Hospitality industry launches code of conduct to tackle recruitment crisis

Our Hospitality Commitment has been developed by People 1st International, employers and colleges to combat the key challenges around working hours and learning and development.

The intention is to highlight the diverse career opportunities across the sector and show that the industry is working together to be seen as an employer of choice.

Sandra Kelly, director of skills & policy at People 1st International, said: “Many large hospitality businesses are making fundamental changes to offer a different and better quality job experience. However, attempts to change the wider perception of the industry and to show that it is changing for the better can only be done if industry works together and commits to being an ‘employer of choice’, providing good quality training, work-life balance and support to their people.”

Sean Wheeler, chair of the People 1st International employer-led college accreditation board and former director of people development for Kimpton UK & Regent Hotels at InterContinental Hotels Group, added: “Our Hospitality Commitment is critical if we want to retain people in the industry. Work life balance, development and wellbeing support are basic needs that all people require today. These have to be part of the day-to-day ways of working if we want to ensure we retain talent today and for tomorrow.”

The five-red-AA-star, 300-bedroom Landmark London hotel is one of the first operators to sign up to Our Hospitality Commitment. 

Nicola Forshaw, director of human resources at the hotel, said: “We believe that Our Hospitality Commitment sits well with our beliefs and values. As an industry it is important that we show the diversity of roles and careers open to any future applicants, as well as giving existing team members the opportunity and tools to grow and develop. Hospitality is amazing – and we should shout about it!”

The Retreat Group, comprising three hotels in St Davids, Pembrokeshire – Twr y Felin Hotel, Roch Castle and Penrhiw Priory – is also a supporter of Our Hospitality Commitment. Paula Ellis, group general manager, said the initiative highlighted the positive and empowering culture in place across the company which has resulted in an annual staff turnover of just 6%.

“We are located in one of the most challenging geographical locations in the country – in the most westerly point of Wales, surrounded on three sides by the sea, so it is not easy to recruit staff. I therefore run the hotels as a Mother Hen, believing the carrot is stronger than the stick. Words like blame and fault are banned – instead we use support and help.”

Our Hospitality Commitment involves a voluntary code of conduct to help attract talent and retain current people. The key points which signatories will be expected to follow include: 

• A training/development plan in place for each employee.
• The availability of job rotation and cross training.
• A good work-life balance, involving the issuing of schedules and rosters in a timely manner, as well as allocating days off where requested according to the employee requirements.
• The approval or rejection of holidays in a timely manner.
• Treating staff with respect.
• The building of relationships with local schools, colleges and universities with the intention of promoting the hospitality industry as a reputable career choice.
• Ensuring third party safeguarding/employee assistance support is available to all .
• Ensuring mental health, human trafficking and modern slavery awareness is available to all.


Hotel Branding: How to Take Your Hotel Brand to the Next Level

Seldom businesses can thrive nowadays without carefully-planned marketing strategies: not to say in the hospitality industry where there is at least one new property opening somewhere in the world almost every week. Moreover, the ubiquity of technology and the replicability of products means that branding has become one crucial differentiator for hospitality businesses. A hotel may be a superior service provider with its renowned facilities, but the customers need to seek a way to know about the hotel and its service quality out of all its competitors. As the market is saturated with countless hotels, brands and offerings and that consumer tastes have caught onto the industry, crystallizing and differentiating the brand vision is crucial to lead a new generation.

As the hospitality market is overloaded with advertising messages, how can hotels work strategically to gain customers’ attention and to, ideally, create the right premise of a loyal customer base?

Hotel branding tip #1: Create a strong narrative for your hotel

In a nutshell: Turning your hospitality differentiator into a story can be a powerful business tool. 

Business case studies across the years have proven that focusing solely on product, such as room types and facilities, is not sufficient. Such tangible features do not leave a lasting imprint in consumers’ minds and are unable to generate enduring desires.

Hospitality is about selling a dream and creating a lasting experience, and that is why truly successful hotel brands focus on their brand stories.

Humans are wired for stories as they lead to a better understanding, trust, comprehension and receptivity. Unlike facts and statistics, a story engages both the brain and the body, eliciting emotional responses, which people are more attracted to.

The narrative – or the magic operator of your story – creates the desire: well-developed brand narratives traditionally touches on a brand’s history, mission, values or people. The story must be authentic, based on truths, and then built upon to create the dream and aspiration which capture clients’ needs and wants. In that way travelers are significantly more likely to build a connection with you, and to embrace the beginning of a long-lasting relationship with your brand.

