The strength of this event is that we can attend sessions on topics of finance, technology, legal issues, human resources, ethics and personal development.
Therefore, I jumped into the “State of Technology in the Hospitality Industry” facilitated by Scot Campbell, CHTP of Caesar’s Entertainment and the HFTP Global Board. Scot was joined by Ted Horner of E Horner & Associates, Michael Levie of citizenM Hotels and Prakash Shukla of Handson LLC — and all directors on the HFTP Global Board.
Scot promised that it would be the first tech session that we ever found fun. It was certainly enjoyable, if not quite fun. There was spirited debate and warm interaction between the presenters and audience. Topics discussed and debated were:
- The future of mobile check-in. Adoption among guests is a bit slow — with some properties seeing participation under 10 percent of arrivals. But everyone agrees that this number will grow in the future. Most companies are focusing on their priority members, mainly as a tool to lure them to book directly through their app instead of using an OTA or other channel.
- Disruptive players have emerged for guest attention, with Airbnb highlighted in particular. It is a threat to the traditional lodging model. Prakash highlighted an enhancement to this model taking root in India: Oyo Hotels. Oyo established a set of standards for cleanliness and security, which allows participants to be labeled with the Oyo brand. It has been highly successful.
- A key attitude to adopt is that technology is an enabler. Business practices are meant to be changed. With tech advances, we should look at what is best from the guest perspective and not just what is convenient for operators.
- Capital spending was discussed, of course. Scot said that after Caesars installed bluetooth door locks, they only had a 1 percent guest adoption. Things moved upward when they tied staff bonuses to increasing that participation. When employees have a personal stake in the success of a program, it’s remarkable what can be accomplished.
- One audience member urged the following: When considering the ROI of a project, be sure to look at what the company has to lose by not doing it.
- Great quote from Michael about his initiatives at citizenM hotels: “If the guest notices the technology, I’ve actually failed.” All panelists emphasized that our business is hospitality, and the technology should support more personal service instead of more detachment from the guest experience.
- Hotels should consider placing a wireless access point in every guest room. Not only will service be more robust and reliable, but there is a better chance to directly interact with that customer. Both Caesars and citizenM are following through on that initiative.
- Michael reviewed a very forward-thinking design he is implementing where systems and services interact in a much more stable environment than the traditional interfaces. The idea is so brilliant that I’ll leave it up to him and the media to disclose it further. Suffice it to say, I am encouraged because many of my technology problems can be traced to clunky interfaces. It is exciting to think there can be a way to streamline past those.
In the end, it was stated that our technology vendors have had the advantage up to now. Systems are sold without the chance for us to “look under the hood.” The time has come to look deeper at the programming and processes so that we can have tools that will better serve our customers.
John Grigas, CHAE, is the controller of the Madison Concourse Hotel and Past President of the Greater Milwaukee Chapter. He regularly tweets during conferences via @johngrigas