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France fines Google €1.1 million for ‘misleading’ consumers with its hotel rankings

France has fined Google €1.1 million for allegedly “misleading” consumers with their rankings of hotels and other tourist accommodations.

A 2019 investigation by the French consumer watchdog and finance ministry found the tech giant was guilty of “misleading commercial practice”.

Google Ireland and Google France have agreed to pay the fine as part of a settlement, after approval from the Paris public prosecutor, the ministry said.

Both organisations have since altered their practices, it added in a statement.

France’s Directorate-General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (DGCCRF) had launched a probe into Google in September 2019 after complaints from hotels.

Businesses had argued that the display of around 7,500 hotels on Google’s search engine was unfair, compared to the official classification issued by Atout France, the country’s Tourism Development Agency.

The watchdog found that Google had replaced the Atout France ranking with their own criteria, but had used an identical system of 1 to 5 “stars”, which was “highly confusing” for customers.

“This practice was particularly damaging for consumers, who were misled about the level of service they could expect when booking accommodation,” the authority stated.

“It was also detrimental to hoteliers whose establishments were wrongly presented as being lower than in the official Atout France classification.”

Since September 2019, Google has “corrected their practices” and reverted to the official classification issued by Atout France.

“We have now settled with the DGCCRF and made the necessary changes to only reflect the official French star rating for hotels on Google Maps and Search,” a company spokesperson told Euronews.

Google stated that their previous classification of hotels used a variety of sources, including Atout France, as well as feedback from hoteliers and other party sources.

The settlement with the DGCCRF does not affect users’ ability to rate and review hotels on Google.

In December, Google was also fined €35 million by France’s online data privacy watchdog for allegedly breaching rules on cookies.

The National Commission for Informatics and Liberties (CNIL) said both Google and Amazon had automatically placed advertising trackers on users’ computers without asking for consent.

Source: https://www.euronews.com/2021/02/15/france-fines-google-1-1-million-for-misleading-consumers-with-its-hotel-rankings

Scrap the front desk – Can hotels operate without a physical front desk?

The front desk: the emblem of hospitality. For years and years, we have been walking into a hotel to greet smiling faces behind the familiar desk. However, as technology evolves and continues to transform the hospitality industry, does the front desk continue to be a symbol of care and luxury, or is it transforming into a beacon of tedious outdated processes?

Many industries have already scrapped their version of ‘front-desks’ in favour of more modern and tech-based approaches. The airline industry, for instance, has widely adopted self-service check-in technology. Similarly, movie theatres are also opting to use technology to allow patrons to jump straight into the cinematic experience. Mobile banking began taking over transactions carried out by tellers as far back as 2007.

Recently, Amazon launched ‘just walk out’ shops where shoppers can simply scan a code on their Amazon app, shop, and simply walk out with the groceries. A combination of sensors, cameras and AI handles the hassle of checking out items, scratching billing desks off the books.

So, why is the hospitality industry defying all trends and hanging on to a physical front desk? A well-tailored change along with adopting the right tech solutions can ensure that the guests enjoy the true highlights of their journey without wasting their time on formalities and due process. Scrapping the ancient and rigid front desk can benefit hoteliers in more ways than one.

Tailored Freedom

A looming front desk by the hotel door is not always a welcoming sight, especially for worn-out guests arriving after a long flight, or the guests who want a speedy check-out to rush to a family emergency. A physical front desk freezes check-in and check-out processes to the spot, and this rigidity can backfire when trying to cater to the unique requirements of each guest.

Research into customer sentiments proves that guests value convenience in front desk operations. A study by Opinion Research Corporation (ORC) revealed that 76% of guests believe that being able to check-in ahead of time would minimise potential frustration and 41% stated that they would be more likely to select a hotel that offers the convenience of advanced check-in via web or mobile device.

Without a front desk standing in the way, hoteliers can adjust processes to tailor to each guest. It can also allow the staff more opportunities to interact with the guests as they no longer have to stare at a screen punching in guest data.

Smarter and Safer

Amongst the countless changes brought in by the pandemic are the social distancing requirements and the need to reduce touchpoints. The traditional front desk may very well be a hub for contamination as every single guest encounters it. Not to mention the heightened risk to the front desk staff, since, while a guest may only interact with the desk once or twice during their journey, the staff will encounter several such contacts within the day, exponentially multiplying the risk.

