration of 18 to 24 year old’s towards lifelong learning models, another trend Liversidge sees

people to learn, stay, work and play, all under

being accelerated by COVID. TSH’s hybrid

one roof. From hotel, student rooms and co-

personality begs the question of where

working spaces to auditoriums, gyms, event

The Student Hotel fits between hospital-

spaces and social initiative programming,

ity, workspace and PBSA. In fact, they are

Its a place where people can connect and

somewhat converging, as students demand

learn from one another while growing into a

higher quality accommodation while work-

vibrant community.

ers and travelers have increasingly fluid

The Student Hotel began life, as the name suggests as a provider of purpose-built

notions of how they go about their respective endeavours.


that are going to be fluid in the immedi-

Like universities, who are coming to realise

ate future. The challenge for us, at TSH,

that they are not accommodation special-

is to bring them together harmoniously,

ists and would rather hand off to third party

each part clearly defined, and as a prof-

expertise, Liversidge believes the corpo-

itable business. Technology will play a

rate world is likely to see a revolution in

critical role in achieving this.

office space.

If you want to do things differently you

“Companies don’t want to be carrying the

have to overcome the constraints of con-

cost of large spaces in city centres or in major

ventional industry technology engineering.

hubs at high cost that is not fully utilised.

The Student Hotel has been pushing to

They’re going to want to hand that over to

break free of the “standards, systems

other people whose specialisms are in real

and platforms” that “just don’t exist to sup-

estate as a service and have more fluidity in

port our desired fluidity”.

what space they need and when they use it. “We’re heading into a generation of more



freelance contract work, where people

“We’re on our transformation journey, and

will come together in teams on a fluid,

we’ve made some bets with innovators

organic, time-specific basis. You won’t be

and early leaders who are bringing smart,

contracted to a company so much as con-

dynamic tooling to the table to be a technol-

tracted in for a particular activity or project

ogy leader, breaking out of the conventional

within a company. And that company itself

architecture and systems that just can’t

may only exist for a certain reason for a short

cope with hybrid space use and operat-

period of time. People are going to say ‘I want

ional fluidity that we believe are the basis

the ability to step out of my personal space

of future business profitability and growth.”

and go to a dedicated workspace which

Middleware, Liversidge argues, is the key.

is set up for that and has the facilities and

“Middleware is a critical path for the indu-

amenities for that. And from a wellness and

stry because so many of these systems

mental wellbeing perspective, it should give

are linear and single use, but we’re trying

people that ability to mix face to face rather

to dimension our spaces to be multi-use.

than solely via a screen.

You need a logic layer that can connect

“So you’ve got three things in a state of flux

those individual systems and allow you to










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“It’s all just been the same with different carpets and wallpaper” — Mark Liversidge, Chief Digital and Experience Officer, The Student Hotel

the ability to start creating a core central customer data platform (CDP) with individual lifelong guest profiles. “I would argue that a middleware logic layer is fundamentally going to be critical to almost any multi-product hospitality operator in the next five years while the operational systems try to catch up. And then if you look at the key systems,

manage that flexibility. We partnered early

the property management system (PMS)

with Ireckonu who developed a middle-

in our category, they’re very limited and

ware logic layer specifically for hospitality

very linear. Most of them are based on the

and over the last couple of years has

same dimensioning, which is the historic

evolved into a rich product set that has

per room per night stay.”


enables us to move rapidly with our technology transformation. The other big thing to address is that

PERISHABLE SPACE The problem, Liversidge maintains, is

we’re clearly now in the era of hyper indi-

achieving the optimal use of space. A fully

vidualization, which we see delivered by

booked hotel may have all its rooms

the digital retailers and service providers.

booked according to the legacy system,

People now expect you to understand who

but upwards of half of the ‘space time’ is

they are and serve them to their distinctive

never used. Once the time has passed, so

unique behavioral needs and journeys.

has the opportunity to leverage its use and

“And again, the hospitality space in its

sweat the asset for incremental revenues.

broadest context just doesn’t do that right.

