The Evolution in Hotel Technology
By Ed Watkins
When I first started writing about the hotel industry, technology was a subject that hardly ever came up. In fact, most hotel GMs were probably either afraid technology would replace personal service or perhaps replace them. And the initial forays into the world of technology by hotels and hotel companies were centered on the back of the house. Again, the fear of many in the business was rejection of technology by guests who (they assumed) wanted lots of face-to-face contact with hotel staff.
Obviously, times have changed, and if you ask them today, most guests say they want more technology in hotels, not less. Road warriors, in particular, want to use technology to make their lodging experiences more productive, quicker to transact and less of an all-around hassle. In fact, some frequent travelers would probably prefer no human contact at all. It’s a sad commentary, but true.
Of course, what’s changed in the past 37 years (actually a lot less) is the invention of the Internet. Not only has the net greatly improved operating efficiencies, reservations capabilities and sales and marketing functions for many hotels, it has opened up a world of pleasures and conveniences for hotel guests.
The possible downside, of course, is that many travelers now judge hotels based mostly on how well they do personal technology. A widely traveled friend of mine recently described his trip to a luxury hotel in Asia. In describing the hotel, he said he had a spacious room and the service was great. Third thing he mentioned was the good Internet connection. He’s not alone. My wife and I booked a winter holiday vacation last week and one of her major concerns was the fact the hotel only has wireless in the public spaces. That’s where she and I differ: When I travel for leisure I would prefer to be away from technology.
The lesson for hotel owners, operators and specifically developers is clear: Technology, and particular excellent Internet-based, guest-oriented communications and entertainment technology, is the cost of entry in today’s lodging market. It’s an area where you can’t cut costs, but when done correctly, it’s also a potential point of differentiation and a marketing tool.
Because of the explosion of technology in the hotel business, our annual Technology Handbook (featured in the July issue and soon to be posted online) has become one of the most popular annual features of the magazine. In the issue, we try to compile the latest information on the vendors serving the lodging industry with technology systems and services. At one time, we were able to put each of the companies into one of perhaps four or five main categories (PMS, reservations, safety & security, energy management, etc.).
Now it seems as though the types of technology available to hoteliers increase by 25% every year. But that’s a positive development, as more systems are available to ease operating tasks, increase profitability and, perhaps most of all, satisfy guests’ cravings for newer, faster and cooler personal technologies in their guestrooms.
The hotel technology world converges in Austin, TX this week for HITEC, the Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference.
Read this article on Lodging Hospitality