What's important to hotel tech execs?

In the hospitality industry, that means keeping up to date on the latest and greatest, understanding cost to owner and how the addition—or subtraction—of a tech touch point will affect the guest experience. It was under that backdrop that Hotel Management gathered technology professionals in the lodging segment to discuss technology trends: the rise in mobile, data security, social media, CRM, and PMS, during the second annual Hotel Management Technology Roundtable.  

The panel consisted of: Chris Gutzler, head of IT, Hostmark Hospitality Group; Dan Bell, senior vice president, hotel business unit, from sponsor MICROS; Ben Seidel, president & CEO, Real Hospitality Group; Al Zaccario, VP of IT, Newcastle Hotels; Matt O’Keefe, CTO, Hyatt Hotels Corp.; Maria D’Alessandro, CFO, HVMG; Mark Nipcon, VP of distribution/CIO, AmericInn; Todd Davis, CIO, Choice Hotels International; Dana Shefsky, director of brand and guest technology, Hilton Worldwide; Steve Brown, CIO, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group; and moderator, Hotel Management’s David Eisen.

Increasingly it’s both possible and profitable to collect guest data and use it to personalize the guest experience but how are hoteliers balancing this opportunity with consumer concerns for guest privacy and data security?  

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“Privacy is sacred in any industry, but especially hotels whose guests are not only entrusting their privacy with us, but also their physical security,” Shefsky said. “From our standpoint, we don’t collect and form data just for the sake of having data. We use data that guests proactively give us to personalize and customize the experience. We’re very careful about that.

Gutzler recently took a trip throughout Europe and stayed at a number of Hostmark properties. He said it was great to be able to follow the hotels on Facebook and Twitter.

“I could start to anticipate what sort of experience I was going to have,” he said. “That made it much more personal. When I arrived, I almost felt like I knew them already. In a broad sense, in terms of the brand, one of the things that we’ve implemented is a team of about 17 people worldwide who are part of the call center 24/7, who actually monitor the social media and address issues. They receive special training to understand how social media should be handled.

What is the frontier for mobile as it stands now involves some nuances, depending on the device, Davis said. And that also means knowing what the next device is.

“There are other areas where we found booking flow doesn’t quite work the way you need it to,” he said. “So you have to take a little bit different approach on certain devices. From a technology standpoint, if you can make the change in one place and have it be everywhere, great, right?

The consumer need for strong Wi-Fi is driving a lot of technology at hotels too these days.

“Cost and efficiencies have jumped leaps and bounds.” Gutzler said. “We’ve actually scheduled many of our refreshes, both our external and internal infrastructures, to meet what’s coming out right now. What we have found is that the guests are disappointed with a 2 or a 3 Meg. They want to see that 5. But we were surprised by how many of them were willing to pay for the 10, the 15 and the 20. With the prices where they’re now, we have found a revenue string developing finally, because we’ve always talked about tier pricing for so long. I think it’s finally going to come. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t be surprised, in 10 years, if we saw that tier pricing in our TVs.

For the complete article and related videos, visit the article Tech execs talk data protection, guest experience and ROI.