However, McKinsey suggests that this is an opportunity to “make it better, not just safer”. They identified that many hotels are doing away with the antiquated check-in process, allowing guests to go directly to their rooms with keyless entry. The calls for reducing touchpoints can be used as an opportunity to adopt a tech-based approach to replace the physical front desk.

Allow Choice

This does not go to say that hotels need to scrap human interactions. The increasing use of tech from airports to vending machines means that some guests might be desperate for a friendly chat with a human. The pitfall of the world’s first robot hotel, the Henn-na Hotel in Japan, is an excellent example of the need for a balance. The inability of the robots to accommodate the nuances in guest behaviour and the breakdowns forced the hotel to remove 243 of its android staff.

The need to scrap the physical front desk is because it creates a barrier between the guests and the staff. Often, these large desks are a way of masking large computers hosting cumbersome tech ‘solutions’. Front desk operations are key points in creating a positive impression on the guest and forcing them through rigid archaic processes will be of little benefit to hoteliers. Adopting simple tech solutions that can run with minimal hardware not only declutters the lobby but, will also create more space for guest engagement.

Instead of a physical front desk, hoteliers can get creative with these processes. Tech-savvy guests can pre-check in and walk straight to their rooms. Others can walk into a cosy lobby where the hotel staff can sit with them and complete the check-in process through a tablet-based solution, while the guests sip on their welcome drinks. This provides an opportunity for hospitality organisations to maintain quality human interactions. Self-check-in kiosks can be used to eliminate waiting times in busier hotels.

41% of persons use a smartphone a few times every hour (Forbes), and 76% of travellers say their smartphone is the most important travel companion (Openkey). These tech-savvy guests are quite familiar with mobile and social media apps and emails. Imagine the impression an archaic desk with people punching data into a large computer will leave on such guests.

Incorporating mobile technology can achieve safer and smarter operations as opposed to a physical front desk. For instance, FX GeM, a contactless mobile solution designed by IDS Next, allows guests to check-in through their own devices with facilities to upload identity documents.

Also, IDS offers FX Mobile Check-In, a tablet-based solution to check-in guests, generate bills, and handle check-outs on the go. FX Roomate, an innovative in-room solution for guests to easily make room service and other requests, eliminates the need for a dedicated physical desk to accommodate guest requests.

Hoteliers today want to change to the future. However, technology vendors stand as a barrier. Your current technology vendor might not allow you to make a change even if you wanted to. That’s why it is important to partner with futuristic companies with mobile-first solutions.

Source: https://www.hospitalitynet.org/opinion/4105396.html

Digital Tools to Revitalize Tourism

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) continues to energize the restart of tourism based on sustainability and innovation. An agreement with MUST Travel & Tech places a digital tool at the service of tourism, allowing users to share their experiences to promote the reactivation of the sector with a view to sustainability. Presented during the UNWTO Mayors’ Forum in Porto, Portugal, the tool is an opportunity for the advancement of smart cities, as well as destinations that incorporate technology and innovation in their development.

Already operating in 60 countries, MUST aggregates all the information of interest to travellers in one place. By also integrating key information and analysis from UNWTO, it aims to become a leading tourism application and generate opportunities for destinations.

Technology at the service of development

We welcome innovative ideas and technologies that allow the creation of global and regional innovation ecosystems aimed at accelerating the recovery of tourism for development

Visibility provided through technological tools is an opportunity for those who, along the entire value chain of the sector, require support to restart their activity, from new destinations around rural communities, to destinations with a high degree of infrastructure development.

“We welcome innovative ideas and technologies that allow the creation of global and regional innovation ecosystems aimed at accelerating the recovery of tourism for development,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili upon signing the agreement.

For his part, the CEO of MUST, Pablo López, highlighted that “technology enhances the productivity and resilience of companies. The implementation of digital solutions in line with new trends in the tourism sector allows us to develop a differentiated, personalized and safe tourism product that is more focused on behaviour patterns and the management of spaces that will undoubtedly contribute to the recovery of a key activity for the economy in general”.

Shared objectives

A distinctive element will be the contribution of tourism intelligence from the UNWTO to the users of the tool. In this way, relevant and verified content is combined with data for making informed and evidence-based decisions.

