Hospitality tech is a growth industry with billions invested in start-ups and existing tech providers over the last few years. While big hotel groups may be slow to move on new technology – wary of implementing brand-wide tools that may not give returns to their shareholders and property owners – smaller brands are heeding the call from consumers for improved digital experiences.
“I think hospitality is a little bit behind the curve in the adoption [of technology]… We come with baggage as an industry, there’s a certain way that we have done things,” says Paolo Dona, CIO of StayCity.
To stay relevant and continually innovate, the industry needs to look to a proliferation of providers for solutions. It’s not enough to have a strong in-house tech team; their focus on supporting individual properties, or brands, doesn’t leave enough time or resources to develop cutting-edge systems.
Dona adds: “There’s not a typical architecture historically implemented in hospitality; it is required for us to innovate. I don’t think a single hotelier doing everything in-house will be able to achieve the level of innovation required to stay relevant in the next few years.”
How do hotels assess tech providers?
When considering how to take the business forward, hoteliers need to consider the impact of technology.
According to Zetter Hotels’ managing director, Liutauras Vaitkevicius (LV), you need to assess technology “operationally, commercially, and as a wider brand. You can’t [succeed] without having the right tech stack behind the scenes”.
Technology needs to be adaptable to move at speed and at scale. It needs to connect seamlessly with other solutions in a hotel’s tech stack. In an ideal world, it also needs to reflect the hotel’s core approach – whether that’s customer-centric, intuitive or responsive, and focused on quality or quantity.
Sotiris Kopatsaris, CEO and founder of Future Hotels says: “Hoteliers need to not see technology as an unknown term or something that is scary, but rather friendly, nice and intuitive. Something that helps hotels become more profitable.”
Sealed with a KISS
The ‘Keep It Simple, Stupid’ theory – that most systems work best if they are simple – evolved in the US Navy in the 1960s. Today’s hoteliers would be wise to employ this approach when it comes to technology.
“The approach we take is very much one of simplicity wherever possible,” adds LV. “The simpler the setup and configuration is, the more efficient you can be. The more productive you can be with data. Simple doesn’t mean you have fewer data points. It means you’re better at using it, analysing it, pulling it, and…building business models going forward. We want to make sure that tech is so seamless and so simple that customers just don’t think of it.”
Having an exit strategy can help gain entry
Hoteliers want the flexibility to switch providers without pain. When selling to a hotelier, tech providers should consider that the ease of starting a partnership with them should be mirrored in the ease of exit options.
It may seem counterintuitive for tech providers to plan how to end a partnership, but today’s hoteliers are savvy and want to be free to continually innovate. Suppliers who show flexibility and fluidity are in fact displaying a deeper understanding of their target audience, and ultimately that understanding is a strong pillar to build a relationship on.
LV says: “People can end up with legacy systems, having two systems that don’t really talk to each other. But hotels have spent money on it so we can’t just drop it – even if it doesn’t quite do what we want…That’s a thing of the past.” Hotels are looking for tech that has learned from the past. They now tend to favour a forward-thinking, innovative and open tech environment.
Hoteliers have had their fingers burned by legacy technology that hasn’t adapted, doesn’t talk to other systems and devours time and money for updates. They want to trust technology, but they need to ensure technology works for them and improves the customer journey.
Innovate or die
Ensuring there’s “a sufficient level of automation, data analytics and data controls” are key according to LV. “We want to make smarter decisions. We want our partners to really understand our needs. We have a challenger mentality, and [want a partnership where] we can develop things and take our industry forward together.”
Suzie Thompson, VP Commercial at The Red Carnation Hotel Collection, sums up the importance of technology in hotels: “Technology is one thing, but if it’s not implemented properly, if it’s not embedded in the culture or the training isn’t good enough, tools can easily be forgotten about.”
If a system doesn’t work or is too hard to use, it will be underutilised by hotel staff, and ultimately fail to be renewed when contracts are up. By remaining innovative, responding to hotels’ business needs and having strong customer relationships, technology remains relevant to a property’s success.
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Top tips for technology procurement – for hoteliers
- Ask questions. Don’t rush your decision – or let vendors rush you. Don’t let people bamboozle you. If it’s terminology you don’t know, ask.
- Involve your team in the decision-making process. Trust them to give you honest feedback. They’re the ones who use the systems so canvas – and really listen – to their thoughts.
- Talk to other hotel brands or properties using the system. Don’t just take the word of vendors who produce their own case studies. Independently speak to your contacts about the good and the bad of different solutions.
- Prioritise areas that will bring your company efficiencies and improve the customer relationship. Automation and personalisation are key areas to focus on. The reward will be seen in your revenue.
Top tips for technology sales – for vendors
- Use your size to your advantage. If you’re an innovative but small company, don’t assume doors are closed to you. Consider boutique brands and smaller hotel groups that share your desire to shake up the industry.
- Highlight systems you connect with – and how you do it. Open APIs are a vital element; if you offer clients that flexibility, shout about it.
- Work with your clients. Hotels are evolving and want tech providers who move alongside them. How quickly can you tweak your solution if needed? Are you open to the needs of hoteliers? Can you adjust as the industry and consumer needs alter?