Tech upgrades should translate to experience upgrades
Tech upgrades should translate to experience upgrades
16 JUNE 2017 7:09 AM

A recent discussion among hotel executives at the NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference shared some interesting thoughts on how, when and why to invest in more technology.

While I am a fan of new technological developments (a broad statement if there ever were one), I am rarely an early adopter.

A new gadget can feature any number of enticing and exciting new features and abilities, but I tend to hold back for a couple of reasons. First, it’s too expensive entering the marketplace. Often, it sounds great but I’ll wait for version 2.0 after all the early adopters help work out the bugs of the first version. The second, and most frequent, issue is tech that sounds cool but it doesn’t fit my needs right now.

Coincidentally, my reasons for slow adoption sound a lot like some of the hotel executives speaking about investing in new technology during the Leaders’ Forum at the NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference.

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts President and CEO J. Allen Smith and James Riley, group chief executive at Mandarin Oriental Hotels Group, both spoke about their companies’ strategic investments in technology. They explained they don’t have the scale and budgets to beta test new developments to see what works out like some of the bigger brands do. What they can do, however, is watch and learn from other hoteliers’ experiences to decide what fits best with their companies’ individual strategies.

“What we want to be able to use technology for is to help deliver the guest experience through staff and empathy,” Riley said.

Best Western Hotels & Resorts President and CEO David Kong talked about how his company decided to pass on a branded app and focus on a messaging platform to engage directly with guests. There are so many apps out there that people collect and don’t use, he said it was a better use of the company’s efforts to develop something that can improve how the company communicates and serves its guests.

The one thing that really stuck with me was Trump Hotels CEO Eric Danziger talking about whatever technology the industry adopts, the end result must be a good guest experience.

“If it isn’t about great people doing great, dependable, reliable hospitality service, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “I really tend to focus on whatever we create, it needs to be executed flawlessly. The ultimate return is delivering on the promise.”

That’s what this is all about, isn’t it? Bells and whistles, mobile apps, smart speakers—if hoteliers don’t ultimately cover the basics, providing true hospitality and a good experience, there’s no point. His statement goes to the core of what the hotel industry is about.

In combining all of their points together, big or small, every hotel company making an investment in some new piece of technology must make sure it truly improves the guest experience. It can be tempting to jump on whatever new thing comes out. It makes sense to investigate new developments, to experiment with them on a small scale to determine whether they either fill an unfilled need or can improve on an existing service, but be careful of following what is only a fad rather than something more substantive and lasting.

It’s up to each hotelier and company to determine which route to follow, taking on the bleeding edge while learning from trial and error or to hold back and learn from how others have tried and improve on it from there. Regardless of the strategy, it all leads back to how it can help guests.

What is your strategy when it comes to implementing new technology? How do you know whether it will make for a better guest experience? Leave a comment below or contact me at or @HNN_Bryan.

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