The agreement provides for cooperation in the execution of projects that include, among others:

  • Supporting the digital transformation of tourism service providers.
  • Fostering tourism development and promotion in a sustainable and inclusive way.
  • Boosting innovation in the practices of reservation and consumption of tourism experiences and activities.
  • Encouraging the creation of quality content with a focus on cultural heritage and the authenticity of the destination to be promoted.
  • Promoting and disseminate the UNWTO “Best Tourism Villages” programme on the MUST platform as well as other programmes or events of the Organization.
  • Promoting programmes related to innovation, education and investments that are useful for tourism destinations of mutual interest.

The agreement between UNWTO and MUST will be in place until the end of 2024.

Logos, product and company names mentioned are the property of their respective owners.

Source: https://www.hotelnewsresource.com/article116476.html

Airbnb Joins US Travel And Tourism Advisory Board

Since our founding, Airbnb has enabled home sharing at a global scale and helped create a new category of travel. As pandemic restrictions gradually lift and travel restarts, Airbnb’s global community provides a front-row seat to the shifting travel trends and how these can benefit communities. Our Hosts and business are intertwined with these communities, and we are focused on helping them thrive.

As part of this commitment, Airbnb is proud to announce co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky has been appointed to the United States Travel and Tourism Board (TTAB), which advises the US Secretary of Commerce on government policies and programs that affect the US travel and tourism industry. Board members offer insights on current and emerging issues and provide a forum for discussing and proposing solutions to industry-related challenges. As the Department of Commerce works to reinvigorate travel in the United States, Airbnb has a unique vantage point and deep insights into what travel looks like today and how policies can continue to evolve to adapt to changing trends and behaviors. Being asked to join this advisory board is part of Airbnb’s ongoing efforts to support travel and the communities that rely on it. With Hosts on Airbnb keeping up to 97 percent of what they charge and 47 percent of guest spending occurring in the neighborhoods where they stay, Airbnb helps support local economies, small businesses and communities. A recent Oxford Economics study found that in 2019, in 30 destinations studied – including Los Angeles and New York – Airbnb supported over 300,000 jobs, including tens of thousands of jobs in industries like restaurants and retail that have been hit hard by the pandemic. Airbnb guests supported more than 100,000 restaurant industry jobs, nearly 95,000 retail jobs, nearly 50,000 transportation jobs, and more than 40,000 entertainment jobs.

As the country plans for the months and years ahead, we believe Hosts on Airbnb can play an important role in supporting the US travel and tourism industry, and Airbnb stands ready to work with them to make that a reality.

About Airbnb

Airbnb was born in 2007 when two Hosts welcomed three guests to their San Francisco home, and has since grown to 4 million Hosts who have welcomed more than 900 million guest arrivals in almost every country across the globe. Every day, Hosts offer one-of-a-kind stays and unique Experiences that make it possible for guests to experience the world in a more authentic, connected way.

Source:https://www.hospitalitynet.org/news/4105367.html

Hotel Contactless Tech: What Will Stick and What Won’t?

Contactless interactions have become crucial to the successful operation of a hotel during these times of crisis. Surveys are showing that guests want it, and hoteliers realize it. The result is a major jump in the uptake of contactless technology.

That said, not all technology is created equal, and that also goes for the various contactless tech solutions. Some tools have seen strong uptake in the past months, but might fade as the virus (hopefully) fades in the coming years. Other tech will continue to define how hotel guests interact with hoteliers for years to come.

CONTACTLESS TECH WILL BE LESS IMPORTANT THAN IT SEEMS NOW

This is a big headline to kick things off with. To clarify, it is clear that almost every hotel will eventually adopt some or all of the contactless technologies set out [in the report]. This is clearly a growth area with a lot of room to grow.

We believe, however, that surveys or success cases stating the importance of these technologies to guests should be read with a pinch of salt. Not only will the importance of contactless interactions undoubtedly diminish over the coming years, guests generally overstate the importance of hotel features when asked.

A case in point is a 2018 research paper published in the Cornell Hospitality Report, which shows that the vast majority of guests ‘overpredict’ what hotel amenities they will actually use. The authors surveyed 724 hotel guests staying in 33 different U.S. based hotels, questioning them before their stay about their anticipated use of hotel amenities, and then again afterwards about their actual use of amenities. Below we have visualized a selection of the findings.

