Hotel Tech Live – Innovation Summary
Hotel & Spa Tech Live was held in the London ExCel between 25th-26th September, 2018. InnovationScouts.tech attended to see what was keeping hoteliers awake at night, and what innovative technologies are coming to the rescue.
Experience is king
During our conversations with, and presentations from, Rob Paterson (Best Western Hotels & Resorts, CEO), Jon Sharp (Hilton, Director Food & Beverage), Joe Pettigrew (Starwood Group, Director of Revenue Maximisation), Magdalena Osmola (Macdonald Hotels and Resorts, Marketing and Sales Director, Strategist) and Joanna Becker-Birk (Worldhotels, Senior Manager Marketing Strategy), it became clear that the emphasis is squarely on experience.
Occupancy rates are still top of the priority list, but guests are now expecting more from their hotel stay than a comfy bed and quiet room. Experience is tightly coupled with guest reviews, another major focus for the industry, and as Joanna mentioned, if you can raise your average reviews, you can raise your room rates.
Jon Sharp talked of the four-Cs, Consistency Creates Customer Confidence, and the importance of “Own[ing] the WOW” when delivering a genuine experience. Demonstrating his natural story-telling style, Jon reinforced the importance of an honest story when articulating the reason a customer should buy from you.
Guest reviews and beyond
Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) such as Booking.com and Expedia are widely referred to as ‘frenemies’. With their reach and marketing power they are a very important part of running modern-day hotels. We heard that the higher the rates, the more nit-picky guests can be which can lead to harsher reviews, so in peak times when room rates and guest expectations are highest, it is wise to spend more on ironing out any crinkles in the experience. Conversely, off-peak is the time to over-deliver and rack up your top reviews.
It comes down to data
Joe Pettigrew talked about how technology has levelled the playing field and that revenue growth now comes from understanding not just reviews, but the data behind the review, and indeed, the behaviour and expectations of the guest.
He showed how guests that booked through different OTAs valued different aspects of the stay. By understanding where guests are placing their booking, hoteliers can maximise their opportunity by talking a language that resonates with the customer on that OTA.
Joanna Becker-Birk touched on data, information and experience, encouraging the audience to think about Starting with the Why to create an emotional connection with your guests. Joanna reflected on how the industry has moved through eras of industrialisation, information and is now all about connections, in other words, relationships.
Magdalena Osmola, gave a fascinating presentation which included a topic on Good Marketing which echoed comments made earlier about being genuine and knowing what your customer really cares about. Her presentation continued to list out the major trends that she sees impacting the hotel industry in the coming years, these included:
Continuing importance of social media
Blockchain, with a particular mention of Brave’s Basic Attention Token
The rise of Voice platforms in discovery, booking and the experience
Beyond AI, the use of Artificial Emotional Intelligence (AEI) to better communicate with customers
How Bio-feedback wearables will help understand a guest’s true emotions
Highlighted technology providers
Hotel & Spa tech Live was a large event, bringing together a wide selection of hospitality trades from street food to hotel chains. Demonstrations ranged from semi-automated floor cleaning and glass-crushing to massage systems, coffee vending and revolutions in property management systems (PMS). For this report we chose to highlight three technologies for the hotel industry that address the issues mentioned above.
Property Management Systems – the heart of a hotel
Nearly every piece of hotel technology we saw hinged on integrating with the PMS. However, as an ex VP of Innovation from a major hotel brand said to us, “these things are like Jenga, no one want to touch them in case the whole lot tumbles down”.
Therefore Apaleo’s cloud based, open PMS stood out as a noteworthy innovation. Essentially they are trying to create an app-store type of environment to enable hotels of all sizes to build flexible, scalable PMS, through which they can address all the issues mentioned during the conference, and more.
Philip Von Ditfurth commented that the industry has moved from Property to Staff to Apps. He said technology should be enabling hospitality providers to focus on what they do best, serving guests, a sentiment also shared by Juliean Tourain from AvailPro, too.
High quality in-room entertainment
Another technology platform that hasn’t moved on fast enough is the in-room set-top-box and TV. This is an area RoomNetTV is addressing with an Apple TV based platform. RoomNetTV’s CEO, Darren King tells us more in our 60-second interview.
Data is everything
HGEM‘s Guest Experience Management Hub solution enables hotel owners to make sense of disparate data sources in a sophisticated manner. Taking input from many sources, including ‘mystery shopper’ reviews, guest surveys and other such as point-of-sale (POS). HGEM’s Managing Director, Steven Pike tells us more in our 60-second interview.
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