Is Hotel Technology Lagging Behind other industries?
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?
Hospitality Professional, Technology Consultant, Public Speaker and Inventor
Hotel technology needs to be segmented into two parts: 1) Operational use and 2) Guest use. Operationally, technology has improved since it was first implemented into hotels during the 70's - but some of the fundamental processes revolving its use - have not. One of the key processes being check-in [where for those old enough to remember] has evolved from a type written registration card, a Whitney rack, a manual credit card imprinter with carbon paper and a metal key - to a tablet and integrated credit card swipe and a plastic key card. However, for the most part, the people who now use these systems [have not] and are so dependent on the tech, that they've lost the art of welcoming the guest, or thanking them when they leave.
A Hotel has become no busier in 2019 than it was in 1975. You had 800 rooms and you filled 800 rooms. And most of the time [back then], without queues... Oh, and don't get me started on the promise of going paperless.
Kiosks placed in the lobby to queue-bust as you encounter at airports have added to delays. Mobile check-in is not as smooth as it should be, and mobile key adoption, I understand, is still in the single digits.
Without doubt, where things have improved is integration to the OTAs via channel managers and revenue management systems – which is a huge focus by most GMs and corporates - since it directly affects the bottom line, bonuses and shareholder returns.
PoS has also come a long way, and often I use a sushi restaurant that gives me a QR code on arrival, I process my order via a web browser, and magically my food appears on an internal railway system. Quick and simple.
Guest tech has been hit and miss with one of the fundamental pieces in a room - still to some extent performing the same function 50 years on - the TV. Yes, it may have a few extra bells and whistles but at the end of the day, it's still a TV. Having said that, it's used less and less because people bring their own devices and content.
The phone is a dinosaur, and the once omnipresent music player dock has all but disappeared. An expensive fad like DVD and Blu-ray players.
In room tablets vendors may tell you they have some traction and increase F&B revenue but is it really sufficient to justify?
To me, and my pragmatic approach - tech spend must be meaningful. It must positively enhance the guest experience and help the operation be more efficient. It's no longer a driver like it used to be. After all, you won't select a hotel because it has a 60” flat screen or a B&O dock. But you will be very unhappy if there's no power socket at the bedside, great Wi-Fi and an excellent shower plus comfy bed. Add a Nespresso machine and it's almost a perfect place to stay.
It's no wonder asset managers push back on tech spend…
Back to basics folks!