Exhibit 6: Most hotel amenities are used less than expected by guests


The results show that we should be careful when assuming that the uptake of these new contactless technologies will be universal, even when guests say they want them in surveys. And when we consider the presence of these technologies as a determining factor in booking a hotel, their impact is likely to be even lower.

Of course, anticipating that there is free WiFi, or a seamless check-in process, could certainly impact booking behavior, but countless studies have found that price, location, and possibly brand, always trump any other factors. And considering the race is on for most hotels to implement these systems, the competitive advantage for hotels with contactless tech will soon be lost.

McKinsey introduced an interesting framework in a recent article to evaluate which COVID induced consumer trends and behaviors — and which technologies as an extension of that — will be here to stay, and which will likely fade. We can apply this to contactless technologies in the hotel space. Below is our view, but with the ever-changing situation this is very much an opinionated stance. Everyone should determine for themselves how they see different technologies evolve, and make decisions based on that.

Exhibit 7: Evaluating the future potential of contactless technologies

Source: https://skift.com/2020/09/25/hotel-contactless-tech-what-will-stick-and-what-wont/

Atari Wants to Build Video Game-Themed Hotels

The first hotel will break ground later this year in Phoenix, Arizona. Another is being planned for Las Vegas. They promise to offer Atari-themed lodging, along with lots of video gaming experiences.

Michael Kan – January 28, 2020 

Atari Interactive thinks it has an idea to rekindle interest in the gaming brand: It wants to build Atari-themed hotels.

On Monday, the company announced it was partnering with a design agency to build at least eight video-gamed themed Atari Hotels in the US with the first one slated to break ground in Phoenix, Arizona later this year.

The idea is certainly unconventional, but Atari says the concept will connect with the public at a time when the market for gaming is exploding. Not only will the hotels provide Atari-themed lodging, but also lots of video gaming, including the latest VR and augmented reality experiences. In addition, some of the hotels will be designed to host esports events.

“Together we’ll build a space that will be much more than just a place to stay,” Atari CEO Fred Chesnais said in a statement. “Atari is an iconic global brand that resonates with people of all ages, countries, cultures and ethnic backgrounds and we cannot wait for our fans and their families to enjoy this new hotel concept.”

According to Atari, a design agency called GSD Group and movie producer Napoleon Smith III, who was behind the recent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot films, will manage the hotels’ designs. Meanwhile, the Arizona-based real estate developer True North Studio will handle actual construction of the first building.

Additional hotels are planned for Las Vegas, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Denver, Austin and San Jose. Interested customers can sign up at the Atarihotels.com website to stay up-to-date on the project.

In the meantime, Atari Interactive is preparing to launch a new retro-themed console. The Atari VCS is slated to start shipping in March starting at $249, and will let you play 100 classic pre-installed Atari games in addition to modern PC games.

Source: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/345603

Eventbrite CEO Outlines Her Plan for Recovery

BY JULIUS SOLARIS

Eventbrite has been one of the most successful event tech brands for years, but has recently experienced deep losses due to the pandemic. We spoke to CEO Julia Hartz about Eventbrite’s experience and what is on the horizon for the tech giant.

Source: Stefan Wieland cited in Skift

Eventbrite’s most recent earnings indicated a significant decrease in year-over-year revenue, resulting in layoffs and cuts, but things could have been worse. Eventbrite is beginning to stabilize thanks to a combination of virtual event options, new formats, and the ingenuity of planners.

We spoke to founder and CEO Julia Hartz about how Eventbrite handled the second quarter and what the future has in store.

What has Q2 been like for Eventbrite?

Despite the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 that have brought shelter in place and social distancing restrictions, the human desire to connect with one another remains strong. Throughout this pandemic, we’ve seen resilience and ingenuity from our creators, not only as they’ve shifted their events online but as they’ve explored new forums for in-person gatherings that adhere to social distancing mandates, like drive-in events. In fact, despite the significant ongoing impacts of COVID-19 on live events, ticket sales on the Eventbrite platform improved in each successive month of the second quarter, illustrating the resilience of Eventbrite creators and attendees, and the value our platform provides them.

Are you seeing any positive signs of a comeback in your community of creators?

