Although historically the hotel industry has been slow to adopt new technologies, the current climate has transformed this reluctant pace into a full-speed super-highway.
Tech advancements are moving so quickly these days that many in the hospitality and travel industries find themselves questioning their ability to keep up or even justify the major investment required to stay on top of the race to bring innovative and advanced technologies to their brand.
- How can hoteliers and software vendors make bold tech decisions that will allow them to stand out from the pack?
- Should we all jump aboard every time a new trend emerges in travel and hospitality or is it best to sit back and see what sticks before investing in the adoption of new technologies?
- As tech becomes integrated into every aspect of this industry, will it be easier or harder to manage a brand?
These important questions must be carefully considered to ensure success in this time of rapid technological expansion.
And while the answers may vary to some degree based on the specifics of each situation, I believe the overarching concepts can be explained in three essential points that will lead industry players on the path to long-term success.
1. Know your customer to manage the pace
Some experts believe that the technology trajectory in the travel and hospitality industry is out of control, moving at a pace that isn’t conducive to leaving room for the time it takes to be certain that the development or adoption of each new tech product is truly the right choice.
While they may have a valid point, the fact is that today’s consumers expect incredible convenience and highly advanced technologies during their travel journey, and not providing enough can easily make them choose a different brand in the future.
Research indicates that while U.S. business travelers see some tech advancements as providing wonderful enhancements in their hotel experience, many believe that developing too much too soon is a recipe for disaster.
According to Egencia’s Business Travel and Technology Survey, 76% of U.S. travelers desire more cross-device integration at a higher rate than in any other country involved in the poll.
Another interesting stat emerging from this survey is that while 55% of respondents believe artificial intelligence (AI) will improve their travel experience, approximately one-third imagine that significant problems will arise from the broad adoption of AI and virtual reality (VR).
Those surveyed in Norway and Sweden were the least likely to believe that AI would enhance their travel experience, with U.K. and German travelers being next in line.
This is perhaps due in part to Americans being more exposed to these technologies than their European counterparts, as well as cultural differences in the importance of human interaction in the travel experience.
Globally, the study found that 50% of travelers would be glad to avoid human interaction during their trip, provided they weren’t experiencing any problems, thereby illustrating the overall openness to new technologies that carry the potential to greatly improve the convenience and reliability of the consumer experience.
So, here’s the key: you must consider the specific desires of your customer base while balancing the importance of keeping up with the technological advances that are globally recognized as highly desirable.
2. Integrate. Integrate. Integrate.
The days of successfully managing a hotel industry brand with several siloed tech systems are gone. Running multiple systems becomes increasingly unwieldy as additional technology comes into play, and even in the current landscape, there’s no way to make proper use of customer data when the information is scattered.
And, as we all know, consumer data is an incredibly valuable tool for everyone in our industry. If you’re still managing a range of systems and trying to piece them together, the time has come to hire a technology consultant.
A seasoned expert can help you determine the quickest and most effective way to adopt a comprehensive tech solution to handle every aspect of your business.
For hotel operators to be able to make full use of the massive quantities of available guest data, it’s essential to develop an organized and streamlined dashboard that pulls all of the information together to allow for the analysis of customer relationship management and the other vital data that drives brand decisions and strategies to their maximal potential.
By utilizing a single, comprehensive system, hotel brands will increase their efficiency while ensuring that crucial information isn’t slipping through the cracks of their technology solutions.
While it’s certainly true that adding specific nuances to tech products can be an essential component of making them widely adoptable in our industry, it’s vital to integrate the technology properly to ensure overall success.
3. Impact on employees, impact on customers
The recent Marriott hotel workers strike in the U.S. illustrates the concerns of employees who fear that robots and tech-based check-in kiosks will leave them without a job.
The worker demands include wanting a minimum of 180 days notice before any new technology is introduced in the hotel brand, as well as wanting employees to be provided with the opportunity to be trained on new technologies and granted “fair severance” if their job becomes obsolete.
Of course, as is the case in most industries, many traditional jobs are expected to no longer be necessary in the future, as technology takes over a range of tasks that previously required a human operator. We can’t stop progress, and this reality is already upon us.
At the same time, many new jobs are emerging as a result of technological advancements, so there’s certainly a balance.
As I mentioned earlier in this article, guests are frequently open to the idea of new technologies being used in hotels, while a large number of consumers consider advanced tech solutions to be a primary factor in their overall travel decisions.
Virtually everyone desires increased convenience and efficiency in their entire travel experience, and the right tech solutions can make a massive difference in the ability to meet this growing expectation among consumers.
There’s no question about it: the trajectory of hotel and travel technology is racing full speed ahead.
From self-serve solutions like mobile keys, self-service kiosks, and voice assistants, to machine learning, AI, and VR, practically every aspect of business operations is changing, while consumers are reaping the massive benefits of an increasingly personalized and efficient experience during their travels.
Please share your thoughts about the trajectory of hotel and travel technology with me here or on LinkedIn.