In the two preceding parts of this series on the Evolution of Hospitality Technology, we connected with five industry veterans to look at, first, how hospitality technology began in the early days, and second, how things started to transform. We round out the series (for now) with part three, exploring how mindsets have changed in the industry and among hoteliers, and where things could be headed.
While in part two of this series we explored major changes in hospitality technology, we wanted to follow that up by looking at how people in the industry changed their approaches, mindsets, and philosophies in reaction to those changes in technology. And how do they still need to evolve?
Michelle Silverman: I think probably the most important recent change is that the hotel owner and manager see the value in technology. When I started in this industry, we had to fight to get budget money away from bedspreads and pillows to go towards hospitality technology. That’s not an exaggeration. It was never a budget item.
And now we’re working to make it more efficient and less expensive and do more with less money. But back in those days, the only thing money was spent on were things that the guest could see and the guests couldn’t see the computer.
We’re no longer fighting from that perspective. I might be fighting to replace a legacy system, but I’m not fighting against there being technology at all. It’s a much easier conversation.
Dean went on to describe the inner workings of incorporating new technology into the everyday workflows for a massive international organization like Marriott.
Dean Di Lullo: At Marriott, I sat with the regional teams and for each one of these roles, it was my responsibility to help all those teams understand the value of taking advantage of the limited resource dollars that were available. I would be down to the point of talking to a General Manager of a resort and saying, “I know you need to replace your banquet chairs because they’re 10 years old, but I really think you’re better off spending that $150,000 on getting this strategic initiative technology in place because you’re going to see how it’s going to pay itself off very quickly.”
The reality is that many hotel brands out there haven’t been very quick to adopt new technology. It was great to see the recent announcement of Marriott making the selection to move forward with Amadeus replacing their proprietary legacy central reservation system, MARSHA.
Taking a step back, Natalie and Jill each shared important takes on the role of technology in helping hoteliers accomplish their ultimate goal: providing excellent service to their guests.
Natalie Kimball: What I think hoteliers forget is that the definition of a hotelier is taking someone in. We are innkeepers. So, while looking at the lowest rates, guaranteed booking reservations, data about the hotel – all of those components are really important, but once we get on property, that’s where technology needs to take a step back and we need to enable the hoteliers to be hoteliers.
Jill Boegel: Technology makes the guest experience more seamless with less friction, and easier. I take this from the lens of being both a hotelier and a frequent hotel guest.
Dan Bell: Technology is much more available to put in the hands of guests now than it ever was before, whether it’s OTAs or shifting towards brands wanting to drive guests to their own website to book. That’s been one of the biggest changes I’ve seen in the whole guest journey – the journey is much more in the hands of the guests than it ever used to be.
To round out the conversation, we turned towards the future and how these changes set the stage for the future of hospitality technology.
Jill Boegel: There’s a lot of focus right now on technology that is going to help teams. How do we make the team members’ experiences more seamless? What can we do to make them more effective and more efficient in how they do their jobs? There are fewer people doing more roles. How do we pull that together from the operational side? There are a few players in the market that are addressing some of that today, but I think that is going to be a continued need that hotels are going to have to face because this seems to be the new normal. Some people will tell you there are going to be robots rolling around in the halls, but I think there’s more likely to be an increase in the technologies that help back-of-house operations be more effective while still providing a high level of service.
Natalie Kimball: Technology should serve or empower the human experience.
Dan Bell: Cooperation among industry solution providers is going to be key. If it’s good for everybody, it’s good for the hotel company, it’s good for the vendor. And it’s good for the guests, everybody wins. Every company will talk about its open APIs or its openness to partner with other vendors. But in practice, it doesn’t work that way and I think those will be left behind because the customers will see through that and they’ll choose vendors that are willing to cooperate with each other.