Technology has forever changed the world we live in, and innovation and technology will always be inextricably linked. Innovation is the driving theme for this year’s Annual Hotel Conference, and Robert Holland, managing director UK & Ireland at HotelPartner Yield Management and chief technology advisor for UKHospitality, is scheduled to lead a discussion around technology and the latest trends shaping the hospitality industry.
Ahead of October's conference, the event organizers spoke with Holland about technology, hospitality and the convergence of the two.
1. What do you see as the main challenge for hoteliers in relation to technology?
Absolutely integration. Hotels are a spider web of software and the key challenge for any hotelier is firstly to integrate all the software efficiently and secondly to ensure the integrated software is accurately communicating with each other, ideally in real time. Unfortunately, there is still a high cost to achieve this integration and that is a barrier for many hoteliers. I hope there will come a point soon when this can be achieved with lower costs.
2. How do you think this can be achieved?
Sadly, the bigger players are holding back innovation, either through the sheer scale of their systems and the associated inflexibility or their unwillingness to work with smaller suppliers to create an integrated system. This is a real frustration for operators and we need to find a way to change this.
3. Why can other industries, such as retail, utilize technology far better than the hospitality industry seem to be able to?
There are so many answers to that question! Primarily, though, I think it’s largely because the hospitality industry is multi-sector and therefore much more complicated.
There is also an unfortunate history of cumbersome legacy systems being installed that are out of date within weeks. As with everything, it’s about consumers, operators and suppliers understanding each other’s needs and working together to find a solution. Smaller organizations have the ability to be more agile, and that flexibility is a priority in a fast-moving area like technology.
4. That sounds like an idyllic scenario, but how would this work in an environment where there are commercial goals, shareholders to keep happy and bills to pay?
I believe open API (a publicly available application programming interface) is the solution. The internet was created to be free for everyone to use. The same with Twitter and Facebook. All this technology reaches a critical mass and then looks to monetize. I think if we start with software that allows developers to access the internal functions of a program that will fundamentally enable better interaction, and therefore integration, between various technologies.
5. No spoilers allowed, but give us some thoughts for the future in relation to tech and hospitality.
AI is fascinating and we are right at the very start of the journey with it. I think it has the possibility of transforming our industry through enhancing, not reducing, the human experience. We need to employ technology to carry out processes leaving knowledgeable staff and passionate employees free to engage, interact and communicate with guests.
The Annual Hotel Conference will run from Oct. 10-11 at the Hilton Hotel in Manchester, England.