Innovation in the quest for simplicity

Stephanie Ricca

Stephanie RiccaWelcome to our annual technology issue of Hotel Management. We cover technology in every issue, but this issue in particular contains a broad cross-section of technology trend coverage that touches on all aspects of hotel ownership and management.

It’s often said the hotel industry lags behind other sectors in terms of technology adoption. “We’re sooooo behind when it comes to technology,” is a phrase we all hear a lot. Frankly, I don’t get it. The hospitality industry has covered huge ground just in the last few years alone as it deals with new distribution channels and the complexities of revenue management. Energy-management tools are becoming more important to U.S. hoteliers as they begin to realize cost savings and property-management systems are more integrated than ever before. The fact that in-room PTAC units are so sophisticated these days always blows me away. And don’t even get me started on the advancements in Big Data analysis!

Technology is everywhere in this industry; almost to the point where I don’t like the word. To me, it’s like the word “development.” Both words are so loaded—they represent so many nuanced niches of the industry that it’s impossible to boil all the meanings down to one word.

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That’s why I like this issue so much. It presents so many angles on that trend we call “technology.” On page 22, you’ll find coverage of managing editor David Eisen’s annual technology roundtable. I suggest you start there first: This year’s roundtable participants cover so many trends that will give you a good overview.

We have great trends stories on guest connectivity (page 10) and the latest in distribution (page 40). And I want to point out some really interesting pieces we have in this issue that look at technology from ways you might not have considered before: For example, have you ever thought technology could have an impact on hotel financing? Check out the story on page 8 to see how hotels are seeking minority owners through crowdfunding sites. The Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs thinks it can be more trend than fad, so see what you think. And designers, you’re not exempt from technology trends: Take a look at our story on page 48 to get some forward-thinking ideas for how to merge technology with design. We talk to a cutting-edge designer who envisions a future where interactive digital walls in hotels can geolocate guests via their room keys (or mobile devices) and create dynamic artwork that looks, smells and sounds different to different people, based on their location. 

Every industry needs forward-thinking innovators to push the bell curve. But sometimes fast-moving technology can be a pain in the neck as well as in the wallet—hello, flat-screen televisions! When people say we’re so behind when it comes to technology, often they’re talking about the guest-facing aspects of it. “People want in a hotel room what they have at home” is the common explanation. Well, I don’t know about you, but the remote-controlled drapery system I have here in my house breaks down so frequently, it’s almost not worth it. I mean, I need those blackout drapes when I’m hosting movie night or my guests won’t fully appreciate my 110-inch-screen 3D home theater system.

My point here is that technology very much is about simplicity. There is a time and a place for wow-inducing, luxurious guestroom technology. But increasingly the industry has learned the lesson that guestroom technology is about personal content, and guests want to bring their own with them. The results of a quick online survey we did on page 43 show that bandwidth and wireless infrastructure continue to dominate your property-level tech spending. That’s where the useful innovation will play out over the next few years as we hear about hotel companies and suppliers across all segments (and may I predict that it will happen first in the select-service sphere) that create scenarios where guests have simple routes to the bandwidth they need, while hotels are able to profit through tiered service offerings.

I’m particularly excited to see what comes out of this year’s HITEC hotel technology conference. Stay up to date on our coverage of the show by checking back here in print, or online at www.hotelmanagement.net. We’ll be live on Twitter and Facebook as well.

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