Two main topics dominate public conversation in the hotel industry these days. One is around franchising, asset values, building and overbuilding, lending, operations management and where hotels are in the asset cycle—it’s primarily a conversation about real estate, development and finance.
The other centers on disruption: How hotels are managing, expanding and integrating the tech stack; the state of distribution and online guest engagement; and what role technology and innovation will hold regarding the future of hotel management and profitability.
It’s rare that the two conversations converge on a single stage, but that’s what is happening at next month's International Hotel Investment Forum in Berlin thanks to the new Hotel Tech Hub being launched at the show.
Conversation continues to swirl around distribution. According to some reports, online travel agencies are now back on their heels and the brands’ direct-booking programs are bearing fruit. At the same time, Airbnb is entering into hotel distribution and partnering with leading channel-management providers to maximize the impact.
The stakes continue to rise in established disciplines such as revenue management. More than ever, the revenue-management community has been identified as not just the lynchpin for a hotel’s profitability, but a source of future financial leadership for properties. Providers are active and the brands continue to weigh their options in build-versus-buy scenarios. Brands continue to contemplate moving their revenue-management functions away from spreadsheets and into the cloud.
Truly disruptive innovation is no longer a pipe dream. Blockchain is the talk of the industry and more than one company is experimenting with the technology. Almost everyone concedes that artificial intelligence, machine learning and chatbots are the wave of the future. They are already being integrated into the planning of the big brands and smaller players today. Robotics and augmented reality are quickly becoming accepted as on-property solutions, and providers are touting the financial and guest-engagement benefits.
The IHIF conference has long been an international meeting ground for the most important players in finance and hotel development. Now the Hotel Tech Hub, within the IHIF event, is establishing itself as an immersive space where hotel owners, operators and their partners can gain tools to understand the latest technology trends and how to use them to grow asset value, improve customer engagement and gain a competitive advantage.
It’s critical that the Tech Hub will be in an arena traditionally dominated by the financial titans of the industry. More than 20 speakers will present, debate and live demo the latest technology innovations across the three-day event, ranging from the established companies like IDeaS to business-intelligence innovators like Hotels BI, with analytics, payment and AI specialists also on hand.
It’s long past time for the two main industry conversations to intersect. The future of hotel profitability and innovation both depend upon it. Next month’s Hotel Tech Hub in Berlin is a great start, and thoughtful industry decision-makers are advised to check in and check it out.
Michael Frenkel is president of MFC PR, a New York-based PR consultancy that creates and manages PR, communications and international visibility programs for travel companies.