TECHNOLOGY LEADS THE WAY FOR THE NEW YEAR

When I wrote last week's blog about Millennials, I found myself looking back over the bullet points and making one conclusion--nearly ALL of massive changes in the hospitality industry are driven by one dominant force: Technology. In fact, this weekend, I was doing some research online and came across a Tripadvisor review. It read, “Austin is one of the few cities with Google Fiber and I would have expected more from this hotel.” This review speaks volumes about the expectations of technology in our field--we are supposed to be ambassadors rising technological trends.

Fiber Tourists: For those of you unfamiliar with Google Fiber, it is Google’s internet service. With connections starting at 1,000 megabits per second, Google boasts Fiber as the fastest internet in the world. But it is not available everywhere. In fact, Google Fiber is only available in seven cities around the United States. Kansas City, Charlotte, Austin, Raleigh, Salt Lake City and Atlanta. These select cities now have Fiberhoods that entice high-tech tourists with their internet alone. Hotels who missed their signup period are suffering. The service has only been available in Austin for less than a year, and already guests are demanding top speed internet. Google has announced the future location that will be using Fiber which are Long Beach, Orange County, San Antonio, and Louisville. Hotels need to be the first few registrants on the Google Fiber sign-up list to reap the benefits of Fiber tourism.

The Curated Experience: Technology is not just about having top-speed internet. In many ways, technology is about meeting the guest's expectations of the personalized experience. I spoke a little to this last week but left out perhaps the leading force in service personalization. With the increase of apps comes the rise of the curated experiences. Now our phones suggest the music we listen to, products to buy, restaurants to attend, and movies to watch. Hotels are quickly becoming a part of this scene adapting smart apps to collect guest data and curate their stay by suggesting hotel products and services as well as nearby attractions. While for now, it's hard to find an app that has as much knowledge and experience as a concierge, I predict these apps will surge the hospitality community this year.

Energy Efficiency: Adopting cleaner, more efficient equipment electronics and can, no doubt, save a hotel millions of dollars annually in energy and utility bills. Switching to energy efficient TV's and lightbulbs is not sufficient. Technology now allows us to cut energy cost everywhere. Laundry units and bathrooms more efficiently use recycled water and we see the use ofx key-card activated lighting emerging helping to cut down on power usage. Various campaigns allow guests to offset their footprint by keeping their towels and bedding an extra night or even choosing donating money toward energy-saving technology.  Every little change helps to make energy efficiency the new norm.

Saas reducing costs: I want to mention that as our mindset shifts to saving energy, we are also doing better at saving time and money by switching to SaaS (Software as a Service). Hotels are laden with data: property management software, central reservations, customer relationship management, revenue management. All of this data is expensive to collect and manage, and until recently, we have not even been leveraging it effectively. Moving to Saas models allows hotels to streamline and integrate all of the data. This means less hardware is stored at the property level, and the data is more readily available for marketing and customer service efforts

It is no longer a matter of whether you can make technology upgrades. As I mentioned before, our field is expected to keep up with technological trends. I know what you might be thinking; such fast changes in technology each year can be a bit overwhelming at times. One year a new technology sweeps the industry, and the next year it is old news. How can you predict money well-spent? When considering where to invest your technological upgrades this year, start by addressing your company pain-points. Then you can research what technologies are available to alleviate those problems. This research is what keeps us aloft.