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Innovation in hospitality: Money isn’t the constraint – legacy technology is

I asked CEOs of some of the world’s biggest hotel companies what’s holding them back from adopting more technology.

At the NYU Hospitality Investment Conference last week everyone seemed to want more technology. Owners and investors. Brands. Management companies.  

So what’s holding them back? 

At a session with the leaders of IHG, Wyndham, Choice, Best Western, and Hilton I asked this. 

“We’re not holding back on investment”

IHG CEO Elie Maalouf said they are not holding back on investing in technology, but trying to learn two things as fast as they can: 1) What will guests adopt and use? 2) What will provide a return to owners?

Wyndham CEO Geoff Ballotti echoed this. “Our CIO gets more capital than anyone else. We’re not holding back at all.” 

Best Western CEO Larry Cuculic said they’re not holding back on technology in general, but what people don’t see sometimes is that behind-the-scenes technology sometimes needs to be prioritized over guest-facing tech. “Compliance and data security have to be done.”

“Legacy tech debt has held us back”

Technology adoption has been held back, but not because of financial constraints, said Hilton CFO Kevin Jacobs. “It’s tech debt and change management. Transitioning from legacy technology is very difficult.”

He recalled Hilton CEO Chris Nessetta scrolling through the Airbnb app and asking Kevin why they didn’t build a similar mobile experience – and it was the legacy systems they had in place at the time. “We will get through this eventually though.”

“We need help future-proofing our tech stack”

Choice CEO Patrick Pacious spoke to the longer planning and implementation cycles that large organizations like his face. “Technology that becomes obsolete in a few years has made CEOs hesitant to invest because we’ve had to rebuild everything every few years.” 

Technology providers need to do a better job helping hotels future-proof their tech stack, he said. 

What have you seen holding back hotels from adopting more technology? Share your thoughts in the Hotel Technology Survey to receive insights from other hoteliers and a special report I’m writing on this topic. 

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