Red Lion Hotels Corp.’s John Edwards, CIO of the company since 2015, discusses the challenges of technology and what’s to come in the future.
HOTEL MANAGEMENT: What was the largest technology challenge you were forced to overcome in 2016?
John Edwards: Mobilizing hospitality systems—it’s an ongoing challenge, actually, but there was a significant push in 2016 to enable our core systems with native mobile apps. Guests, hotel staff and corporate teams all expect to have access to their information via their mobile device. The struggle is finding the right software partners that recognize the need for mobile solutions and have the ability to quickly move their solutions onto a mobile platform.
HM: What are your technology priorities in 2017?
JE: Centralizing and managing data from all the different hospitality systems is one top priority for 2017. As the amount of information continues to grow, taking control of the data and beginning to structure how it’s stored or visualized is extremely important. Moving from just storing information to creating actionable data visualizations through reporting, dashboards and automated workflows is ultimately the goal.
HM: What emerging technology will have a place in hotels in 2017, and why?
JE: Beacons, Wi-Fi positioning, indoor navigation and similar technologies. This will be driven through both marketing initiatives and guest services. As mobile solutions continue to grow, using positioning to deliver better customer service is the next step. Why do guest service staff need to run extra towels to a guest if a room attendant is nearby and the systems are intelligent enough to know that room attendant is there and available to deliver towels right now?
HM: What are some of the biggest mistakes hotels make when integrating with technology?
JE: Training: It seems it’s always been training, but that still hasn’t changed. In the past, training was so important because much of the workforce wasn’t comfortable with a lot of the technology being implemented in our hotels. As technology has become so ubiquitous throughout our lives, training is just as important to ensure our teams are using the solutions as they are designed or in a way that meets our standards.
HM: What is one technology at home in the residential market that should be brought to hotels?
JE: Personalized media solutions are one technology that will find its way into hotels. We are already seeing solution providers bring casting solutions, such as Airplay or Chromecast, to guestrooms and allowing guests to log in to online media solutions. Ultimately, we should be creating systems that know our guests prior to check-in and allowing guests to record TV shows or accessing their online media automatically without the need to log in through the room TVs.