Our data tells us that people are still hungry to connect. Not only has paid ticket volume for online events specifically increased 30-fold from the second quarter of 2019, but paid ticket volume for both online and in-person events has grown 38 percent from May to June. Social distancing has challenged the live experience economy, but it hasn’t diminished the resilient nature of our creators, who are demonstrating flexibility and finding new, innovative ways to grow their businesses. For example, we’ve seen more than one thousand drive-in events on our platform this year, which is more than nine times as many drive-in events in each of the past two years on Eventbrite. We’re seeing these events happen all across the U.S. – and world – including in Australia, UK, Netherlands and Italy. One creator in particular, The Magic Beans, held a scaled-down, two-day version of their annual festival, rebranded as Beanstalk: At the Drive-In! in June where tickets sold out hours after they announced their revamped show. The festival went so well they hosted another drive-in festival in July.

How are virtual events impacting the use of the platform?

The constraints of the current environment are propelling smaller and more frequent events, a trend that plays to Eventbrite’s strengths. Our tools to create and manage online events provide our creators with a way to stay connected to their attendees and be responsive to their needs. Savvy small business owners like Haymarket Books quickly pivoted to online, donation-based events, and have seen a surge of attendees through this new format. A single event featuring Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, author of “How To Be An Anti-Racist” reached 17,000 registrations.

Online or hybrid event experiences allow creators to go far beyond the geographical boundaries of an in-person event and connect with global audiences. On the consumer side, we’re seeing that attendees are last-minute buyers when it comes to purchasing tickets to online events on Eventbrite. The percentage of tickets sold in the 24 hours leading up to an event is double that of in-person events, giving creators a longer window of marketing opportunities.

What virtual event features, if any, are you working on?

Through our research, we know consumers are enjoying online experiences and plan to keep attending them. We have plans to continue innovating in this space, and can share more soon.

Register to Vote is another public initiative after the support to the BLM protests, can you share more?

We have seen a spike in activism-related events on our platform this year, and believe this activity will continue leading into the election. In our commitment to break down barriers by amplifying social justice and civic engagement events, we’ve seen more than one thousand events in relation to Black Lives Matter published on our platform between May 2020 and looking into December 2020, and over 113K tickets issued to social justice events between May and July 2020. We’ve also signed Business for America’s Vote Safe letter to Congress in support of secure absentee ballots and safe in-person voting sites for the 2020 election because we agree that no one should be forced to choose between protecting their health and exercising their right to vote.

IN CONCLUSION

Eventbrite owes their progress in part to investments in virtual event tech and in part to consumer adaptability. The events market is under pressure to produce smaller and local events, which plays to Eventbrite’s strengths, and Hartz cites Eventbrite’s virtual event management tools as a response to this new demand.

As with many event tech companies, the secret to survival seems to be a balance between ingenuity and the ability to pivot on the one hand, and an ability to make cuts and minimize cash burn. Still, the future seems bright for Eventbrite.

Source: https://www.eventmanagerblog.com/eventbrite-plan-for-recovery

Should hoteliers develop in-house or outsource IT applications and solutions?

Some hoteliers (brands & management companies) believe that developing tech solutions in-house is cheaper and provides better customization to the hotelier’s concrete needs and control over the ongoing maintenance and performance. Another school of industry-thought believes that hoteliers should focus on their core competencies: providing the best customer experience and best returns possible to ownership and outsource technology applications, products and solutions to specialized vendors.

So the question is, in this era of rapid technological advancements and adoption of next-gen technologies such as AI, IoT, automation, robotics, blockchain, etc., should hoteliers keep technology developments in-house or outsource to specialized, well-funded vendors?

Lyle Worthington
Technology Executive and Consultant & Past President of HFTP Global

“Building tech in-house can be cheaper and can provide more customized solutions, but only if you know what you are doing and you invest properly. You need to understand how to build software and, more importantly, how to maintain it. It is never an “invest and rest,” you will always be enhancing and fixing bugs. That said, I think you should feel comfortable investing here for the right projects. I don’t mean huge things like a PMS, but perhaps a service that automates certain tasks in your PMS via its API, or your own website and mobile app. Extend or enhance things to make your company more efficient.”

