By Jos Schaap
For years, it was openly acknowledged that hospitality simply lagged behind all other industries when it came to technology. Yes, the Internet profoundly disrupted and changed the distribution system. But too often, these hospitality technology changes were forced on hoteliers as opposed to being championed from within.
Recent evolution in cloud technologies mean there is new growth in the number of innovative hospitality technology start-ups in a market that is now desperate for help. The question is, will hoteliers continue to do their jobs like it is still 1992 or will they wake up to the potential that awaits them?
Historically, hotel brands play it safe when it comes to technology procurement and management. Hotel purchasing has traditionally focused on price negotiations with a 1-stop shop. IT professionals have been generally risk-averse. They choose what has been used before, or what others use. Why? IT departments traditionally limit their focus on keeping things running, not finding way to drive revenue or efficiency.
Take a walk into any hotel IT department and you will more than likely happen upon a curious cabinet reminiscent of a scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Not exactly Hal, but “the” internal hotel server. Locked behind a glass door with its ornate display of cables and various colored flashing lights, the “on-premise” server has been a long standard fixture of hotels. In the beginning it represented a huge leap forward in terms of organizational efficiency. It comprised of complicated software that could help you manage and track all your departments via a central point in-house.
Hotels need to change their mindset when it comes to hospitality technology
But, times have changed. Proprietary technology stacks built by IT departments have now become a hindrance to achieving optimal hotel performance. Many old school hotel IT pros cite the convenience, security and economy as reasons not to change their tech stack. But hotel operations face new more complex issues (COVID) and competition (AirBNB, boutique concepts, etc.). Sales, marketing and operations all need to evolve, hand-in-hand to address these market changes. Hotel technology is one of the only effective levers hoteliers can pull. IT staff can now move the revenue needle with their decisions.
“Digitalization and Artificial Intelligence is continuously giving greater choice in every aspect of travel turning customers into DIY travelers who plan, manage and book travel online. Tech-savvy tourists are demanding more from hotels and therefore it is essential to give them the enhanced experiences they grave.” says Laurent A Viovenel, Senior Vice President, Operations and Development at Swiss-Belhotel International in his recent CIO Review article “Hotel technology is Shaping the Future of Travel Industry”
The Cloud is the Transformative Factor
Cloud computing has been around for almost a decade. It has transformed businesses from across the world, irrespective of their industry. For hotel owners, current Cloud technology ups the ante in the Cloud vs. premise discussion.
- It is cost effective. Unlike locally installed hospitality technology, Cloud eliminates the need for on-site server hardware and replaces the day-to-day maintenance of dozens of proprietary, back-end IT systems that goes with it. It also means hotels can avail of the latest software updates, features and functionality without the need to purchase and install each new release.
- It’s fast. Switching from in-house enterprise software to a cloud-based option offers a more agile, responsive solution. Changes are made across multiple properties simultaneously, allowing the faster introduction of market-leading innovations.
- It’s scalable. Cloud offers hoteliers limitless scalability, facilitating, rather than restricting business. With the cloud, hoteliers have the agility to add resources and scale in line with growth.
- It’s flexible. Cloud makes it easy to connect all hotel functions and operations and provides hotels with limitless flexibility to work with other vendors. With Open APIs, hotels can easily integrate with other systems and create a customized management suite that’s right for their business. In an industry that is always changing, this kind of flexibility is priceless.
Legacy hotel systems impair a company’s potential for growth and get in the way of today’s type of service delivery. With Open API’s and the cloud platforms in the market, hotels can partner with vendors for technologies that can help them achieve operational and financial goals. Instead of preoccupation with the next upgrade or integration nightmares, Cloud solutions keep hoteliers nimble. The technology is now out there. All we need is for hoteliers to move out of their comfort zone. For better or worse, the COVID crisis may just do that. In the long run, it will be good for the industry. Hotels will be finally be a tech-forward industry.