Vendors Address The Future of The Industry, Part 1
By Fran Worrall
During the past seven months, the hospitality industry has faced the worst crisis in recent history. As COVID-19 has spread around the globe, hotels have been forced to lay off employees, curtail services and in some cases close.
At some point, however, the world will regain its equilibrium. Consumers will be eager to travel again. And businesses will want to hold group meetings and conferences.
What will the hotel landscape look like? Can anything positive come out of this crisis?
We talked with a number of vendors for this multi-part series on the outlook for hospitality. In Part I, we feature their responses to the following question: What are your thoughts on the future of the hotel/hospitality industry?
Overwhelmingly, respondents felt that the industry is tough. Hoteliers are survivors. And more, hospitality people are like a family. Although no one is discounting the seriousness of the pandemic or its devastating impact, almost everyone we interviewed believes the industry will recover and will be stronger than ever.
Following are the responses from 20 leading hospitality providers.
(One response is sure to make you laugh, so read on.)
|Francisco Pérez-Lozao Rüter, President-Hospitality, Amadeus:
The hospitality industry is incredibly resilient, but we have no doubt certain aspects of travel will look different in the future as a direct result of COVID-19. While we collectively endure the financial, operational and personal challenges of the pandemic, technology providers will have a unique role to play. As the world marches towards recovery and new trends and traveler expectations emerge, vendors will need to rethink processes and map out future innovations to ensure that their offerings meet the needs of a new era of hospitality.
|Cam Troutman, Vice President, Aptech:
Humans are social beings who will continue to seek interactions and experiences; this has always been the basis for the hospitality industry and it will continue. As we are challenged yet again to create safe and profitable ways to conduct business, the core values of this industry will prove to continue its success. As with past disruptions, we will learn and there will be change, but ultimately our human nature will prevail and demand will return.
|Nicolas Aznar, President-Americas, ASSA ABLOY Global Solutions:
While we have certainly witnessed new levels of hardship within the industry during the last several months, global hospitality markets have long proven to be capable of adapting to a more successful future. Once the threat of the pandemic begins to subside, hotels will no doubt see revenues and opportunities increase as there will always be a widespread desire and need to travel that can’t be replaced by anything else. However, the industry will continue to adjust the ways in which it provides services in order to demonstrate to guests that hotel environments are once again safe and to minimize the risk of similar occurrences in the future.
|James Tubo, Executive Director of Operations, Blueprint RF:
The hospitality industry is incredibly resilient. And while we may be naturally competitive, we have always been a family — celebrating wins together and sharing information that helps us through these unprecedented times. While the pandemic has been difficult, it has also pushed us to innovate and to create meaningful products that generate value to our community.
|Steve Woodward, President, Centrada Solutions:
The hospitality industry is extremely resilient. I have no doubt that together we will find ways to adapt to and overcome the hurdles presented by the pandemic. The largest hurdles the industry faces right now are the barriers to travel, including government imposed travel bans, corporate travel limitations, and concerns by the general public about the risks of traveling. Obviously, a reliable vaccine or treatment for COVID-19 would be extremely helpful. I also believe the enactment of liability protection laws for COVID-19 would be useful.
|Mark Holzberg, President-Americas, Chief Executive Officer, Cloud5 Communications:
Hospitality has been on a path of digital transformation for many years. The pandemic has accelerated the need for this transformation since nearly every contact with others has been through technology over many months of sheltering at home. Hospitality brands will be most successful by fully embracing this hybrid digital and physical world by leveraging technology solutions that drive efficiency, reduce customer friction and increase relevant engagements. The increased use of technology will be what is expected — not the exception — in nearly every industry going forward.
|Nick Pledge, Chief Operating Officer, Crave Interactive:
While there are many areas of the hospitality industry that need to adapt to the changing environment, we have seen the rapid acceptance of new and effective technology that can facilitate change. We see a strong future for the hotel industry, particularly with touchless technology that delivers guest services digitally and ensures that hotels can be more efficient and cost-effective and still thrive.
|Dr. Michael Toedt, Managing Partner and Chief Executive Officer, dailypoint:
The COVID-19 pandemic is changing the situation permanently. The business travel sector will never be the same. Trade events will become fewer. This means there will be a consolidation, especially in the business hotel sector. COVID-19 will accelerate the digitalization and the disruption that comes with it. Many who have blindly focused on growth in recent years will probably pay a high price. We will see a lot of brands and companies disappear in the next 12 months.
|Sherry Marek, Co-Founder and Vice President, Datavision Technologies:
Post-COVID, hotels can rely on business intelligence tools to automate work processes. They also can use these tools to report and understand trends, comparing actuals to forecasts or other targets, comparing their social media results to those of their competitive sets, etc. Currently, hotels aren’t necessarily looking at same time last year. They may be comparing trends over the last 12 weeks or the momentum booking pace as the economies open. Many tactics are valuable to bring to management table meetings. We have no historical precedent for this worldwide economic event; but with the right tools, hotels can adapt and even thrive.
|Warren Dehan, President, Maestro:
Hospitality is a resilient industry and will be supported by travelers as life slowly returns to normal. Business and leisure travel will continue in earnest; in fact, we’re seeing this now among our resort clients who already are experiencing excellent demand by guests. The pandemic has taught us that technology can be used to gain guest trust and confidence using contactless features, and forward-thinking hotels and resorts will continue to leverage technology to retain a competitive advantage and keep occupancy numbers profitable.
