While hoteliers anticipate highly-sophisticated and ‘digital native’ hotel guests in 2020, their plans for industry technology remain stuck in the early 2000s, according to a new study.
This is the startling research finding from 'The Hotel Industry in 2020' carried out by Peter O'Connor, IDeaS Revenue Solutions, Revinate and SiteMinder. The study compiled survey results from hundreds of leading hoteliers around the world, and the results of a 'visioning' session with experienced hoteliers and consultants held during World Travel Market (WTM) London in November 2016.
"The combined research explored anticipated hotel guests of 2020, as well as the technology needed to cater to their needs," says Peter O'Connor, professor at ESSEC Business School. "We wanted to hear directly from hoteliers about how the future traveller would look, and the measures needed to prepare for them."
According to Dr O'Connor, participants anticipate highly-sophisticated guests that seek unique experiences, have higher expectations and also expect recognition. As 'digital natives', these guests will rely primarily on mobile devices to engage with hotels before, during and after their hotel stay. Key differentiators such as flexibility, value and control are predicted to play a larger role in the guests' buying decisions than human interaction.
Fabian Specht, managing director EMEA at IDeaS, says, "The collected data reveals predictions of a more demanding customer, with greater choices and access to information."
When asked which technology hotels could not be without in 2020, respondents named those already implemented in many hotels, including revenue management systems, customer relationship management systems, property management systems, channel managers and e-marketing solutions.
Thomas Landen, EMEA marketing manager at Revinate, adds, "These results reflect the high degree of conservatism within the hotel industry, particularly when it comes to technology. It is as if the industry is still preoccupied with the same issues as ten years ago."
By contrast, expert panelists – largely operational managers and consultants from UK and European hotel properties and technology arenas – nominated middleware, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning systems, predictive analysis tools and management dashboards to have more integrated views of the guest, along with messaging solutions and Bluetooth beacons to drive deeper engagement.
The panelists suggested a key roadblock to implementing these systems industry-wide was highly-siloed customer data, which prevents a single 360-degree guest view. Other roadblocks included data protection and privacy issues, as many countries limit guest information storage; and industry conservatism with few hotels pushing boundaries and most tending to stick with well-established systems in the marketplace.
Dai Williams, managing director EMEA at SiteMinder, says, "It is clear we operate in an industry that continues to look to outdated and often-costly legacy systems for technological support. The resistance among hotels to change and innovation hurts the advancement of our industry, which, in itself, recognises the need to keep up with current and future consumers."
To break the cycle, panelists advocate for the rise of a new breed of hotel management, one that includes applying a different set of skills and mindset capable of pushing technology forward – a process already successful within industries such as retail and banking.
Read also "The Hotel Industry of 2020: Predicting the future is difficult" (infographic)