Industry example – Novotel, Beijing:

Novotel hotels in China is a great example which realizes successful brand differentiation through strong storytelling. General Manager, Thierry Douet, of the Novotel Beijing Peace Hotel says: “Twenty years ago, when we first arrived in China, the concept of traveling with children was not very common. Also, mid-scale hotels for pleasure or business did not really exist here. Our story was very foreign to the Chinese, but we took advantage of our French origins and built upon this. We were able to differentiate ourselves by offering a family place of leisure, where you can also conduct business meetings and events. We focused on the needs of the family and have continued to tell the story based on family.”

Hotel branding tip #2: Set up the premise of a good loyalty program

In a nutshell: Remember that your guests are your brand ambassadors.

A loyal customer base, captured by novel reward programs, is essential for a brand’s development. The kind of brand you want to be has to be directly related to the type of guest you want to target.

All the brand activities you undertake should be consistent and authentic, rooted in the needs and expectations of your customers. 

Just like in any relationship where trust is essential, it is crucial for hotels to fulfill their promises in order to maintain a loyal customer base. Rewards programs, recognition and redemption become drivers of your loyalty force. When a guest stays at one property of your brand, they deserve to be recognized on their returns to any other property of yours. Their previous information should have been stored and protected, then reapplied to ensure preferences are respected and remembered.

Such a high-level of global recognition conveys a sense of belonging for your clients. With such sense of fulfilment, these returning guests will depart the hotel as brand ambassadors, spreading recommendations through word-of-mouth and online reviewsAs some of the most prominent hospitality players nowadays, you could even go a step further and offer opportunities for engagement and redemption outside of your own brand’s world.

Industry example – Kimpton Hotels:

Lead by the core idea of “good things come to those who stay”, Kimpton Hotels has a long history of using recognition and redemption to give guests something beyond expectations. Its reward program, Kimpton Karma Rewards, is a new approach to loyalty. Karma’s style is Kimpton’s style and the program is composed of name, identity, messaging, digital touchpoint and small details of identity like icons that represent program levels. These patterned icons have subtle numerical references, but also tie into color, textile and design patterns found recurring across hotel interiors. The loyalty program and the properties weave together a physical and digital experience highlighting Kimpton’s brand personality. Database technology communicates with digital devices to deliver personalized experience; from the front desk to the mobile phone or tablet, Karma is a more personal, contextual, meaningful rewards program. Kimpton Karma Rewards is an innovative way that goes beyond traditionally loyalty to become a true brand relationship platform. For example, guests may get credit for liking things on Facebook or get served what seems like a random perk unexpectedly anytime during their stays.

Hotel branding tip #3: Deliver hospitality and service excellence

In a nutshell: Creating a strong hotel branding and brand personality is about defining your offerings. 

Aside from the basic offerings such as the quality of the rooms, facilities, or service delivered by well-trained staff, the best hotels should stretch their definition beyond these elements to incorporate the concept of hospitality.

Hotels are in the business of taking care of people and a hotel’s staff should aim to deliver a transformative experience for customers.

All great brands begin with a customer-centric perspective and experience mapping is a great asset which helps to identify and rollout universal touchpoint of brand experience. The delivery of hospitality should create cherished memories, enrich clients’ experience and become part of their life story.

As world-renowned sommelier Bobby Stuckey defines it, service is “what you do to someone” and hospitality is “how you make someone feel”. When care is offered, it provokes a feeling and builds a connection which transmits such feeling between people. Hospitality is the genuine care which is capable of changing one’s mood and perspective. Successful hotel brands should truly nurture hospitality and service excellence – the very concepts upon which they are built – and integrate it into its brand culture.

Industry example – The Peninsula Beijing:

The Peninsula is one brand which creates transformative experiences through delivery of hospitality. The General Manager of The Peninsula Beijing, Vincent Pimont, explained his concept of hospitality:

“Anticipating the needs of your guests. Guests arrive from all around the world. It is vital to go beyond cultural difference by not judging the difference, but to deliver the care even before the guests know they are in need. Hospitality in Asia is different than in the West. It is about care, I mean really caring. Our brand originates from China and we respect our brand’s origins. We train our staff to embrace and manifest our cultural difference.”


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.”


