Technology – A Hoteliers Best Friend Or Worst Enemy?

Posted on April 27, 2012

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I read an interesting post today from Michelle Schumate who is a Regional Director of Operations with The Hamister Group.

Michelle and Hamister’s idea about “Treating Guests As Friends In The Extended Stay Industry” helps to remind all of us who are involved in the hospitality industry that hotel guests deserve attention that goes well beyond check in, a clean and comfortable room, and a receipt upon check out.

So the question becomes is technology beginning to create barriers that are isolating hoteliers from their guests?

The Booking Barrier – Hotel brands are making every attempt to drive bookings direct through their hotel’s website booking engine and they work diligently to divert that booking from being processed through their 800 number.  I’m OK with that because it helps to reduce the hotel’s distribution cost but can you recall the last time you spoke to a reservation agent?

The Check In Barrier – It was nearly 15 years ago that Mike Kasavana developed “hotel self-check in” at a time when it was said that “no one goes to a place, especially a hotel, without a face-to-face person”.  Hotel brands are stepping up their deployment of self-service kiosks in their lobbies that help expedite check in thus eliminating some front desk personnel that would have traditionally handled your transaction.

The Room Key Barrier – When I fly I use a paperless boarding pass.  It won’t be too long until a kiosk will send my room key to my Android.  Unless you’ve been out of the country for the past five years this automation is in full swing.

The Concierge Barrier – In the good old days when you needed directions or a restaurant recommendation you headed straight for the Concierge desk.  Hotels of the future, according to IHG’s CIO, Tom Conophy, will have “electronic concierges which will comprehend guest’s individual preferences”.  It may not be too far into the future until you can skip the cab ride and get “beamed up” to a restaurant of your choice.

The Personalization Barrier - Amadeus and Fast Future suggest that “hotels must embrace extreme personalization and become ‘living innovation laboratories’ to survive the turbulent decade ahead”. I’m all about technology but isn’t intelligent furniture, adaptive room environments, and individually tailored nutrition and ‘thought control’ of guest facing systems better suited for space travel?

The Business Center Barrier – Any hotel with a business center has a computer or two where you can Google to your hearts content but how do you know if the restaurant review that you read on Yelp mirrors what the Concierge might recommend?  My bad.  There is no Concierge.

So where does this leave us?  According to Schumate “It should be our goal to remind our guests that they are more important than industry guidelines. We must also continually reinforce our service to them during each and every encounter thereafter. By removing the barriers that hotels have placed on themselves, we will return to the basics of being in the hospitality industry”.

I don’t live under a rock and certainly appreciate all that technology has done for every industry but we are talking about the HOSPITALITY industry right?

Your thoughts?

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