Jai Govindani
Chief Technology Officer at Red Planet Hotels

“This is definitely a divisive topic within hoteliers and extremely subjective – so what follows is my personal view: Buy what you can, build what you can’t. If a product/service/platform is commoditized to the point that there are various providers in the market, it’s unlikely (not impossible) that hoteliers will be able to add value by building that particular piece of technology. That’s not to say that a well thought out technology platform that is 100% tailored to the operations of a particular business won’t do well – however, most hotel companies are not structured to successfully build that kind of tech.”

David Sjolander
COO at Hotel Technology Next Generation (HTNG)

“It depends on the company’s size and what they are building.  However, in the large majority of cases, it makes more sense to buy than build.  When you buy, you have less control over functionality and it is slower to get changes made, but you benefit by speed to market and the enhancements that come from all user ideas.”

Michael Schubach
Chief Technology Officer at Rosen Hotels & Resorts

“The build-or-buy technology question is hard to answer if you’re part of a software development organization, but harder still when you represent a proprietary user community – even a sizable or highly specialized one. The argument is traditional: stick to your knitting. A hotel company may not be the best judge of software design, documentation and long-term maintenance. A hotel company rarely opts to build its own beds; why would it write its own software systems?”

Bryan Hammer
Vice President IT at Belmond

“A large chain may have more resources better suited to development in house.  This requires a high level of funding, process maturity, infrastructure and deep skill sets.  In return for the customisation and control they get over the environment, they also take on the responsibility to make sure they are incorporating all of the legal, statutory, and regulatory requirements, no small task these days!  Smaller chains won’t have these same resources and will definitely not want to take on the risk and liability to make sure privacy by design, PCI, and GDPR are built in.  Even if they had a small development team, there is a higher risk having that in house knowledge in the hands of just a few people.  What happens if someone takes a job with a new company, gets a long term illness, etc?  Better for the small hotel companies to outsource to professional companies with a proven reputation, and specific skill sets focused on this rapidly evolving  next gen space.”

Timo Kettern
Corporate Director of IT at Bierwirth & Kluth Hotel Management

“For a smaller hotel management company like us, we cannot afford in-house developments – not budget- and not resource-wise. We will always look to partner with vendors for technologies that help us achieve our operational and financial goals.”

Jon Davis
CTO at Village Hotel Club

“I would always be an advocate of buying ‘off the shelf’ solutions where possible, and I believe it is becoming increasingly easier to do this, although there is still a way to go! With the rate of change in technology, I am more comfortable relying on solutions that are used by other hospitality experts, which should, in theory, allow for a wider group to impact research and development.”

Floor Bleeker
CIO MEA and Global Accor Strategic Programs

“To develop your own solutions, a big and expensive team of specialists is required. A typical software development cycle has project managers, product managers, developers, testers, security specialists, DBAs, and functional and technical analysts involved, amongst others. For most of us the first question would be: can we even afford to develop our solutions in-house?”

Ian Millar
Professor at Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne

“This is a tough one. Yes hotel companies should concentrate on being hotel companies but if we look into why they have in the past built their own systems it is probably due to existing ones not meeting their requirements, overly expensive and poor integration with other systems and lack of ongoing support (what industry people have told me). So basically born out of frustration of existing off the shelf solutions. Today where the new breed of technology solutions are taking a more open and collaborative approach, Open API’s and with a more cloud computing platform it makes sense to go with off the shelf solutions. With 5G around the corner, AI and IoT coming our way there will also be a new wave of solutions for hotels run their operations.”

Source: https://www.hospitalitynet.org/panel/125000032.html

Hoteliers and Technology: Why Hospitality Expertise Doesn’t Stop at Hospitality

In any industry, standards of education help to ensure brands have access to the talent they need to continue moving the needle and growing their product or offering. Within hospitality, we realize a similar need — as the landscape continues to evolve, hotel brands and vendors alike rely on having access to qualified talent, especially in the realm of IT.  The hospitality industry, as we know, is enormous and subject to continued growth. Within our sector exists a wide variety of exciting careers and rewarding management positions that cover the full spectrum of the guest experience. However, as hospitality technology continues to advance and standards of guest care are increasingly influenced by digital mediums, we arrive at the question: Are hospitality programs offering enough of an IT education component?