Investing in the Guest Experience

Many will recall the 2017 brand crisis, which cost United Airlines $1.4 billion in value practically overnight after a passenger incident where injured while being forcibly removed from a fully boarded, sold-out flight went viral. This situation showcased the enormous impact of customer experience, and arguably there is no industry in which the experience holds more weight than hospitality. So, it comes as no surprise that the recent Hospitality Technology Sentiment Surveyrevealed an increase in IT investments into “Guest Experience” products, with 46.63% of respondents naming this category as the primary focus.

Hoteliers are in the business of curating exceptional experiences for a diverse portfolio of guests, across varied travel segments. Everything a hotelier does, from the aesthetic of a hotel property, the customer service standards, the amenities offered to guests, on-property experiences, room decor and upgrades, helps to piece together the guest experience. Modern guests crave a more intuitive experience, which not only lends itself to a deeper connection with their hotel of choice, but also provides a faster, more intelligent and convenient service model. Fortunately, with the use of cutting-edge, guest-centric technology, seamlessly personalizing the guest experience from pre to post-stay is entirely possible.

According to Kevin King, COO of Shiji, there is an industry-wide shift in focus to digital transformation which centers on continuously enhancing the guest experience, interactions, and converting guests into returning visitors and ambassadors to increase their lifetime value. Connie Rheams, Global Vice President, Global Accounts Sales at Oracle, echoed this opinion during a HITEC interview conducted by the Hospitality Net team, explaining that the technological investments which deliver the biggest ROI are always built around people.

As hoteliers actively seek out new technology and vendors who promise to deliver on enhanced guest engagement, what will act as the key differentiator? How can hoteliers remain ahead of emerging demands for personalization and knowing the guest on a deeper level?

Delving into the subject of the guest experience, Hospitality Technology Sentiment Survey respondents were asked to name the top technology-enabled features they will always use when staying at a hotel. Wi-Fi (80.51%), climate control (43.75%), and USB plugs (33.82%) were the most popular choices for this segment. When asked to detail the one technology that causes the most frustration when booking or staying at a hotel, respondents named slow booking process, poor Wi-Fi connection, non-functioning door-lock key cards, repeating details at check-in, and more.

Hoteliers should strive to provide guests with enhanced convenience, in tandem with technology that allows them to control their journey. Fortunately, mobile technologies and social media have introduced more options for customers to interact, creating new opportunities and challenges. When guests do not have the freedom to choose their preferred communication channel, it causes additional friction. With the utilization of self-service functionality across mobile devices and kiosks, guests can use technology to shape their unique journey across every touchpoint of their stay. Many guests are opting to bypass the front desk to check in and to access their room via smartphones. Others prefer texting with a virtual concierge to get the answers they need quickly while others enjoy the one-to-one interaction with hotel staff.

The survey also queried organizations about the allocation of budgets for IT projects, which are purely serving innovation or research without any immediate expectations in ROI or guest experience. There was a noticeable divide between suppliers and hoteliers. 61.98% of hoteliers said “no,” whereas 73.42% of suppliers said “yes”. This seems to imply that suppliers may be missing the mark when it comes to technology development and priorities. This also sometimes holds true for top management and IT, who are two independent divisions within hotel companies. They should be aligned, on both the business and IT side, for their guest experience vision. Both the teams should choose the technology solutions together, keeping in mind the end goal.

These insights and trends make it clear that the guest experience revolution is just beginning. More and more, hotel organizations rely on technology to understand guests, provide quicker resolutions, empower personalized interactions, and proactive engagement before, during and after the stay. Technology and open API connectivity between systems are critical components that should drive technology strategies. When asked if APIs are expected to gain greater traction versus standards organizations such as HTNG or OTA, 78.51% of hoteliers said yes, while 65.82% of suppliers said yes. From a vendor perspective, 67.09% indicated that they currently have an API available for their solution.

As far as 2020 and beyond? The world is changing, and the way hotels connect with their guests also needs to change. By improving the guest experience and empowering hotel staff with technology advancements that drive engagement instead of transactions, hotels will increase both loyalty and revenue. The trends point to seamless integrations, predictive analytics, personalization, robotics, automation, self-serve tools, digital applications and artificial intelligence as the technology priorities that will revolutionize guest experience in the hospitality industry for years to come. In the end, the hotels that show a deep understanding of their guests and are proactive in responding to their frustrations are set to win the guest experience race.


