Hotels need to thread the needle on tech
Hotels need to thread the needle on tech
21 JUNE 2019 7:19 AM

The laundry list of things technology needs to accomplish within the hotel industry is always growing, and owners hope to do it on a shoestring budget.

I’ve had an interesting experience over the last couple of weeks, jumping from one big hotel conference to another.

A couple of weeks ago, I sat in on a panel at the NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference in which executives from big tech companies noted they don’t think hoteliers are doing enough with technology to truly capitalize on their direct connection with guests.

Just a couple of days ago, I was sitting in on the exact inverse: a panel at HITEC of hotel executives talking about how difficult it is to find the right technologies—and deploy them in the right way.

This underlines, to me, the central friction of technology’s growing role in the hotel industry. Hoteliers are always going to need to do more with tech as long as guests are doing more with tech in their day-to-day lives. Growing hand in hand with that is the expectation that hotels must serve as a technological cocoon for travelers that wraps them in all their personal preferences, from their preferred media to what kind of pillows they want, without having to put in any effort on the guest side.

That sort of seamless experience sounds great to just about anyone, except for when owners are faced with cutting the check to invest in enabling technology and when guests encounter the reality of tech solutions that might not actually work as billed.

At HITEC, Greg Mount, president and CEO of RLH Corporation, said something to that effect, noting that hotel companies are basically shooting themselves in the foot when they prematurely roll out technologies such as keyless entry when they don’t actually deliver on the seamless experience they’ve promised.

I can agree with that sentiment from personal experience. In the not-too-distant past, I had a long, tiring journey, hauling a significant amount of luggage around a busy city to get to my hotel late in the day, with hopes of quickly dropping my bags in my room so I could find dinner.

The fact that the hotel in question offered mobile check-in and keyless entry made it seem like my path to relaxation was a clear one: Just get to the property, head straight to my already assigned room, and I’m golden.

Except when I arrived at the hotel room, and hauled my luggage up to the 12th floor, I found my mobile key wasn’t working at all, forcing me to backtrack to the lobby before finding out I was in an entirely different room than what the mobile app indicated.

This turned a tech win into a huge tech loss for me. I don’t know the nuts and bolts of that property’s systems well enough to tell you where or why things went wrong, but from a guest perspective it didn’t matter. It felt like the hotel was my enemy, which is never where hotels want to be.

At the same time, Ken Greene, president of the Americas for Radisson Hotel Group, noted there’s a curve for franchising companies of having to invest in and prove out the return on investment of technology before successfully selling franchisees on making tech investments. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it makes the tech companies’ idea of quick and widespread adoption of game-changing technologies that much more difficult within the hotel industry.

So hoteliers, your imperative is crystal clear: Roll out lots of cutting-edge technologies that will make guests’ lives easier; make sure it works perfectly; do it as cheaply as possible; and know the technologies guests want before they do.

That’s all achievable right?

Touching on tipping
Before I sign off this week, I just wanted to note the impressive amount of feedback I got from my last blog about the need for simplicity in tipping housekeepers.

A lot of readers pointed out things I either overlooked or simply didn’t discuss that makes the existing process of tipping with cash preferable to something like tacking a tip to the room. A few readers mentioned their preference in tipping face to face to show their appreciation, while someone else noted some less-than-honorable managers will end up taking some or all of those tips if added to the bill.

One reader fairly shamed me (in the gentlest terms) about how if I really was as invested in tipping housekeepers as I claimed, it wouldn’t be that hard for me to make sure I was carrying a little cash during a hotel stay. That just underscores the old idiom that actions are louder than words.

What’s heartening to me, though, is regardless of people’s preferences on how they tip, everyone agreed that housekeepers are incredibly deserving of greater recognition, whether financially or otherwise. And it seemed like the universal motive for tipping was brightening housekeepers’ days, rather than some sort of preferential treatment.

I’m glad I get to cover an industry full of people who care about people.

What do you think? Let me know via email or on Twitter.

The opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Hotel News Now or its parent company, STR and its affiliated companies. Bloggers published on this site are given the freedom to express views that may be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact and editor with any questions or concerns.

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