The Future Hospitality Professional

By Steven Ferry Chairman, International Institute of Modern Butlers | October 28, 2008

Here, we are not talking some corporate formula for guest interaction that too often results in canned phrases and plastered-on smiles; or a consultant guru's mantra for superior guest services that seeks to put a datum where intelligent observation and action should be. We are talking information relay followed by drilling on the "how to's" resulting in an ability gained. It's nothing mystic and has no relationship to any psychological mumbo-jumbo, but down-to-earth application of workable principles resulting in guests being properly assessed and treated in a way that they find pleasurable, which always leaves them feeling better than before the service was administered.

Such guest service employees of the future will be closer to Life Consultants than room service and will care as much about guests as their mothers. So says the crystal ball. Predicting the future can be fun. Take the "Future Holiday Forum" held in London, England recently for leaders in travel, technology and design. Their "2024: A Holiday Odyssey" according to a Forbes.com report predicted the future hotel for remote destinations as a foldable/ transportable, self-sustaining, low-environmental-impact pod on stilts in which guests could choose the images to be projected on the walls. The technology for such hotels already exists.

The line-up of future hotels that will similarly soon be with us includes underwater hotels and airship hotels that permit scenic views as one travels leisurely to one's next destination. Resorts in space no doubt lie in the future, incorporating spinning rooms for all the comforts that we have come to expect from living with gravity.

As for space-age technology addressed at specific hospitality issues, we already have 3-D hologram teleconferencing for hotels specializing in conference services. We will soon see smart cards containing all information on a guest, including likes and dislikes, as well as credit card information that will no doubt make check-in and customized servicing of guests easy.

Other technologies to be introduced into the hospitality sector include robotics for cleaning and check-in; biometric security such as retina scans for entrance to rooms and access to safes. Then there is nanotechnology (manipulating and manufacturing at the molecular level). While we are close to imprinting electronic equipment onto our clothing and even skins, there is talk of using nanotechnology to reconfigure rooms per guest wishes, transmogrifying the furniture, fixtures and decorations at the push of a button (so to speak).

However, notice that the talk of the future is invariably in the realm of gadgetry and machinery. Whatever happened to the human element? Are we giving up on our fellow man? Are we just using him or her until some machine can replace him not just on the factory floor but also in the giving of service? Just as Astounding Science Fiction moved beyond machines to focus on the human element regarding things from outer space during the 1930s, so I believe we need to move into improving the human element, rather than always focusing on the mechanical and even trying to substitute machines for humans. And by improving the human element, I mean moving beyond formulas and mantras to increase employee intelligence and ability to act self-determinedly, rather than other-determinedly by rote.

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Coming up in June 2019...

Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.