Industry insight: How smart tech is reshaping hotels

With technology being a catalyst in the competitive arena of hospitality, hoteliers are focusing on offering guests a unique experience that attracts them toward their services. The hotel industry has changed over the years, explains STAAH.

Smart technology is changing everything from the homes we live in to how our cities are managed. The hospitality industry is no exception. In many ways, the hospitality industry is leading the charge in the adoption of smart business technology.

From operations to guest experience to marketing, smart hotel technology offers a variety of cost savings and revenue opportunities, and it is enabling hotel owners to reach new levels of profitability. Here are some ways in which smart technology is reshaping how hoteliers operate.

Self check-in

Today, the guest does not want to wait at the reception desk, and they are expecting everything digital in your hotel. However, self-check-in service by a mobile app is the best solution for customers as well as hotel management staff.

Also, with this, the guests can easily find out whether their room is ready, can make requests for amenities and many more.

Mobile room keys

A smartphone app that provides guest room access, eliminates the problem of attendees losing their key card or the environmental impact of countless plastic cards. This could help your corporate social responsibility image. It’s a win-win!

Reserved Parking

Smart sensors and hotel apps will allow guests to not only reserve parking spots ahead of their visits, but to also have their spot assigned at their arrival. This will give your guests an effortless experience from the minute they pull up.

Online Reputation Management

A hotel’s online ratings can not only help predict future bookings, but they offer owners valuable insight into how well a property delivered on guest expectations. Therefore, operators will continue to invest in platforms such as STAAH’s review minder, that help them monitor online reviews, manage their online reputation and use that feedback to improve both their operational and guest experience standards.

Room service

Hotels will be able to push menu notifications to guests’ smartphones when they are in their rooms using smart occupancy sensors. They can also schedule texts tailored to fit their preferred ordering times, including personalised menu suggestions based on previous orders.

Other smart technologies such as customer surveys, smart loyalty-program management and smart hotel management will play a bigger role in how hotels operate in 2020 and beyond. The key to smarter hotel operations is implementing the right technologies that meet guests’ expectations and hoteliers’ needs to get to know these travelers better.


How augmented reality will help the hospitality industry

Augmented reality (AR) is being adopted as a tool to increase customer satisfaction and profitability across industries, including travel and hospitality. This fascinating technology superimposes useful data on top of the user’s environment in real time.

This integration of digital information provides a holistic experience that far supersedes any traditional standalone service we can offer today.

So, how does AR impact the hospitality industry?

The goal of any hospitality business is to enhance the customer experience. To this end, the industry has been a forerunner when it comes to adopting new technologies.

AR technology in hotels will transform the experience to one that aligns with the needs of the new generation of guests. The digital components of AR, like a live picture on various surfaces like TV or a minifridge, will add to the feeling of an infinite and yet connected space and add to a memorable experience.

Augmented reality smart glasses have hit the market, but for a regular hotel experience, guests can access AR through devices like tablets, smartphones, and headsets. These intelligent services and facilities will make guests feel hyper-connected, trendy, and right at home. Some of the popular uses of AR in the hospitality space include a guide to introduce guests to the hotel’s facilities; helping them find services in the hotel; amenities of the room; and information about lounges, parking areas, the fitness center, etc.

For international travel, AR will become a viable translator/interpreter, making it easy for international guests to communicate in foreign lands. This means traveles can easily find the various services they need with the help of smart AR devices.

AR is an excellent tool for maps and direction, too. All guests have to do is point their smart devices at the maps app, and they will be guided to their destination.

Augmented reality is also changing the way customers interact with brands and companies. It delivers immersive experiences through its many real-world applications that allow customers to get a different perspective of a brand. AR has the intrinsic ability to improve customer experience, which ultimately will lead to a healthy bottom-line.

Investing in a customized AR app is good for a hotel business. It will help deliver an excellent customer experience by offering the right information at the right time and place.

Some of the cool features that will help AR-driven hotel experiences stand out to include interactive hotel rooms, augmented environments that help guests explore the establishment, gamification of destination experiences, beacon technology to guide them, and virtual keys that get activated through proximity.

Businesses can integrate the app with their enterprise systems, CRMs, and maintenance systems to gain more insights about their customers and then use the knowledge to enhance their services. As an automated tool that is integrated with the maintenance systems, augmented reality can help boost productivity, efficiency, and decrease costs. As a preventive maintenance tool, it will help keep guests safe.


