COVID-19 has changed everything. But bear with me, this isn't another "COVID has created a new paradigm" article. Yet, COVID is simply the perfect example to understand how hospitality is changing and has been changed by technology at an unprecedented pace.
In this series, in which this article is the first, we're going to look at the different technology that is transforming or soon to transform the industry as we know it. As a futurist and technologist consulting in the industry for 21 years, I'm going to highlight what I think are the most exciting probable developments that will impact travel and hotel operations and management.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has forced many hotels to jump 10-years ahead in only a matter of months in terms of technological adoption: Just think about the growth in contactless, self check-in kiosks, and keyless entry in the last few months.
This reveals the fact that we are not only a people industry, but a tech industry, too. Even a small independent hotel cannot operate successful without five, six, or ten different software tools. And, at least from a European perspective, a lot of these smaller properties are dealing with these new technologies for the first time, having worked with old legacy systems for sometimes decades. This is where the first leap forward is revealed: From legacy PMSs to modern cloud-based PMSs.
Getting Out of Our Own Way
COVID has shown us that the reality of adopting different technologies has little downside and usually improves the guest and user experience. However, we often have a double standard when it comes to technology and hotel operations. When we think of A.I. and robotics being used in the medical field to detect and cure cancer, we applaud it, yet when we consider using A.I. or robots to aid us in hospitality, we get nervous. The misunderstanding here is that when tech is introduced, we will lose the human touch. Yet the human touch itself creates many of the problems and inefficiencies guests experience.
We think of hospitality as the logistics of travel yet check-in, check-out, luggage deposits- these are logistics. The human touch here does not make much of a difference to most people in most situations.
We can thank the sci-fi movies of the 70s and 80s for many of our misconceptions about technology and work. Robots will likely not take our jobs. The real tech of the future works in the background, supporting, not stealing our work. Think about cloud-based software, machine learning powering RMSs, or predictive advertisement.