Managing the Hotel Digital World

By Mark Ricketts President & Chief Operating Officer, McNeill Hotels | July 08, 2018

Today, a guest can make a reservation online, never speak with any of our hotel staff in advance of arriving; check in digitally; and ask for services through cell phone texts. It's further conceivable that our housekeeping, maintenance or front desk staff might never see this guest during her or his stay; and, then, he or she checks out in the same stealth mode as upon arrival. The only trail or record of this visit will be an electronic one.

Made possible by today's best technologies, are phantom guests really the future of hospitality? It's certainly not the fondest of thoughts for a true hotelier. 

We won't quite call it the Digital Divide, but we are finding that today's digital world presents a host of considerations with respect to guest interaction and privacy, as well as staff training and our own comfort level with many new and extremely powerful technologies. How do we graduate some of our older or less technically adept, but capable and valuable, staff into digital ways? Is there potential friction among those who are good at technology and others who are less so? How do we factor technology skills into the evaluation process? Is the latest technology always the greatest way to accomplish our objectives?

In this article we will consider how hospitality organizations need to use care in deploying new technologies as we endeavor to be efficient and profitable while serving guests to the best of our abilities, in a highly competitive and ambitious industry environment. In essence, the question is, how do we take advantage of everything that technology can offer us with without diminishing our own best human qualities?

The Advent of the Digital Era

While we inhabit a world of physical reality, including those vibrant but immovable objects we call hotels, and our economy still thankfully manufactures things, there is a reason ours has been called the Information Age.

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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.