Predicting the future of hotel technology
- Data transformation and the cloud
- Evolving guest expectations
- Seamless integrations and intelligence
One of my favorite books as a kid in the ‘80s described what the world would look like by the year 2000. In vivid detail, drawings depicted “the future”: flying cars, supersonic planes reducing travel to minutes, seamless communication and everyone living happily together. I couldn’t wait for the future to arrive. Well, writing this in 2018, while stuck for hours on a crowded plane, I am still dreaming about those flying cars.
While seeing the future is impossible, I have spent countless hours over the past year with innovators, start-up founders, consultants, C-level executives for some of the largest hotels and countless other experts around the world to discuss what the hospitality industry of tomorrow might look like. I continue to capture those thoughts in my Unconstrained Conversations series on YouTube, and throughout all these insightful discussions, I’ve come to recognize four emerging themes:
Technology Transformation & The Cloud
After a lot of talk and little action, the industry is finally waking up to the benefits of the cloud. An increasing number of companies offer true cloud-based applications which are not only flexible—always on and up to date—but also offer easy and cheap “open” integration options. Costly and difficult integrations have been a key barrier to innovation in the past, but the hotel technology universe is now moving from closed systems to open platforms which easily talk to each other. Look for the transformation toward a “Hotel Management Solution” stack, integrating the key components of today’s PMS, CRS, CRM, RMS, etc. into one total hotel management platform, making it easy for hotels to “plug in” the features and functionality they need, finally bringing the concept of software as a service to life.
Data Transformation & Insight
As systems become more interdependent, the way data is stored, aggregated and accessed changes. Consolidating data in the cloud means having a 360-degree view of the guest becomes a reality. More and more systems will become increasingly efficient in exchanging information. Hotels will be able to access that information anytime and anywhere, and increasingly intelligent systems will predict consumer behavior at a more and more granular level than ever before.
Changing Guest Expectations & Behaviors
The times of a clean room, a warm shower and a decent breakfast being competitive differentiators are over. Guests expect nothing less and demand more. “I want a clean room” is being replaced by “I want a relevant experience.” Shareability, likeability and aspirational drivers are often the key emotional motivators when choosing where to stay.
At the same time, the way hotels display themselves “on the shelf” in many cases does not reflect the change in consumer expectations. Booking engines and booking paths are essentially unchanged from 20 years ago, but consumer behavior and expectations have changed significantly—ask for a location, a check-in and check-out date and get a (long) list of hotels and room types that don’t create clear differentiation. As I outlined in a recent PhocusWire article, a new approach is needed which enables the consumer to choose the components of an experience and custom tailor it—if they wish to do so. As a result, hotels will be able to differentiate themselves more effectively against the online travel agencies, create better engagement with the customer and, in turn, drive loyalty.
Tying It Together with Seamless Intelligence
As long as the individual components I have outlined are not tightly working with and for each other, the full potential of this transformation will not be fully realized. A cloud-based tech stack without consolidated data, or aggregate data without the analytical systems to predict and implement decisions seamlessly, will not justify the investment necessary to jump on the transformation train. The future is already being built, with hotel brands and hotel tech companies investing hundreds of millions of dollars to create it. We might not see flying cars anytime soon, but we are closer to a future of seamless intelligence than we might think.