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.


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.


Tourism is bad for locals and the environment. How do we fix this?

Who doesn’t want a vacation right about now? Especially as the weather gets worse here in Connecticut, jetting away to somewhere livelier and warmer sounds nice. There’s just one problem: You have to be a tourist.  

The tourism industry is a world of contradictions. It is opulent for those at the top but often leaves the actual destinations destitute. It is beloved by the governments that prosper from it but is often reviled by actual citizens. It can give tourists a more worldly perspective but also contribute to a great deal of injustice. How do we reconcile these problems? 

Tourism has been around for a long time — the Seven Wonders of the World were tourist sites for the ancient Greeks and Romans. Historically, the rationale for all this travel has been “just don’t think about it too hard.” But just as technological advances have made travel more available for the average person, they have made us more aware of the state of the world. As it turns out, there is a large, dark underbelly to the glamor of tourism.  

At its best, the tourism industry allows funds to be redistributed from the wealthy visiting far-off places to the local communities in those places. However, this isn’t always the case. The interests of tourists are not always or even often in line with those of the residents.  This is especially true in places with unstable or corrupt governments. Perhaps infrastructure upgrades can be helpful to the region, but is it really fair to say that knick-knack shops are a route to actual economic progress? Or how about restaurants catering to tourists that are of little affordability or interest to the residents?  

Jobs near tourist destinations too often end up being low-paying and unfulfilling. So, while tourism can be helpful for development, it is not necessarily economically sustainable. This is especially true in the most vulnerable places, as nothing ruins a tourism industry like war or civil unrest.  

Unsustainable is often the word that comes up when discussing tourism’s environmental impact as well. Tourism can be done in a way that is not overly detrimental to the environment, but these ways are less fun and comfortable, or at least are perceived as so. There is no doubt that planes carting travellers all around the world at every moment is not the best for the environment, though. The pampering of much of the tourism industry also results in a lot of waste byproducts. These aren’t problems inherent to the tourism industry in particular, but consumerism as a whole is rampant there. 

The largest problem with tourism is the ethical grayness of the way in which the industry conducts itself. Ideally, tourism allows for the broadening of perspectives, the understanding of cultures other than your own. Is it successful in this? 

Well, that’s a loaded question. Many governments around the world are very careful to craft a specific image of themselves to tourists. North Korea is the most stark modern example of this, but every country does it to a certain extent. After all, if a country is making a lot of money off of tourism, keeping a good reputation is necessary to keep people coming. In this way, the industry will try to hide unsavory or unappealing aspects of destination locations. Alternatively, they may exploit poverty in the region to sell an entirely different image, known as “slum tourism.” 

Furthermore, what of the tourist attractions themselves? Part of the reason Britain is such a nice tourist destination is all the history there. And nowhere can you get a more worldly view of historical artifacts than the British Museum. The great irony here, though, is that most of the items there are not originally British! Instead, it is a collection of things taken from all around the world. While it is spectacular to see so much, it leaves an uneasy feeling. By going there and supporting British tourism, are we not complicit in centuries of oppression?  

Of course, it is impossible to completely quash all of these contradictions. At the end of the day, tourism involves non-residents contributing to the local and national economies. So, when it comes time to budget out this money, sometimes the interests of the tourism industry will run counter to the interests of the local people. At the very least, thoughts should be put into how you travel and visit other places. While we cannot fix all the inherent issues, we can at least hold ourselves accountable to act respectfully, open-mindedly and thoughtfully. We can hold tourist destinations accountable for putting the sustainability and well-being of their own residents first. 


How travel and tourism has innovated over the past decade

For an industry that is all about movement, travel changes at a glacial pace.

At your local airport, the experience today will be much the same as it was in January 2010 – with the possible exception of carrying your boarding pass on your smartphone.

You will need to follow the same rules to go through the same security. The odds are you will board an Airbus or Boeing jet that was designed decades ago; the giant United Airlines has just announced an order for 50 Airbus A321 aircraft, a jet launched as something of an afterthought by the European planemaker in 1993. And your pilots will follow much the same tortuous course through the skies to your destination.

On the railways of the UK, ironically, the most innovative train operator of recent times, Virgin Trains, is about to be dumped by the Department for Transport (DfT) in favour of Avanti to run trains on the West Coast main line.

