Upping the Ante: The Evolution of Hospitality Technology In 2015

By Bernard Ellis President & Founder, Lodgital Insights LLC | November 23, 2014

2014 has been a big year for the hospitality industry as a whole. Business is improving, and many hoteliers are seeing larger Revenue per Available Room (RevPAR) gains than they have in several years. Technology has played a critical role in the effort to grow revenue while simultaneously managing rising costs, and it will continue to be an important part of changes in the industry as we enter the new year.

Some technology trends from 2014 will persist into 2015 in a continuation of their current state, but others will shift in focus as business applications, and the mindset of hoteliers, change to examine existing processes in new and different ways. Ultimately security, the cloud, analytics and big data, and human capital management strategies will be primary focus areas for organizations looking to minimize costs and increase efficiency.

Continued Movement to the Cloud

According to a recent study, 33 percent of hotel and gaming companies are already using cloud-based applications for property and revenue management.(1) Another 35 percent intend to migrate their property management system in the next eighteen months, half of which intend to move to the cloud. Most cite cost savings, enhanced guest services, increased revenue, and improved operational efficiency as motivators for selecting cloud deployment.

These numbers prove that the cloud is no longer a "bleeding edge" route taken only by few. Its benefits have been clearly established, and many hoteliers are shifting from apprehension to recognition that this is the logical next step for their business applications. Companies are now asking how do we move to the cloud, rather than why. The most important thing for organizations taking this route to remember is that selecting the right vendor is critical to a successful cloud implementation. Choosing a solution that delivers the same in-depth, industry-specific functionality as an on-premise system while demonstrating compliance with ISO-27001 guidelines is essential to ensure that the organization's needs are met and security remains a priority.

Integration is also key because cloud-based applications cannot maximize their potential if data silos are created in the wake of their implementation. Benefits will not be fully realized unless systems are connected for automated, real-time information exchange, which also enables a holistic view of the company and allows for easy upgrades. Visibility across multiple properties is critical for better decision-making and optimization of revenue management.

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.