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After coming back from four days in Houston for HITEC 2018, it’s apparent that tech in the hospitality sector is hotter than ever. From in-room tablets and app-powered rooms keys, to guest management platforms and secure wi-fi networks, it’s never been a more exciting time to be a hospitality technology company.
Here’s a snapshot of what management solutions are top of mind for hoteliers in 2018 and beyond.
This year, GDPR was the topic on the tip of everyone’s tongues. As a business that spent months preparing for GDPR by enhancing product features to ensure our international client base was compliant, this was a topic that came up over and over again in conversations at the conference. In fact, ‘Are you GDPR compliant?’ and ‘How do you keep guest data safe?’ were two of the most frequently asked questions at our booth. Even now that the dust has settled on the mad dash to comply with the new regulations, it’s still a concern for hotels bringing on new technologies, especially those with big international traveler bases.
However, in an era of hackers and security breaches, hoteliers are not only thinking about how they store data, and what information they capture on their guests, but also how to prevent identity and credit card theft. In fact, some of the most popular booths at the show were ones that focused on cybersecurity, credit card fraud and platforms to keep guest data under lock and key. As a modern traveler, we should no longer be worried about keeping our valuables hidden in a safe, but about all the data we’re inadvertently sharing simply by logging on to the hotel Wi-Fi network. With cyber crime damages expected to cost the world $6 trillion annually by 2021, this is an area of hospitality that will continue to be a hot topic as more hotels fall victim to malware, phishing and other security concerns, and we can expect to see more news coming from this space in the near future.
Hotels are good at tracking guest room nights, with U.S. brands like Marriott, Hyatt and Hilton leading the charge with robust guest loyalty programs. However, it's a necessity in 2018 to not only track your room nights, but also F&B spend, operational efficiency and much more across your property. Historically, these individual streams of data have been siloed; today, that’s no longer a viable solution for hoteliers. To survive in this competitive economic climate, hoteliers must look at connected, open, cloud-based solutions that allowed them to acquire, engage and understand their guests across all areas of their property -- from rooms and restaurants to back of house.
Quite simply, the companies that are open to partnerships and direct integrations across all hospitality sectors will win. Hoteliers no longer want to run their property off 15 systems, or individually train their staff to pull guest data out of each of those platforms. Connected properties that allow data to flow between all their operational systems are the ones that are able to execute on personalization at scale, and, ultimately, provide a better experience to their guests. When you’re not thinking about how to access the data, only how to leverage it, that’s where these insights becomes a powerful tool to offer the highest level of hospitality to guests.
Have you walked into a hotel room recently, and seen an iHome with an old iPhone charging base sitting next to the bed? Or tried to use a flat screen TV to navigate through information about the property? The experience leaves much to be desired. One of the first touch points a guest has at your property is entering their room for the first time, and by having outdated technology, you’re already showing them you don’t care about their in-room experience.
The good news is that there are many companies thinking about ways to improve guest experience, whether through in-room tablets and apps, or smart mirrors and voice-controlled devices. Guests of the future value using technology to interact with your property: whether it’s to check out the room service menu, order more towels, change the temperature in their room or reach out to the concierge for a last-minute restaurant reservation. But, as operators, you have to ensure you have the right balance of technology that doesn’t overwhelm, but instead complements, the guest experience.
With recent announcements like Marriott bringing Amazon Alexa into their guest rooms, the hotels that will win the tech race are those that can incorporate in-room technology in a way that won’t alienate their existing loyal customers, but will be a primary booking driver for the next generation of guests who will expect these amenities and conveniences.