And few hoteliers seem yet to have woken up to the realisation that this is the second decade of the 21st century and the traditional accommodation model really needs to be updated to make life smoother for travellers.

These are my choices, and I would like to hear your nominations.

In the first decade of the 21st century, the endless battle between Airbus and Boeing was characterised as a conceptual dual between the giant Airbus A380 and the smaller Boeing 787. Both went through severe birth pains, with the “SuperJumbo” delayed two years before it entered service in October 2007.

The “Dreamliner” was even further behind schedule – flying for the first time in December 2009 and enduring a three-month grounding while self-combusting lithium batteries were sorted out. And Airbus is ending production of the A380. Partly it was because the concept of a 500 to 600-seat plane with four engines was an evolutionary cul-de-sac. But it was also because the A350 is a far better aircraft from the airlines’ viewpoint: easier to fill and hyper-efficient.

The A350 has two engines, a carbon fibre fuselage and wings, and capacity to fly 300-400 passengers comfortably and profitably – making it an “XL”-sized plane compared with the “L”-sized 787 and the “XXL” A380. 

The plane has been granted “370-minute Etops,” meaning it is certified to fly for over six hours on a single engine. So it can serve almost any route on the planet, including straight over the north pole from Heathrow to Hawaii or Edinburgh to Tahiti. There is just a tiny patch of the Antarctic that is beyond its capabilities.

Passenger benefits range from bigger windows and more headroom to higher cabin pressure and humidity, making long flights more bearable. On a Qatar Airways trip I flew outbound to Doha aboard a 787 (with intermediate flights on the dated A330) and back on a A350. The new Airbus won easily.

D-Train (entered service 2019)

Extensive and expensive fleets of new trains have been deployed in Britain over the past decade, predominantly on lines to, from or through London. The new Japanese-designed Intercity Express Trains on the Great Western lines are enabling faster journeys between the capital and Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter. But the passenger jury is out about whether they are actually any more comfortable than the old High Speed Trains.

Meanwhile a company called Vivarail is doing something much more sustainable: bringing back to life old London Underground trains, reinventing the 40-year-old stock to run on branch lines around Britain. The perfectly serviceable aluminium bodies are retained, as are the steel wheels, but the interior is far more comfortable and spacious – with options for electric, diesel or battery power.

You can find them shuttling between Bletchley and Bedford, and soon the railway on the Isle of Wight (currently served by Underground trains from 1938) will get an upgrade.

Incidentally, this year’s glorious technological revolution in Scotland involves refreshing 40-year-old diesel trains that have been “cascaded” (the railway term for hand-me-downs) from the Great Western network for service from Edinburgh and Glasgow to Aberdeen and Inverness.

Eurostar to Rotterdam and Amsterdam (2018)

The Channel Tunnel train operator has the vast majority of passengers travelling from London to Brussels and Paris. Achieving dominance was easy, since the Eurostar network was designed to do just that. What has been disappointingly slow has been extending beyond the two cities – a summer-only link to the Mediterranean and a weekend winter service to the Alps are hardly revolutionary.

Finally in 2018 Eurostar launched a service to Amsterdam via Rotterdam, which has proved so successful that that 12-a-week link has been stepped up to 21 weekly departures. The main beneficiary is the traveller to Rotterdam, just three hours from St Pancras and previously poorly connected to Britain. Amsterdam, which is exceedingly well connected by air from the UK, is 40 minutes’ further.

Unfortunately, bureaucratic hold-ups mean that the service is one way only – coming back from the Netherlands, you have to change trains in Brussels. But the word on the platform is that direct inbound services should be with us by April 2020.

Gobbins Cliff Path (2015)

To see the “mist rolling in from the sea” to Scotland’s Mull of Kintyre, an excellent place to be is in Northern Ireland. Almost anywhere along the coast of Antrim will do, but the Gobbins Cliffs are particularly good; you can also look across at the anvil of land guarding the harbour at Stranraer in southwest Scotland. But this is just an overture for a fabulous reinvention of a Victorian adventure: clambering along the undercliff, on a network of walkways and bridges.

The Gobbins Cliff Path first opened in 1902 but was closed in the 1950s. Today, a guided tour makes an excellent day out from Belfast, or stepping stone to the Giant’s Causeway.

