Hospitality Technology releases 2017 Industry Outlook
Hospitality Technology recently published its Industry Outlook for 2017. The Industry Outlook is a compilation of comments and predictions from members of Hospitality Technology’s advisory board to discuss the technology projects they are focusing on in the coming year and also identify important trends and challenges.
Some respondents said they expect to see a larger role for in-room televisions. Nelson Garrido, Senior Vice President, Information Technology, at Thayer Lodging, said that guests want to stream their own digital content to the in-room television. “[W]e are focusing on implementing solutions that allow guests to use casting technology or Smart TVs to access their own content via apps,” he said. He also mentioned that improving hotels’ Wi-Fi and cellular coverage is a priority.
R.P. Rama, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer/Chief Information Officer at JHM Hotels, agreed that allowing guests to stream content or connect devices with the in-room televisions is a goal. “[W]e are investigating ways for the in-room television to help hotels facilitate up-selling within room dining services and resolve guest issues,” he added.
Several respondents brought up predictive analytics or algorithms, which can be used to identify business locations that are likely to be successful or even to project an individual employee’s future performance. Brian Pearson, Chief Information Officer at Stacked Restaurants, noted that analytics can take some of the burden of decision-making off of operators by producing answers using algorithms and data instead of an operator’s opinions and judgment. Another potential use of data is to gain better insights into customer preferences and provide more personalized service.
Respondents pointed to voice recognition and the Internet of Things as technologies that can enhance guests’ experiences. For example, voice recognition can allow guests to control a room’s temperature or lights simply by speaking commands. Garrido mentioned the Amazon Echo and Google home devices as products that hotels can use in-room. David Starmer, Vice President, Global IT Store Systems, at Dunkin’ Brands, said that the Internet of Things could also make the supply chain more efficient by automating warehouse functions and inventory tracking.
There are several challenges facing the industry that respondents expressed concerns about. One is data security. Mike Uwe Dickersbach, Chief Technology Officer at Highgate, stated that companies need to invest in upgrading their systems and establishing best practices. Companies should also adopt Chip and PIN credit card readers, according to Dickersbach.
Another concern is that employees who have years or decades of experience with a company may not be as familiar with new technologies as younger workers are. Training employees to use the new systems has become a priority for some hotels, according to Ted Hopcroft, Director of IT at Starwood Hotels & Resorts. “The largest consideration[…] is how we help our associates of all skill bases ease into the new processes quickly,” he says.
Finally, Rama called attention to the challenge of competing with Airbnb and online travel agencies. Hotels want to encourage guests to reserve rooms directly through brand websites so they can avoid paying a middleman. But direct bookings are also imposing a cost on hotels because they have to offer their guests rewards and incentives.