The recent Hospitality Technology Sentiment Survey presented by HospitalityNet™ and HFTP addressed this topic specifically when it asked hoteliers if they are concerned about access to the talent they need to achieve current IT goals while innovating and enhancing guest service. According to the survey results from hoteliers, 26.45% are ‘somewhat concerned’ while 24.79% are ‘very concerned’. Suppliers, on the other hand, have a different take with 22.87% saying they are concerned and more than twice as many ‘somewhat concerned’ (57.85%). Only 25.32% cited they are ‘not concerned.’ This not only encourages us to consider the need for up-and-coming talent while continuing on the path to innovation but also speaks to the need for dedicated IT emphasis within the education system.

To dig into this topic further, I asked Lyle Worthington, Technology Executive and Consultant & Past President of HFTP Global, to elaborate on what he believes to be the potential role of hospitality schools and university programs in the field of IT education.

“I think a comprehensive technology track should be a core component of any Hospitality business degree,” explains Lyle. “Mind you, I don’t simply mean a one-week intensive course, or a few tech-focused lessons crammed into the middle of a Microsoft Office class. Rather, I think you need at least two full semester-long classes covering the many important concepts and theories of technology which are applicable to our industry. If you want to be a leader in any area of hospitality operations or management, you have to realize that the technology you use is absolutely critical to your success,” continued Lyle. “Almost every point in our customer’s journey is impacted in some way by technology, and each day they become less tolerant of even the slightest technical issue. The key is not to become an IT expert, per se, but to exhibit a baseline level of knowledge that allows you to make intelligent technology business decisions. You should understand IT architecture and feel comfortable working side-by-side with IT professionals and consultants. You must be able to cut through industry buzz words and hype to make informed decisions on what new technology to implement and, more importantly, why. Moreover, hoteliers should be able to properly manage their relationships with technology vendors, whilst contributing their operational expertise to their brand’s big-picture IT strategy.”

The survey also indicated that the majority of respondents (43.14%) are working with increased IT budgets for 2020, while only 21.57% are working with the same IT budget as last year. Further, when asked to compare the importance of their IT budget to the perceived importance of other departmental budgets, 65% said it is awarded equal or greater importance. Of course, with this increased capacity for technology, comes a subsequent increased demand for individuals who know what to do with it.

Lyle added, “It’s far too easy for hoteliers to claim, “But I’m not an IT person!” Well, you’re not a plumber either, but you understand the concept of a toilet well enough to make sure it is installed correctly and functioning. Technology is a part of our business that we can’t function without, so it is time to recognize that, at the end of the day, we are in the IT business.”

Ultimately, the role of any hospitality expert is two-fold. Whether a hotelier or a vendor, in order to provide the highest level of service while ensuring an effective operational model, you simply must have a thorough grasp of modern technology implications and priorities.

Source: https://www.hospitalitynet.org/opinion/4095734.html

Moving the Needle for Hospitality Technology Takes Innovation, Agility, and Alignment

The success of the hospitality industry has always been rooted in the provision of service and the continued cultivation of relationships. While the rapid advancement of mobile and cloud-based technologies are enhancing the ways hoteliers can interact with travelers, the underlying goal remains the same: to create an exceptional guest experience.

The most successful relationships are always based on communication and mutual understanding. At Shiji, we believe it is always important to look, listen, and learn一not only to your guests, but also to your partners, competitors, and the industry at large.

That is why we welcomed the opportunity to sponsor the Hospitality Net Sentiment Survey as a way to inspire communication, awareness and collaboration across the hospitality industry. The results of this study were revealing: Hoteliers across all segments believed that innovation, agility, and technological alignment were all critical elements of their competitive success. More specifically, the responses revealed three significant trends:

Today, technology drives or supports nearly every touchpoint in the guest journey. Technology is playing a pivotal role in personalizing the guest experience, connecting hotels and restaurants with their guests, and allowing guests to more seamlessly connect with each other. Ultimately, if a hospitality company wants to be guest-centric, it has to embrace the change that comes with technological transformation.

Many hotels used to be tied to legacy systems which made it difficult for them to upgrade or scale the use of technology solutions in their businesses. Fortunately, we are now witnessing an industry-wide shift in favor of emerging cloud-based technology. The results of the Sentiment Survey reflect this progression. When asked how their executive management rates the importance of IT budgets, over two-thirds of the hoteliers surveyed said that management valued IT more (30.98%) or about the same (34.12%) compared to other departments. This sentiment is mirrored in their actual IT budgets: With the majority of hoteliers indicating that their IT budgets have either increased (43.14%) or have remained the same (21.57%) since last year.

