ROOMDEX recently hosted an expert panel discussion on “The Golden Age of Hotel Technology,” where industry veterans discussed their takes on how hotel technology is evolving today. Joining Shiji COO Kevin King as speakers were David Purcell, Director Software Development at Infor, Bob Graham, CEO at EventTemple, Vincent Goemaere, CEO and Founder at StarDekk, Laurent Cardot, CEO and Co-Founder Ariane Systems, and Jos Schaap CEO and Co-Founder at ROOMDEX. The webinar was hosted by Paul Peddrick of ROOMDEX. View the discussion and read our recap below.
There’s no question that the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the hotel industry further into the future, as hoteliers around the world adopted new technology at a record pace. While in times past, hoteliers were often left with little choice between tech solutions that were cumbersome, expensive, and difficult to set up. Today, hotel tech is easy to use and/or trial to see what works best for your hotel. These industry insiders got together to discuss how things have changed, where we are, and where we’re headed.
How Things Have Changed
As Kevin King of Shiji noted early in the discussion, “Before COVID a lot of tech was focused on addressing the needs of the generational change happening with guests coming into a hotel. Companies were not necessarily thinking about swapping out their core technologies, but rather looking at how they can address the needs of the consumer to make that journey with them a lot easier.”
Indeed, COVID has accelerated change in the industry, pushing hotels to find new solutions, including rethinking their core technologies. And as King illustrated, “The pandemic has highlighted that the older technology in place today takes a lot to maintain, in human resources, in cost, in knowledge.” The panel seemed to agree that technology was trending towards accessibility, affordability, and usefulness.
Ultimately, the guest experience is what will be at the forefront of hotelier’s decision-making. Technology is transforming that experience alongside the changing expectations of guests. David Purcell of Infor noted the need to focus on what guests want. “COVID has changed things– everything from self service to mobile check-ins. As long as the hotel provides a choice for those guests that want to bypass the front desk, and those that still want that experience, they’re using technology in the right manner.”
Laurent Cardot of Ariane Systems elaborated further on the concept, “What do we mean by good service? Do we mean traditional service? When we talk about guest experience, we need to consider what the guest really wants rather than what we think they want. Guests should be able to interact with the hotel when, where, and how they want. That’s been a big change in the last year in terms of technology and it can help hotels.”
Another topic that came up often during the discussion was how hotels should think about connectivity between the different apps they use. Vincent Goemaere of Stardekk explained, “Connectivity is key. If you look at what was on the market 15 years ago and what is available now– many hoteliers worked with paper and pen and lego-like systems, while today people are asking for more connectivity.”
On the other hand, Bob Graham of EventTemple noted a selective approach to connecting technology. “I’m actually not a big fan of saying you should be able to connect everything to everything. We would rather choose to have two or three PMS integrations that go very narrow and deep than a bunch of surface level ones just to say we have it.”
“The best time to make some change is now. Look, there are private companies going to Mars. Things are accelerating, so it’s naturally time to do something.”
– Bob Graham
One trend the panelists seemed to agree on is that many hotels would be adopting cloud-based technology in the near future. As Schaap shared, “The overall move to the cloud is key for us continuing development of integrations. That by itself can enable disruption in the industry. Currently by my count only 20,000 hotels are on the cloud. Cloud can be the foundation for hotels to apply all these other new technologies.”
King added this interesting data point, “We found that 60% of the hotels we surveyed expect to be on cloud solutions, moving over from premise-based technology. Not only on the side of PMS but on the side of Point of Sale and all of the various technologies that are in place today.
As the discussion came to a close, panelists were asked to share some parting advice to hoteliers. Cardot advised hoteliers to start simple. “There are a lot of solutions out there, but take a couple that are important to you, focus on those and move forward step by step.”
Ultimately, the collective parting advice was best summed up by Bob Graham, “The best time to make some change is now. Look, there are private companies going to Mars. Things are accelerating, so it’s naturally time to do something.”
With Goemaere adding, “Standing still is going backward,” and Schaap concluding with the observation, “Everyone hates change but loves progress. So take advantage of this golden age of technology and begin with some change. Start small, find a vendor, and build it up, taking advantage of cloud technology.”