Eric Pfeffer, President of the International Hotel & Restaurant Association (IH&RA), and President of the Pfeffer Group, is as much a man of the people as he is a man of the world. Born in Venezuela, Pfeffer has lived in four countries and speaks several languages. Notwithstanding his consistent achievements, Pfeffer is down to earth and charming, with a self-deprecating sense of humour. En route to the Indian Hotel Association Conference, Pfeffer met up with Internet Travel News.
‘s name is well recognised around the world, having previously served as Chairman and CEO ofCendant
`s Hotel Division, the largest globally recognised hotel franchise. Pfeffer steadily climbed his way to the top of what he considers to be the largest industry in the world: “My career began as a desk clerk in a hotel in Miami, while I was studying a course in restaurant management at Florida International University.” Pfeffer disclosed.
He informed me that his decision to embark upon a career in hospitality was prompted by friends that he met during his time in the army: “While serving the last six months, two friends planted a seed in my head, pointing out that I spoke several languages and my personality fitted the fun and lively nature of the hotel industry”. He added, “As a youngster, at the age of 22 I decided to pursue it. That’s when I came to Miami”.
At the age of 50, following 25 years in the hospitality industry, Pfeffer retired so that he could be close to his family. Soon realising that retirement was “never really on the cards” due to his active nature, he decided to capitalise on his 25 years of experience with focus in the international markets, setting up his newest venture, The Pfeffer Group.
Pfeffer explained: “I wanted to be in charge of my own destiny, so I decided to open up a consultancy and utilise my name - Pfeffer - which is known in the industry…..good or bad”. He added in jest, “I think its good - pretty clean”. This, of course, is a complete understatement. A very prominent figure in the travel industry, known as the “worldly warrior,” Pfeffer has enormous experience behind him.
Set up in May, The Pfeffer Group is headquartered in Miami. You won’t find a link to a website because Pfeffer has chosen a to keep this venture small-scale with an emphasis on quality. Pfeffer comments: “I now do business with friends from the industry. I don’t have brochures, or business cards to advertise. I have two quality clients of significance and a third one on the way and that is what I want to maintain”.
The Pfeffer Group have recently announced partnerships with
, a leading quality-oriented mid-priced hotel corporation with more than 300 hotels located in 33 states andKoolConnect
, a unique technology providing enhanced in-room entertainment and business communications services to four- and five-star hotels.
Pfeffer will consult with La Quinta regarding potential international expansion efforts, with particular emphasis on Mexico, Central and South America. He commented “With my experience, I am advising them as to how to internationally expand and to strategically place the hotels where it makes sense” He added “so they don’t make the mistakes that I made at Cendant”.
KoolConnect have a product platform that provides powerful added value to hotels today. Offering a suite of guest-room entertainment applications, including high-speed internet access over the TV or laptop computer, email accessibility, music, games and information, digital movies on demand with VCR functionality and digital concierge services. Pfeffer is very excited about his alliance with KoolConnect and sees the partnership as an opportunity to take an innovative hospitality technology to the next level.
No stranger to technology, whilst he was President of the IH&RA
in 1998, Pfeffer chose his platform to be technology and education: “We sponsored a white paper, which was to look at the major forces to impact our industry in the next decade. We published it in 1995 and updated it in the year 2000. In both cases technology was up in the forefront.”
“Technology is permeating everything, especially in the hotel industry where we were very labour intensive in the old days. Now technology is releasing the pressure. Although service is still the most important element, technology is supporting everything we do: Management, reports, efficiency and productivity, so it is here to stay and there is nothing more important.”
Pfeffer warns, “The hoteliers that do not embrace technology or learn about the internet are the ones who are not going to succeed. They are going to fall by the way-side. The youngsters who are very technology friendly are going to replace them”.
In true spirit, Pfeffer joked, “On the other hand, there are old timers like the two of us (he is referring to Alain-Philippe Feutre, IH&RA CEO) that have embraced technology, accept the fact that we may never be experts, but hire people that understand it”.
So what other forces are currently affecting the hospitality industry? Pfeffer clearly knows these like the back of his hand and proceeded to list them to me in descending order: Safety and security, technology, Assets and capital, new management with more technology orientation and financing understanding, sustainable development, social responsibility and distribution channels the internet.
(Sustainable development and social responsibility are the most recent forces to affect the industry.)
Although Pfeffer points out that like any industry, there are peaks and troughs in the economy that we are susceptible to, he is very positive for the future outlook of the hospitality industry.
Pfeffer revealed that his core philosophy throughout his career is not to confuse efforts with results. He added, “There is always temptation to distract your self with things that don’t relate to the focus. So there is a discipline of reminding yourself to get back on track”. Eric Pfeffer has obviously followed his own philosophy to achieve the heights of success that he has done.