HOTEC Operations & Tech roundtable insight

(Money Spend)

It’s no time to be a luddite in the hotel industry. The business of hotels is busily wrapping itself through new technologies and those that are not embracing this bright tech empowered future are sure to fall behind on both the guest satisfaction and operations side of the business.

Fortunately, most people in the hospitality industry realize that technology is the only way to take the industry deeper into the 21st century. But figuring out what technologies are worthwhile, and which ones should face exile, can be a trickier proposition.

At this week’s HOTEC Operations & Tech, I had the wonderful opportunity to chat with some industry leaders about how they see technology affecting their business. Soon we’ll be releasing a video of the discussion, but until then I wanted to fill you all in on the highlights.

The chat featured Jerry Cataldo, president and COO with Hostmark Hospitality Group, a management company with more than 45 years’ experience; Richard Millard. Chairman and CEO of Trust Hospitality, a management group focusing on independent hotels; and Andrew Kraemer, VP of IT & Distribution with Vantage Hotels Group, the world’s 8th largest hotel company.

Bandwidth Is Boss

“I don’t think anyone expected bandwidth needs to rise so quickly,” explained Millard. For many years, common thinking in the hotel industry was internet bandwidth needs to be sufficient enough for one person in the room getting some work done. Now people are eating up bandwidth by streaming programming on not one device, but multiple ones. Plus, when family checks in, it’s likely all family members will want to be on at once.

So the challenge is continuing to outpace true demand, rather than the initially perceived demand. My tip: Wi-Fi bandwidth mustn’t be treated like an amenity, but rather like a utility. It’s as critical as water and electricity to the guests and must be treated accordingly.

Reinventing the Employee

“With the right technology, we can get employees out from behind the desk,” explained Cataldo.

That is an issue I have been speaking to many hoteliers about. And it plays right into consumer guest trends. Smart hoteliers are thinking about how they can utilize hourly employees typically on the lower rungs of the salary ladder and turn them from transaction enablers to experience makers.

My tip: The more hotels use technology allowing guests to skip the front desk, the more important it will be to have an ‘experience expert’ in the lobby to connect with the guests. Not like a concierge, this person is more like the personality of the hotel who will connect with customers on an emotional level to help drive that loyalty.

What Do I Buy?

Another huge issue is figuring out which technology to buy, and which ones to skip. You want the best for your customer but gambling on the next big thing can be quite the risk.

Vantage Hotels Group’s Kraemer nailed this one with how he approaches how his company invests in new technology. “Pioneers get the arrows and settlers get the land,” he said. He’s saying wait until a technology is proven, then invest in it.

My tip: Figure out if the cornerstone of your brand is to be a tech leader or follower and then spend accordingly.