It’s nearly impossible today to read about the hotel industry without reference being made to the relentless advance of technology and its impact on what we do. Many of these new apps, new amenities, new services are being made available to ourselves and to our customers in the specific hope of increasing loyalty, and thereby increasing business levels. While nearly all of this is good, it may be stretching things to assume that all technological improvements benefit the hospitality industry simply because they exist.
Along with exciting enhancements in technology such as remote check-in/check-out, highly-interactive guestroom televisions, systems enhancements, etc., there can be challenges to our business model that might be underestimated by those of us in the hospitality world. As our marketplaces become increasingly competitive it can be argued that now more than ever, we must be focused on the true hospitality components of our business in order to retain and attract guests. Ultimately, the products that we sell (guestrooms, meeting & banquet spaces, restaurants, etc., etc.) are commodities. However, it is crucial that we do not allow our industry to be commoditized. The subtle but crucial difference here is that offering various products & services to our customers does not, of itself, mean that we are offering those customers hospitality. Rather, we must work even harder to build a bridge between the availability of those products & services and the true hospitality experience that we all strive to provide.
Think about the almost limitless opportunities and advantages that technology offers to our industry. Automation and gadgetry designed specifically for the purpose of making it easier for guests to do business with us, thereby making it even easier for those guests to have a positive experience during their stay. We all work incredibly hard to accomplish exactly this; if technology can streamline the process even a little bit, what could be wrong with that?
With the greatest of respect for our colleagues at the highest ends of the luxury spectrum, essentially a room is a room is a room, and what defines our guests’ experiences with us is less about the physical surroundings & hardware, and more about their interactions, their conversations, and the “hospitality moments” that are most memorable. Technology can help us to achieve more of these “hospitality moments,” but we cannot lose site of the fact that such moments must originate with us and with our colleagues and associates (the humans!) who operate our properties day in and day out.
Ultimately, a guest’s decision to return to us (we all remember the exercise about cost of acquisition of new customers as opposed to securing return business from existing customers) is based upon that guest’s experiences while in our building. Where technology can assist in achieving a positive experience, of course we want this to be a part of our program. However, the key point here is that there will never be a substitute for that smile that originates from the eyes or that “surprise and delight” moment that the guest experiences while in our care. These are the things that cause guests to return. Technology is certainly our friend but we cannot allow it to be a substitute for the true hospitality that we all are obligated to deliver to our guests.