The Student Hotel has been partnering

It actually has abandoned the original

with Mews Systems in delivering a PMS

fundamentals of hospitality in personal

which “will fundamentally allow us to drive

service and it’s now a homogenized thing

our dynamic space x time model more

at a time when everybody wants to get

intently in activating all types of space

that individualisation. So the other critical

use within a single harmonized technol-

thing about middleware is that it gives you

ogy system.”



“I’m having to design a technology architecture for a business model that’s never existed before” — Mark Liversidge, Chief Digital and Experience Officer, The Student Hotel

That technology architecture is designed to deliver The Student Hotel’s brief as a hybrid space for blended living, blended use. It’s a PBSA, it’s a city hotel, it’s serviced apartments, it’s a workspace, it has corporate busi­ness meeting, event and – increasingly –office space. Then there is lifestyle, it’s also a place to hang out in the day and night-time: gyms, wellness spaces, learning events, mini cinemas, gaming theatres and “what we call our living space, where all of those different tribes come together”. “I’m having to design a technology


architecture for a business model that’s never existed before and is still nascent in its formula. It’s not fixed as to how it’s going to be. And I’m pretty confident that three years from now, it won’t look like we think it looks today. And three years after that, none of us know. So we have to have some agility in what we’re trying to design for today to be still purposeful within that natural five to seven year technology life cycle that we all live with.”

THE BLUE CUBE Liversidge’s approach is to abandon traditional hotel thinking and break down the space. “I simply think of a blue cube and that blue cube is a metre by a metre

Stay Curious. | The Student Hotel CLICK TO WATCH



19 by a metre. And we ask ourselves, how do

“The other side of what we’re thinking

we activate that blue cube – and we have

about is our guest. Our business success

hundreds of thousands – in the most opti-

is singularly going to be built on the iden-

mal and efficient way that people can use

tification and serving of an individual

them purposefully as individuals or groups?

guest who is increasingly expecting

And how do we make sure we’re turning

hyper-personalisation. So we’ve got

them over to other people to use as quickly

to make sure that we have an ability to

and as efficiently as possible? As an exam-

immediately capture people’s profiles in

ple, many coworking places will have a fixed

the broadest possible dimensions that

membership quota. And they’ll say they’re

we can at every possible opportunity, but

full, but you go there at 10 o’clock at night,

then intelligently and restrictively use them,

it’s empty. You go there at six o’clock in the

because we don’t want to be big brother.

morning, it’s empty. There are people who

We want to use it with respect, intelligently

have a need to use space in off-peak hours.

and infrequently, but when we use it, it

How do you reach them? And how do you

really is a moment that matters for the guest.

set up the technology to activate them?

We are in the process of building that up on




2012 Year founded


Number of hotel locations

500+ Number of employees

our proprietary front-end platforms, based on the core middleware and operational management system.

TECHNOLOGY ARCHITECTURE “We’ve built an entire new front-end, which essentially is our shop window, with a new website and the booking engine. We’ve built our own new proprietary spaces. We built a website using React JS. To give you an idea of who else uses React JS, people like Netflix and Airbnb. And why do we want that? Because it enables us to modify and deliver faster, stronger UX, as well as critically, really leading-edge capabilities to have dynamic and changeable experience, which is going to be fundamental for us in telling our brand story and experience, along with capturing revenue opportunities.” The new booking platform, now into phased deployment, again breaks away from the traditional linear single hotel product booking engines, moving to a multi-product basket to deliver a distinctive branded shopping experience as TSH seeks to sell packages meeting individual guest and group needs, to wrestle back control of the customer from the intermediary distribution platforms and build a customer lifecycle model.