Hertz Ultimate Choice (2016)

The best rental car experience I have had all decade was earlier this year in Tampa airport. Forget lining up wearily after a long flight and going through the documents kerfuffle, carefully declining all the tedious and expensive extras. Instead, as Hertz instructed me by email: ”Go directly to the Gold zone, where you can choose any vehicle in that zone and go.” And that was that, choosing the roomiest (I was with an annoying film crew) and finding the keys already in the car. All I had done to deserve it was to sign up free with the rental firm’s Gold Plus frequent-renter scheme. Even though I am a very infrequent renter, I appear to qualify.

MS Roald Amundsen (2018)

“Flight-shaming” is an increasingly popular cause. “Cruise-shaming” isn’t. Yet in time the immense carbon footprint of cruising will be understood. Which means that the Roald Amundsen, the newest member of Norway’s Hurtigruten fleet, will be a relatively shining example of innovation – emitting one-fifth less CO2 than conventional vessels thanks to its hybrid propulsion system. Other vessels in the Hurtigruten fleet are being converted to run on liquified bio gas, made from organic waste such as fish.

Qantas from London to Perth (2018)

The daily Boeing 787 trip on the journey of 9,000-plus miles between Heathrow and Western Australia is now routine. While the environmental impact of ultra-long-haul flights is coming in for increased scrutiny, the passengers aboard the Dreamliner are loving the ability to reach Australia in a single hop. Families, passengers with reduced mobility and business people in a hurry are filling almost every seat on the 17-hour Qantas flights known as QF9 and 10. London-Sydney nonstops, likely to take three hours longer, may begin in the next decade.

Silk Road Express, Tashkent to Samarkand, Uzbekistan (2011)

The actual name of the train service on Uzbekistan’s high-speed railway is Afrosiyob, but I prefer Silk Road Express.

The 7.30am departure from the Uzbek capital, Tashkent speeds across the central Asia steppe at over 140mph, reducing the parched, crumpled foreground to a blur. The Spanish built train arrives in Samarkand, a city of minarets and mausoleums (as well, it must be said, of quite of a lot of Soviet detritus), after just two hours – unheard-of pace for terrestrial transport in this part of the world.

I paid about £12 for the trip, and few pence for onboard tea and biscuits. The line – a mix of new build and upgraded tracks – extends to Bukhara and will soon reach the mystical, medieval city of Khiva near the Turkmenistan border. Which, as it happens, is the most beautiful and beguiling place I have visited this decade.

And an honourable mention for Morocco’s Al Boraq line, which is Africa’s first high-speed railway – connecting Tangier, the capital Rabat and Casablanca in just over two hours.

High-altitude London (2013 and 2015)

Whether or not you invest £25 in a visit to (near) the top, the Shard has transformed the capital’s skyline – just as the London Eye did a decade earlier. London’s highest visitor platform was an integral part of the skyscraper’s design, and from 800 feet up you can see on a clear day for 40 miles (on a really unclear day, you will get a ticket for a return visit).

Yet this 2013 attraction has been mirrored by the Sky Garden – the amazing green and pleasant space that opened in 2015, facing the Shard across the Thames. It comprises the top of the building known as the Walkie Talkie for its strange shape, protruding from the City of London. The main purpose is as a posh and commensurately expensive bar and restaurant. But a certain number of people are let in free every day; book in advance online. (If your day isn’t available, then the 20th-century Oxo Tower on the South Bank has a viewing platform on the 8th floor.)

Titanic Belfast (2012)

On a quayside overlooking Belfast Lough, a structure as monumental as the ship it commemorates took shape in the early years of the decade. The visitor attraction occupies part of the old Harland and Wolff shipyard, which in the early 20th century was one of the most productive places on the planet.

If Ikea sold flatpack ships, and someone had made a muddle of the instructions, it would resemble Titanic Belfast. For once, the term “of Titanic proportions” applies literally. The top of the five-storey building is exactly as high as the tip of Titanic when the transatlantic liner was completed.

The vessel left Belfast on 2 April 1912. Twelve days later, on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York, Titanic struck an iceberg. She sank, with the loss of 1,517 lives, at 2.20am the next morning.

Titanic Belfast launched a century later. Inside this startling shell, the most familiar tragedy in maritime history is placed with sensitivity in its social context.

The high-risk project cost the city council and the Northern Ireland Executive almost £100m, but it succeeded in “doing a Bilbao”: transforming a post-shipbuilding city with bold, fresh architecture and a compelling story.

The visitor numbers, around twice as high as anticpated, tell their own story.