|Shane O’Flaherty, Global Director of Travel, Transportation & Hospitality, Microsoft:
The future of travel will incorporate a decentralized ID for each consumer to ensure a frictionless experience across the entire ecosystem (airline, hotel and transportation). Moreover, a built-in orchestration layer will provide a real-time, AI-enabled digital in-journey guest experience. The Virtual AI Concierge will move from digital signage boards to consumers’ mobile devices, providing everything they need to ensure personalized and touch-free service. Every hotel will have a digital twin of itself and will use AI to drive operational efficiency, empower staff and provide highly customized guest stays.
|André Lalande, Vice President of Sales, Onity:
The need for contactless mobile key adoption is accelerating and will continue to rise throughout the industry. Mobile check-in and access are becoming prevalent among hotel brands and flowing down to independent hotels. Looking ahead, hotel brands will extend mobile key into a fully connected, highly personalized guest experience where contactless technology empowers consumers via their smartphones to control a host of in-room devices.
|Frank Pitsikalis, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, ResortSuite:
The hospitality industry will come back stronger than before. There is a pent-up demand, but guests will have new expectations that may never go away. The future of hospitality was always mobile, but that has rapidly accelerated as the self-service era of hospitality has begun. Guests will want to manage and access everything that has to do with their hotel or resort experience from their own ‘clean’ mobile devices.
|Michael Cline,Vice President of Hospitality Sales, SALTO Systems:
The hospitality industry has proven to be extremely resilient in the 20-plus years that I’ve been associated with it. We only need to look at post-9/11 or to the 2008 economic collapse to show examples of how time and again this industry has bounced back. Due to the global nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, the recovery will come in various degrees over a longer period, of course. But I’m confident that this, too, will pass.
|Daniel Montellano, Senior Vice President of Enterprise Business Development, Shift4 Payments:
Even though it will take some time, people will travel again at pre-pandemic levels; we are certain of that. What’s really important now is that hotels do everything they can to make travelers feel safe. The more comfortable guests feel, the more likely they will be to return and encourage others to do the same. In addition to general cleaning and sanitizing, hoteliers can help guests feel comfortable by providing more contactless options for all points of interaction, including mobile check-in/check-out and touchless payments.
|Kevin King, Chief Operating Officer, Shiji Group:
The future of travel relies on providing excellent service to customers and ensuring that we deliver safe service so people can trust that their health is taken care of. COVID-19 will be a catalyst for hotels to improve guest communications, guest safety and guest experience, all of which can be enhanced through the use of technology. Traditionally, hotels have been good at adapting to new technology, and they should use this time to evaluate their business needs as well as the solutions that can help them improve.
|Bernhard Ballin, Regional Vice President-Americas, SiteMinder:
The industry is changed, but strong. As long as people want to experience the world, hotels will play a critical role, and perhaps this moment in time will provide an opportunity to reimagine their purpose and relevance to broader society. Due to social distancing, hospitality may no longer appear the same on the surface, but the spirit of the hoteliers I speak with daily reminds me that the industry remains underpinned by the essence of receiving and welcoming people. And that will never change.
|Kara Heermans, Vice President of Product Management and User Experience, SONIFI:
There’s an opportunity for the industry to lean into the idea of digital hospitality. Services that were traditionally high-touch now need to become low-touch or no-touch options. Hospitality is increasingly turning to technology to fill in the gaps and to build new ways to connect with guests. There are a lot of expressions of AI in other industries that make digital customer interactions quite personalized and conversational. Although digital technology in the hospitality sector has largely been considered experimental ‘nice-to-haves’ pre-pandemic and generally spotty in adoption, perhaps this is the time for the industry to evaluate it as a way of doing business well beyond COVID-19 recovery.
|John M. Clark, Vice President, SynergyMMS:
I think it is a bit early to tell where we might end up, but it is clearly taking a different path. Guest safety has always been a primary concern, but mostly regarding potential threats that could be seen. Globally, we have been through numerous pandemics and, although we may endure some period of adjustment after each, we do adjust and return to a respectable level of business. That’s part of the risk/reward of a free market economy. We find ways to get an edge over our competition and hiding in our basements isn’t going to get us there.
|Daniel Johnson, Partner and Co-Founder, VENZA:
Recently, the entire VENZA team gathered around our crystal ball. We saw in the future that Rich Siegel will continue to be the butt of many jokes. The future’s other details, well, are murky. We believe, however, that this crisis will hasten the industry’s drive toward a more sophisticated appreciation of their digital assets. Namely, we believe there will be even greater effort to know the guest, both for an enhanced customer experience and for community safety (think contact tracing).
Most respondents believe the industry is strong, with many of them predicting that hotels will adapt to the changes the pandemic brings and even thrive in the coming years. A number of vendors also believe that technology will be the key to regaining guest confidence and improving business processes.
Stay tuned as we continue our ‘Future of Hospitality’ series at Hotel Online (www.hotel-online.com). Our next question to vendors is: How has your company pivoted to meet the new demands the industry is facing?
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