22 Finally, there is data, a crucial pillar of the

middleware logic layer, and finally complete

knowledge economy, “how we start to

swap out and standardization of our on-

understand the value of the data we’re har-

property technology.

vesting and the sensitivity and meticulous

This latter proprietary technology stack

control to utilise that data to benefit both

is called HiB (Hotel Tech in a Box), which is

the individual customer and for the company

dropped into each of our operating proper-

by aggregating that into macro indicators.

ties, identikit right down to the cable layout

All of these elements of the technology

in the equipment rooms and integrates with

architecture are being delivered to put the

deploying HP Aruba hardware for optimal

individual customer in “total” control of their

connectivity and space monitoring.

own journey.

And we’ve overlaid that with PRTG

“We’ve made three massive transforma-

monitoring over more than 4,000 data

tions in the last 15 months; delivering a new

points so that we can, from a single

website and booking engine, transformation

central perspective, constantly monitor,

of our operating management system and

moderate and control our technology

“Middleware is a critical path for the industry” — Mark Liversidge, Chief Digital and Experience Officer, The Student Hotel

broadcast quality connectivity and enables use our meeting spaces differently, which has been super, super successful already. “COVID has re-emphasised we’ve made the right decisions in the direction we’re taking with our technology, showing the critical need for the flexiest, most agile systems. Furthermore, COVID hit in the middle of our transformation program and created a

stack which harmonizes between the op-

huge challenge of project delivery, which

erational systems and the actual property.”

I’m very proud of what was achieved, not only by my team, but our vendor partners,


in still delivering on time and without any

It’s a system The Student Hotel has been

impact on business operations, really

able to stress test during the pandemic.

encapsulating the can-do spirit of TSH.”

“COVID has accelerated the stress and flux

As for the impact of COVID on the sector,

that’s coming on the hotel, workspace and

Liversidge says, “it will be Darwinian, those

leisure categories. If it had been a year

that have planned and deployed the flexi-

earlier it would have been a horror show for

est technology architecture will thrive and

us because of all the singular systems, so

grow, while the operators that are stuck

we have been fortunate to deliver the new

with the out-of-date and linear product

core systems and take advantage that part

technology stacks will struggle to respond

of the design has our own Api to enable fast

to the dynamic changes in the market and

deployment of new guest experience ser-

meet customer expectations.”

vices. One thing that we quickly invested in

And beyond COVID-19? “Space is

was a belief that organisations would

going to be redefined. Let’s focus explicitly

need enhanced broadcast to reach their

on the hotel bedroom all over the globe: you

dispersed teams and audience, so we cre-

know what you’re going to see. You walk

ated and delivered the TSH Media Studio,

in the door, the wardrobe is to the left, the

which essentially is building on the deployed

cubicle bathroom is to the right. Straight




“We’ve made three massive transformations in the last 15 months”


engage in your public spaces. By and large it is the same fixed formula, yet customers have differing needs for space at differing times. We are delivering lounge

— Mark Liversidge, Chief Digital and Experience Officer, The Student Hotel

tribes at different times of the day.

ahead: double or twin beds. In front of


that a desk on the wall with a TV above it.

Sustainability will also be crucial to hos­

And probably a bit of shelving and one

pitality and technology in the future,

comfy chair in the window. And that has

says Liversidge. “I fundamentally believe

not changed in literally the better part

the way we build and operate property

of a century.

will change and this will be driven by

spaces that are set as hubs to provide for the needs of the differing customer

“People are going to look for different

the financing. The financial markets will

spatial experience, they are going to want

drive and demand smarter more envi-

a private space to rest and revitalize, a

ronmentally sound thinking about the

cocoon, a space designed for wellness.

physical asset because people are making

Why is there a desk when people now

a 20-year investment. Those investment

want to work collaboratively? Get that

managers are smart enough to know

out of there. Starbucks has been the des-

that five years from now a very heavy

tination of choice for people grabbing a

metric of value is going to be based on

workspace for the better part of 20 years

your green footprint.