Ultimately, this shift in investment priorities will drastically increase the amount of data available during the guest journey一from booking, to arrival, to in-stay and post-stay. No longer will hoteliers make broad predictions based on simple customer variables such as occupancy, average room rate, etc. Soon they will be able to connect with guests in real-time, based on robust data that is actionable now. In this way, technology will enhance every aspect of hotel operations, from staff productivity to revenue, to the guest experience itself.

Let Guests Use Their Technology to Shape Their Unique Journey

Still, it is important to emphasize that technological change must not take place in a vacuum. Technological investments must arise naturally from the unique needs of your business and should improve some actual part of the guest journey.

Modern travelers expect convenience, personalization and “anytime, anywhere” service on the mobile device of their choosing. And it’s their journey that should dictate your strategy. Today’s guests, especially Millennials, place a high value on self-service: They don’t want to have to wait in line, or talk to people to address mundane, administrative issues that could be handled automatically. They want to be able to use their technology to control their unique journey.

This shift towards self-service is reflected in The Sentiment Survey. Technological investments this year will focus largely on guest experience platforms, operational management, and technology stacks. Guest experience platforms include applications that allow for mobile check-in, self-service, and enhanced personalization and convenience. Operational platforms and technology stacks, on the other hand, will help hoteliers to streamline their day-to-day operations and enhance staff productivity which, in turn, also contributes favorably to the guest experience.

With slow booking processes, traditional room keys, antiqued front desk procedures and a lack of in-room control systems being cited as common hospitality grievances, it comes as no surprise that The Sentiment Survey cites smart room controls, self-check-in, IoT, voice-activated assistants, and mobile keys as promising technological investments moving forward.

No More Walled Gardens: The Rise of Open API’s

A major issue facing the personalization of the guest journey is the fragmentation of customer data. In many ways, personalization is a function of data and platform connectivity: Technology platforms need to be able to “track” the guest through different devices, locations, and moments in the guest journey to tailor themselves to the guests’ needs. But none of this can happen when customer data is siloed in different technology systems.

This is why it is critical for technology providers to embrace Open APIs. Not only can Open APIs help hotels scale and integrate with third-party platforms, but they can facilitate the level of data exchange needed to personalize the guest journey. API’s connect the various hospitality software, applications, and programs to optimize operations across every guest touchpoint.

According to the survey, an overwhelming 78.51% of respondents answered “yes” when asked whether open API’s are expected to gain greater traction versus standard bodies such as HTNG or OTA. This sentiment acknowledges the need for different systems from different vendors to connect seamlessly and intuitively to provide hoteliers with the comprehensive data needed to enhance the modern guest experience.

Working Together for the Greater Good

An old proverb says, “To go fast, go alone. To go far, go together.”

The relationship between technology providers must never be about strict zero-sum competition. Competition exists, of course, but all providers should be working to develop a series of open platform systems so that hospitality companies can craft the solutions that work for their guests. Nobody wins when technological solutions are hoarded in separated walled gardens.

The hospitality industry is currently experiencing a revolutionary transformation, and we all play a critical role in this exhilarating journey. Propelled by consumer trends, emerging technologies, and the explosion of mobile devices and cloud-based applications now is the time for leaders to work together to develop the next generation of solutions for the hospitality industry.

A Note on Shiji and the 2019 Hospitality Technology Sentiment Survey

Shiji sponsored the 2019 Hospitality Technology Sentiment Survey to help the hospitality industry gain new insight into emerging technology, market trends, and ultimately, customer needs. This Survey will help hoteliers and vendors understand the industry’s key technology priorities based on today’s guest requirements.

Shiji Group has been a driving force in hospitality technology for over two decades. During that time, Shiji has developed and curated a comprehensive ecosystem of world-class technology solutions that empower hoteliers to better connect with their guests. From investing in emerging startups to helping innovators scale cutting-edge solutions, Shiji’s is actively committed to pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in technology.

Source: https://www.hospitalitynet.org/opinion/4095936.html