Industry Update
Opinion Article 3 January 2020

Hotel Technology Trends 2020

By James Harrison, Hospitality Technology Consultant at HotelTCS

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Hotels Are Like Elephants

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When adopting hotel technology, the hospitality industry is like an elephant.

Interestingly it also favoured elephants in its partners as well. Same as the animal, hotels preferred to spend time with those the same as them.

By elephants, of course, I'm referring to the fact that they are slow-moving but reliable. Funnily enough, that's exactly what the guest wants (we discussed some revolutionary ideas here).

While guests appreciate improvements, radical change can be risky for hotels. Hotel chains have built a business around this, offering a reassuring sense of familiarity, where ever you are in the world. And it works. Well.

Hotel Technology Vendors Follow

"Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness." - Oscar Wilde.

Oscar Wilde was famous for saying the above. This is, however, flattery (or imitation) in itself of an earlier quote by Charles Caleb Colton. Wilde just added the "that mediocrity can pay to greatness". However, if we research even further, Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius predates both by some time with the quote:

"You should consider that Imitation is the most acceptable part of Worship, and that the Gods had much rather Mankind should Resemble, than Flatter them."Emperor Marcus Antoninus his conversation with himself, 1708 - Jeremy Collier and André Dacier.

So, before I take us down a rabbit hole of Wikipedia articles about the Roman Empire or literary heroes, I will bring us to a conclusion.

Imitation is commonplace, and often feels the right thing to do, no more than when providing technology to hotels. Our technology vendors also, become elephants.

Do Elephants Need Glasses?

We touched on it above, but slow and steady wins the race with hotels and of course technology in hotels.

There are a huge number of technology trends that hit the marketplace in the last 5 to 10 years, and some fantastic ones to come in 2020. These, however, have struggled to find their way into hotels.

In the main, this is because technology is targeted at those people who want to use it. Techies, geeks, nerds, enthusiasts, whatever you want to call them (read: yourself), people who buy and consume technology for technology. This is different from a hotel, where technology must provide a function.

Let's take Google Glasses as an example. Around 6 years ago, a revolutionary new augmented reality technology arrived. This allowed us to use data, available via glasses in our field of vision to augment our real life.

This caused quite a stir! ComputerWorld even dubbed 2014 "The year of the Smart Glasses".

A Vision Of The Future

The techie community went mad for them, buying pre-releases, reviewing and thinking about all the fabulous applications we can use them for.

So heading into 2020 you'd assume these would be commonplace everywhere now? Transcending the techie community and becoming commonplace in everyday life. Er, not quite.

"Glass showed that there were a variety of solutions that this technology could provide, but Google (intentionally?) didn't identify the problem beforehand. They wanted to see what people could do with it." - Mark Frydenberg, Senior Lecturer, Bentley University.

Except in 2020, Google Glass is back with us.

By leveraging a partner network, who created the use cases for them (Something I've spoken a lot about before), the product may now be viable.

Forget its position for techies or as a fashion accessory, it's now a tool. A tool in a correctly identified niche. Now we have a product that can help engineers and technicians, stock control agents and distributors. Not for elephants.

Following The Hotel Technology Herd

2020 will bring us more technology in hotels including augmented reality, biometrics and of course voice assistants.

However I don't see there being a stand out technology for 2020, instead, I see this as a year of evolution not revolution.

You may think this is me avoiding making a prediction, but let me explain:

While many of these technologies will be available, our slow-moving elephants will take their time in implementing.

Many of us involved in the hotel technology field will see a great use for some of these pieces, however, that is just it. We see how we would use it. What we need to be thinking, is how the guest will use it, within our existing hotels. I give you two more words for 2020:

Integration and Usecases

The Herd Moves Together

I say both integration and use cases as this involves both types of elephants in our herd.

2020 is the year that our hotels will start forming use cases for the myriad of technology that is at our fingertips.

Our other elephants, the vendors, will finally start taking integration seriously.

With so many new solutions on the market, the time has come to work together. To paraphrase myself on last week's FunnelTV, the time has come for "being open to being open".

The old adage of "it's not what you know, it's who you know", will be truer than ever in 2020. Hotels will use the data they already hold on their guests to understand what they actually want. From this, they will build use cases for the technology.

While big data has been with us for sometime (in our warehouse), our elephants will start to use the value of it in designing solutions.

Our vendors as well will begin to understand that integrating partners into a solution ecosystem is the key to success. Play to your strengths, and allow other strong players to work with you.

Finally giving hotels the choice of solutions that can offer the ultimate value to the guest, and keep them coming back for more.

A Very Happy New Year

So finally, I want to take this opportunity to thank you for reading with me this year, and wish everyone a Happy New Year.

I do however encourage you to take a good look at the above picture. See how once disparate letters are brought together to form the word? A word with meaning. A word that invokes thought, and hopefully a word that brings happiness.

Well this is what 2020 brings for technology in hotels. Once disparate systems working together to bring success!

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