around the globe, that should be a natural

“We’re working super, super hard on this.

use of hotel/living space. Just rethink and

We’re trying to use sustainable elements

reimagine the whole space. Maybe people

and base components in all of our buildings.

want individual cooking in a room, or VR

I’m very pleased to say that we opened

gaming, or exercise without going to the

in Delft a couple of months ago where all

hotel gym. How do you design space

our public spaces, workspaces, as well

for that? And you’ve got to create more

as the in-house restaurant are designed

inspiring and flexible space for people to

with circular design principles. We see




Rufus Leonard is a creative agency

IRECKONU’s hybrid middleware solu-

that built The Student Hotel’s website

tion is designed specifically for the

and retooled its content manage-

hotel industry and connects systems,

ment system (CMS). Underpinning

either on-property or otherwise, into

the experience is an innovative hybrid

a single platform allowing for instant,

hospitality UX that is user-centric and

accessible visibility of operational and

goal-orientated, rather than one-size-

guest profile data.



HP ARUBA HP Aruba is a wireless networking tool

Mews is an advanced property man-

allowing for control of access points,

agement system (PMS). Founded by

traffic management and network mon-

a team of former hoteliers, the Mews

itoring. It also allows networks to be

Hospitality Cloud was designed to be

controlled remotely and can perform

the most open, extensible property

complex tasks such as prioritising

management software in the market.

bandwidth for certain customers.

the property as a live operating lab to

collectively as a harmonized technology

test circularity and sustainability in the

team. After a lifetime of partnerships

built environment. We’re exploring smart

with businesses, governments, sports,

building design and management, and

entertainment and charities, Liversidge is

behind this we are making conscious

both enthusiastic and pragmatic. As far as

choices in technology deployment and

technology is concerned, it’s not about the

its use to bring energy efficiency.

technology (“it’s all good tech if they’ve got to the shortlist”), but about the people.


“It’s really about where they’re going,

TSH digital and technology group operates

how quickly, and identifying how that can

with substantial outsourcing, built around

be harmonised between both parties for

four key partnerships [see box] working

mutually beneficial time-based outcomes




“Let’s just sit down, be open, supportive and reharmonise on the new way forwards. And go again. This open and pragmatic approach is the reason we have delivered our transformation during this global crisis” — Mark Liversidge, Chief Digital and Experience Officer, The Student Hotel 26 and milestones. There are going to be moments of failure with technology. You have to accept they’re going to happen and have tolerance on both sides. And that


tolerance is based on that harmonised

“And the other side of this is ‘stinky fish’.

milestone plan.

You’ve got to have truth and reconcili-

You break it down into an annual horizon

ation when something’s gone wrong to

and a quarterly horizon, then accept that

make sure you don’t make the same error

there’s going to be a bit of a zigzagging

in future and it doesn’t cloud the working

journey to get there. And that gives you

relationship. And another dynamic you

a degree of manoeuvrability when you

will handle in deploying any leading-edge

have those inevitable ebbs and flows of

capability – which happens in technology

any relationship. You need a collective

a lot – is that if you pick a fast growth

group of people on both sides who have

company as your partner, you’ll inevita-

a connection with each other and see

bly stop being the shiny new customer at

themselves as one team.

the top of their client list at some point.


You’ve got to address it on both sides,

new way forwards. And go again. This open

acknowledge it and ensure your interests

and pragmatic approach is the reason we

are protected in formal documentation

have delivered our transformation during

and informal people connections, while

this global crisis, preparing our business

openly supporting the partners growth.

model to grow as we move into the future”

“This openness has been really important with the Covid situation. Right now we’re having constant conversations with our core partners because all our timelines are changing for reasons that are, in most cases, out of all our control. So let’s not all get upset about it. Let’s just sit down, be open, supportive and reharmonise on the


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Profile for Business Chief Europe

The Student Hotel Brochure Jan 2021  

The Student Hotel Brochure Jan 2021