Industry Update
Opinion Article31 May 2011

The Religion of Technology

By Ian Millar, Professor at Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne

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A recent documentary by the BBC has showed that technology has the same effect on the human brain as religion.

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The "Euphoria" created by religious activities is replicated to technology.

People were placed in a brain scanner and shown various pictures of technology, and when unsurprisingly apple products appeared the area of the brain usually reserved for religion became active.

This euphoria can also be observed at the opening of a new apple store. People camp outside for days awaiting the new iphone or ipad.

A survey conducted by Sky showed that more people would opt to cut back on food rather than give up their broadband connection if money became tight.

And in our younger generations this dependency is even worse. To quote one senior Vice president of IT of a major hotel chain, he stated that the younger generation is not technology savvy as many quote but technology "dependant".

And this dependency / religious belief I am seeing more and more every day just with my students.

I recently showed in class the prediction that by the end of the year there would be more apps available on android market than in apple store, there was no discussion about the quality of the apps, how useful they were, just the total amount available. And one student "apple fan" took great offence at this, and proceeded to justify why android will never be as good as apple.

So what are the implications for our industry, if it is true that the new guests have this dependency on technology? And if we just think about ourselves could you live without your blackberry, Iphone, or android. Research has shown that Techno addiction can become so bad that people wake up several times a night to check their e-mails and text messages.

Look at the recent issues with Skype going down and the problems it caused for many, and the anger that went with it. Same story for Sony"s network. We have become technology dependant.

A report by J.D. Power and Associates showed that in the US the number one requested amenity is Wi-Fi internet access. This linked with our dependency of online lives means hoteliers in the future will need to provide more and more internet access to their guests.

Simply look at the amount of videos watched on YouTube, 2 billion per day, but more than that are watched on Facebook. Netflix, Zattoo, Wilmaa, BBC Iplayer, Sky Player, our guests are watching their content, where they want and when they want and hoteliers need to provide for this.

Our industry is not known to be proactive when it comes to technology but reactive, and I believe in the future this will have to change, our guests dependency on technology will do so. We need to allocate more time and especially resources to technology. And also be aware that in the future the way guests want to interact with the hotel will also change. And this will be driven by technology.

Ian Millar’s double expertise in the areas of hospitality and information technology sets him at the forefront of new developments in the international hospitality industry. In addition to his BA Honours degree in International Hospitality Management from the University of Brighton, UK, he is a certified computer technician (Comptia A+) and holder of the Microsoft office specialist qualification MOUS. He is also a Certified Hospitality Technology Professional – the first European to receive this qualification for hospitality professionals, which is awarded by HFTP (Hospitality Financial and Technical Professionals), a reputed international association which serves over 4,800 members across the world. More...

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