Hotel Technology Tradeshows Now More Vital Than Ever
By Larry Mogelonsky, Managing Director Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited
The need for viral safety has made technology inescapable for hotels. With all the new protocols for self check-in, mobile room keys, physical distancing, contact tracing, prearrival virus screenings (staff and guests), contactless transactions and rigorously itemized cleaning checklists, and with less revenue to go around due to the lack of groups, the only way to stay profitable is through continued automation.
Given the newfound demands for tech-enabled hotels and reducing labor costs, this makes technology tradeshows all the more vital so that you can discover new vendors and address the above three questions. And none may be more essential than HITEC, the world's largest hospitality technology convention. I've religiously attended HITEC for over the past dozen years, calling it a veritable 'candy shop for hoteliers' as each new device or software presents an opportunity for increasing productivity, property differentiation or cutting costs.
With the proverbial gun to our heads to rapidly innovate our hotels, the upcoming CyberHITEC requires your attendance. The virtual product demonstrations and webinars require your attendance so that you are up to date with where the industry is headed, especially in the face of COVID now becoming a perennial feature of our lives.
And by attendance, I mean engagement; resist the urge to multitask by answering emails in another browser window or checking your phone. Studies show that humans are naturally horrible at juggling multiple items that require heavy input from the thinking part of the brain, so try to focus.
This post is not intended to be a commercial endorsement of CyberHITEC nor a review of the myriad of exhibitors and concurrent educational sessions that will take place. Rather, it is a wakeup call for our industry. If we stay away from our own tradeshows - technology or otherwise - how do we expect meeting planners and corporate event planners to make bookings confidently in our properties? How do we expect to thoroughly safeguard our guests and protect our assets against future black swan events beyond the requirements for the current pandemic?
All hoteliers are facing COVID-induced challenges including but not limited to:
- How do I minimize guest contact throughout the onsite hotel experience? For instance, is this the time for voice controls to replace touchpads? Will your guest dare to touch that TV remote control? How do I reassure fearful visitors without sterilizing the guest experience? How do I incorporate these new standards while still appearing as friendly and inviting?
- What modules or integrations can I set up to better facilitate the touchless and online purchase of ancillary revenue generators such as restaurants, spa, golf, parking, casino or activities? What can I do to prompt customers right from the room booking engine to secure these reservations as far out from arrival as possible?
- How do I get more out of my PMS? What are they doing to address the demand for 24-hour or even 72-hour booking buffers after the last guest checks out before reassigning a room? What other features are they and business intelligence platforms developing to help my revenue manager build rate amongst so much marketplace uncertainty? What new modules are being implemented to forecast against unprecedented situations?
- With CDC guideline compliance as well as cleanliness theater front and center, what programs can be integrated into housekeeping to keep the promise of scrupulous cleaning while preventing costs from hemorrhaging? What can management software do to optimize cleaning costs so that this doesn't become an insurmountable expense?
- How will you guarantee that service delivery is never compromised as you shift most of your guest communications onto a messaging app? How do you maintain team accountability as many of your associates become more fluid in their departmental roles?
- What new security technologies can be deployed that will address concerns over viral spread without incurring a huge capex? Is now the time for phone-activated key cards? What about such things as rapid temperature checks at all entranceways or limiting area access based on guest credentials? How do you integrate all these upgrades onto one system?
- What payment systems exist to make transactions contactless by eliminating credit cards, reducing any form of physical money changing hands or moving financial matters online while staying PCI-compliant? With the future dead-set on cashless and online credit card payments, what additional features can be installed to prevent fraud and limit chargeback disputes?
These are just a few of the questions I would ask myself or whichever manager I've assigned to attend the vendor demos or webinars. As there's a ton to experience, best to go in to any technology tradeshow - virtual or physical - with a list of preformulated objectives or questions so that you can better assess what's right for your organization amongst the various competitors.
And this applies not just to HITEC but all the other tradeshows that are pivoting to offer safe networking and virtual meeting options in the wake of COVID. Attend because it's right for our industry and definitely worthwhile for your long-term business goals. With any luck, we'll be able to regroup in person come June 2021 in Dallas for next year's edition of HITEC.