Opportunities in hotel technology today (No Vacancy podcast)

I spent a decade helping build technology companies that served tens of thousands of hotels around the world. Today, I conduct independent research in hospitality and asked hoteliers what they really think about tech today, how technology is working for them, and what they are planning for the future. 

Glenn Haussman invited me to join him on the No Vacancy podcast to talk through what I found. You can listen to our conversation on Spotify or Apple Podcasts, and read a summary of what we discussed below. 

Opportunity to educate

More than 80% of study participants indicated wanting to learn more about technology, which shows an opportunity for educating the industry on what’s possible with hotel tech today.

When asked about preferred learning formats, case studies were the most popular:

👉 This is why I publish this website. Subscribe here if you haven’t already. 

Opportunity to compete

The vast majority of hoteliers believe technology is making them more efficient, but fewer said it was making them more effective – and fewer still reported it gives them a competitive advantage.

This indicates a progression in maturity in hotel technology: 

  • First, you speed up tasks
  • Then, you identify which tasks to focus on
  • Finally, you identify how to provide a differentiated experience and gain a competitive advantage 
The 3 stages of technology maturity

Opportunity with data

Technology permeates every aspect of hospitality and travel today, which makes talking about ‘hotel tech’ generically too vague and hard to action. That’s why my research focused on software.

I believe the biggest opportunity in hotel technology today exists in the collection and use of data, and software is the enabler of this.

Data is the fuel behind providing better guest experiences and ultimately driving more revenue and profits. 

Opportunity for experience design

If your hotels have been successful in driving rate growth, you also need to focus on providing an experience that supports that.

You have an opportunity today to view and use the incredible amount of information about what your guests like and dislike. By collecting this data through online reviews, surveys, and chat – and then analyzing the data – you can figure out how to resolve dissatisfiers and identify opportunities for the delighting guests.

Listen: How Adele Gutman did this at The Library Collection 

Opportunity for creativity (and profits)

Great hotel operators use data and imagination to design experiences that surprises and delights guests and also causes them to happily spend more money.

As Robert Tanenbaum, Managing Director at Starwood Capital, said: using things like QR codes can streamline things for guests, but turn staff into reactive order takers. That’s a missed opportunity.

The opportunity for hospitality providers is to use time freed up with technology to build rapport with guests, learn their needs, and offer hospitality in a way that technology can never do. 

Opportunity to surprise and delight 

Only 5% of the study participants said hotel technology exceeded their expectations. 

That’s a shame. Technology can and should have a ‘wow’ factor. 

We see this in areas outside of hospitality such as entertainment where technology recommends songs, podcasts, and shows we end up loving. Or apps that help us manage our money by proactively suggesting areas for improvement.

Unfortunately, suprise and delight isn’t common in hotel technology yet. It’s a big opportunity for technology providers today.

Opportunity to address labor challenges

Hoteliers today want technology that’s intuitive and looks great – but not just for the visual appeal. The opportunity is to make working in hospitality easier, which would allow hotel groups to hire people that have the right people skills but may not have years of experience working in the hospitality business.

Atlas Hotels in the UK are a good example of this. As an example, they built a training process into their F&B technology which provides guidance on the best way to serve a drink or certain foods. “We can communicate instructions on the till as a visual, and team members who are very inexperienced can create these consistently well,” they told me. 

Opportunity to collaborate 

I live in San Francisco and have spent most of my career working in and around Silicon Valley. There’s a trap technologists can fall into, thinking we’re so smart we just know how things should work. That may work when developing consumer technology like an iPod. But it doesn’t work when building to support industries like hospitality. 

Building great B2B technology requires partnership with those on the front lines of providing hospitality to identify workflows that exist today and see where technology can truly provide value.

Innovation in hospitality won’t happen in isolation.

The opportunity moving forward is for both technology providers to better listen to hoteliers and for hoteliers to work closely with technology providers to develop solutions for the future of our industry. 

Opportunity to invest and build

Last week, STR recently hotel profit margins are now higher than they’ve been since 2019. 

The economic outlook moving forward is unclear, but there is an opportunity today to take some of these profits and invest in what will create a durable competitive advantage for your hotel business.

For more on this: read the hotel technology survey results, and listen to Glenn and I discuss this on the No Vacancy episode on Spotify or Apple podcasts

You May Also Like