By Kevin King
At the recent, CHAT 2018 (China Hotel and Tourism Forum) in Shanghai, Kevin King, COO of Shiji, was invited to deliver a keynote speech on "Hotel Operation Technology". As one of the largest hospitality conferences in China, CHAT aims to explore new ideas for hospitality industry future development with trade professionals.
The conference, hosted by Horwath HTL and the China Tourist Hotel Association, was held at the W Shanghai. As the leader of hospitality total solution, Shiji was invited to participate in the forum to discuss the development of the hospitality and tourism industry.
The conference attracted more than 800 representatives from hotel and tourism industry owners, developers, hotel management groups and other industry leaders.
The Problems of Hospitality's Digital Transformation
Guest data, scattered in multiple locations
Kevin King pointed out that the core points of digital transformation in the hospitality and tourism industry are the guest. The process of digital transformation is the process of continuously enhancing the guest experience, guest interactions, and converting guests into returning visitors and ambassadors thus increasing their lifetime value.
In the process of digital transformation, hotels need to focus on the consumers themselves, not just servicing them when they ask for it but being ahead of their requests. The guest demand for digital solutions, today is much higher than what most hotels are able to deliver. To accommodate for the higher expectations hotels need to obtain more guest data through different consumer touchpoints for analysis and management. This isn't just about collecting a lot of data, but rather being able to effectively anticipate guest needs and thus improving the guest experience.
Hence, the key to improving hotel operations technology is improving the guest profile.
Consistency and uniformity of guest profile data
However, it is not easy for travel companies to manage guest data. The primary problems are guest data collection and the establishment of a unique identifier. The touchpoints by the guests in the hotel environment involve eating, sleeping, shopping and entertainment. For hotel and travel companies managing larger programs, such as destination projects or complex travel itineraries, the guest data is fragmented and often not manageable. The multiple touch points not only make it difficult to collect the data and use it, but it also increases the difficulty of establishing a single identifier for guest profiles.
In the hotel industry, guest data can be processed by over 10 different systems before a reservation is booked, which is why the industry has been having problems with consistency and uniformity of guest profile data. The matching, deduplication and final identification of guest data is a circular and continuous accumulation process and requires new technology and systems to be truly realized. In addition, guests want more control their travel experience which is now a digital as well as physical journey. It means that a hotel needs to be able to provide a more friendly and seamless travel experience for guests and potential guests, and with increased privacy concerns of guests, this becomes an even bigger task.
Understanding guests, their needs, and their preferences is the way for hotels to truly improve guest experience across the travel journey.
For Change to Happen, the Hotel Industry Needs a Global and Open Solution
The cost for hotels to build single guest profiles that work across all systems has not yet been measured in full. But it is clear that the change to a guest-first approach to hotel technology needs to happen.
The solutions need to come from global and open systems that will allow the various technologies to communicate and share data. But the hurdles are more than just having APIs and open systems. There are privacy concerns that must be taken into account and more importantly, these systems need to work globally across local and international standards.
In the process of researching how such a system could work, Shiji has been collecting user feedback, insights and needs from hotel customers internationally. Feedback has been organized in the following four key points.
- Deliver core hotel functionality to organizations small and large.
- Offer open integration capabilities and embrace global uniform industry standards.
- Improve design and user-friendliness for hotels and guests.
- Relevant for scalability and security across networks.
While such a system doesn't yet exist, the industry has been making great progress in coming closer to one, through the adoption of open APIs and further improvement in industry standards the possibility of such a platform exists.
Technology Drives Business Innovation, Cloud leads to future
The four key points of hotel operation technology are Cloud, Open systems, Connectivity, and Guests. Cloud architecture is a prerequisite for data flow.
From the current development, we believe that cloud technology can provide a strong guarantee for the deployment of open and interconnected global platforms. Cloud technology can provide unlimited possibilities and stability for global hotel operations. It requires the joint efforts and participation of all hotel groups to achieve a global journey of guest data through cloud technology, and ultimately to the guests.
Today, the battle is won or lost depending on whether one exceeds guest expectation.
The hotel industry has always been a guest first industry, but the technology and often even processes in hotels haven't been created in the same way. As guests expect faster and more personalized service at every step of their travel and stay, it is more important than ever to think of the guest as the center of the hotel technology stack and hotel processes.
In a recent interview with the CEO of Hotelbeds pointed out that hotel processes are often "hotel first" rather than "guest first" citing the example of travelers needing to wait until 2 PM for their room to be ready. While there are many reasons why such processes exist, it serves as a very graphic example of being customer first versus organizational processes first.
As improvements are being made in the sector to put the guest back in the center of processes and decisions, new technology needs to be built that will assist the hotels in doing so.
The endgame is an improved guest experience in both the digital and physical journey.