2017's Hospitality Technology Trends

By Michael Schubach Strategic Deployments / Program Management Director, Infor Hospitality | October 30, 2016

Asking what the next big thing in hospitality automation will be is always something of a trick question. Industry watchers generally follow product announcements with a wait-and-see demeanor; contrary to conventional wisdom, the appearance of a better mousetrap does not guarantee a well-beaten path to the door. Industry consultants, on the other hand, tend to stay knee-deep in the needs and aspirations associated with current clients’ current projects. Taken as a whole, it means that there is generally a substantial gap between innovation and adoption.

We sometimes forget that we are afloat in an ocean of technology, and that change arrives in an unending series of waves. We are all perennially at different points in the constant shift in the depth beneath us. It can take a long time – years, perhaps – for the rising tide to lift all boats; one technologist’s new trend is another’s been-there-done-that adventure story. The most important factor in technology adoption is not what is suddenly available, but what is next on the list of established priorities. The competition for investment funds is keen, the projects endless, and the operational ability to assimilate change finite; the pace of change is not the pace of innovation but the but ability to fund and deploy something new in environments struggling to keep up.

Nonetheless, there are definite trends afoot, and they do bear some consideration by those making system and transition decisions in the coming year. First, let’s consider some of the must-haves: the technology demands that require immediate responses, typically owing to regulatory, security or ownership imperatives. These are the high priority changes that typically combine massive effort with minimal gratification or interest. One of the changes-du-jour that has falls squarely into that category is EMV compliance. This was supposed to be on last year’s list, but we’re still sorting though a lot of the details on a processor-by-processor basis.

As you will note from not only your hotel experiences, but also from your trips to – oh, any business that accepts card payments – that the conversion to chip-card technology has been highly disorganized. The card approval process used to be predictable enough that the general public could participate without appearing completely buffoonish. Now, it’s a jigsaw puzzle of hit-and-miss implementations; regardless of whether we slip, slide, swipe, tap or slap, the hokey-pokey steps can differ at each location. Perhaps it’s worth mentioning in passing that the rush to do something, despite the lack of industry, card-processor and hardware readiness, was because issuing banks are staunchly committed to shifting the liability for card fraud down to the merchants (you, at work), who, in turn, are committed to the price increases that shift that burden down to the consumers (you, at home). Our life / learning lesson here: technology changes can be swiftly implemented, provided there are no other options available and you don’t care how the project turns out.

Another infrastructure issue still looms large as one of 2017’s trends – an orderly transition to the cloud. This might feel like yet another trend from a previous year but for many hotels it is still very much in transition, still a part of that shifting ocean beneath us.

Why has the pace of adoption been so slow in the hospitality industry? Cloud apps – true cloud applications – are specifically designed to function in, and make the most effective use of, distributed networks where business logic, application data, on-line redundancy and the users themselves can span multiple data centers in multiple time zones. Lifting a traditional legacy application into a remote data center is not cloud computing – it’s hosting.

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Coming up in February 2018...

Social Media: Engagement is Key

There are currently 2.3 billion active users of social media networks and savvy hotel operators have incorporated social media into their marketing mix. There are a few Goliath channels on which one must have a presence (Facebook & Twitter) but there are also several newer upstart channels (Instagram, Snapchat &WeChat, for example) that merit consideration. With its 1.86 billion users, Facebook is a dominant platform where operators can drive brand awareness, facilitate bookings, offer incentives and collect sought-after reviews. Twitter's 284 million users generate 500 million tweets per day, and operators can use its platform for lead generation, building loyalty, and guest interaction. Instagram was originally a small photo-sharing site but it has blown up into a massive photo and video channel. The site can be used to post photos of the hotel property, as well as creating Instagram Stories - personal videos that disappear from the channel after 24 hours. In this regard, Instagram and Snapchat are now in direct competition. WeChat is a Chinese company whose aim is to be the App for Everything - instant messaging, social media, shopping and payment services - all in a single platform. In addition to these channels, blogging continues to be a popular method to establish leadership, enhance reputations, and engage with customers in a direct and personal way. The key to effective use of all social media is to find out where your customers are and then, to the fullest extent possible, engage with them on a personal level. This engagement is what creates a personal connection and sustains brand loyalty. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.