For over a decade I have heard industry pundits, consultants, other experts, and myself say that the hospitality industry lags behind other industries in innovation, investment, and adoption of new technologies. Is this really the case? If so, what are the barriers, issues, and conflicts that have led to this situation? More importantly, what should we do about it?
Twenty to thirty years ago, most industries envied hotels and their knowledge of the customer. Hotels knew who their guests were as well how they spent their money while on property. However, hotels have historically been more willing to spend money on enhancing the guest experience as opposed to their back end systems. This has impeded the growth of cutting edge technologies being implemented widely across the industry.
Over the last few years however, hotel companies are beginning to understand the true value of the information that is scattered across their various systems. They are beginning to follow the lead of other industries where technologies such as self-service business intelligence, machine learning, and AI are already well established. As mentioned by Arne Sorenson at the NYU International Investment Conference in 2018, disruption has started and “we're in an absolute War for who owns the customer” with Facebook, Google, Amazon, and other digital empires. While it is true that the hotel industry is a bit late to the party, we will benefit from the fact that other industries have matured these technologies which will help us catch up fairly quickly.