It is time to look beyond the hotel walls to reimagine the future of hospitality

It’s time to look beyond the hotel walls to reimagine the future of hospitality

Giovanni Angelini: The hospitality industry is in the midst of one of the most dramatic periods of change in its history.

 

All indicationsare that in the coming years, the growth in global tourism will outpace the growth in the global economy. So how can the hotel industry make the most of it? While no one has a crystal ball and sometimes making predictions can be a dangerous game, responsible executives must nevertheless plan for the future. Veteran hotelier Giovanni Angelini casts his eye on the challenges and opportunities ahead for the hotel industry to reimagine its future.

Anticipating changes and identifying new opportunities has become an essential part of the business. An efficient “rolling” five-to-10-year strategic plan can be a useful guide. Do we let our imagination loose? Or do we look at the future based on our experiences, new trends, new technology, innovations and customers’ expectations?  Changing customers’ demands and new competitive threats are pushing hotels to plan and respond.

Very few professionals anticipated the speed of changes that have taken place over the past 10 years. In all probability, we will see even faster and more dramatic changes in the next 10 years.

The industry is in a period of significant evolution and new opportunities. Leaders and executives are faced with a long list of important questions that have to be answered in order to plan and respond to demanding market needs:

  • Where will future profits reside? How do we create shareholder value?
  • Will investments in new hotels generate acceptable NOI and ROI?
  • If new investments are not financially viable, what needs to be done to achieve economies of scale?
  • Who are the game-changers/next generation of brands? How do they do it?
  • What will shape the future of the hotel experience? Should brands invest more in Customer Experience Management?
  • What needs to be done to increase direct online engagement with guests?
  • What innovations and technology do we need to look at?
  • Who will be the new disruptors and how do we respond to the new challenges?
  • What will it take to achieve and maintain market leadership and prevent a brand from deteriorating over time and becoming a commodity?
  • Will the definition of getting a good night’s sleep change? Will neuro-technology change the way we sleep?
  • What is the potential of the living space? And what does the smart room of the future consist of?

One thing we can take comfort in is that the “human touch” is part of hospitality and it will remain as such. We are in the people business that by its very nature requires the personal touch. Technology cannot replace the human touch but in some cases, it helps provide speedier responses to customers and in the handling of the 24-hour perishable inventory that hotels manage daily. Creating the right balance of technology and humanity is a must.

Here are some of my thoughts on different aspects of the hospitality business to consider when planning for the future:

Innovation

Much more will be needed in the future as compared with the past. There will be a new wave of innovation in all areas – marketing, sales, revenue, costs, profitability etc. The end objective of innovation should be to become more efficient, generate more sales, avoid waste and unnecessary expenses, and make that guest experience seamless and memorable. And it is important to note that innovation is not only about new technology but processes as well. Innovation is what drives the organisation’s mission and directions.

There is a need for continuous transformation in all areas in order to be competitive, evolve, innovate and respond to the latest and future business trends and expectations. The hotel industry has lagged behind in innovations and this has to change.

New technology

New technology can be an enormous challenge as there are so many new systems/products/solutions out there, such as, cloud computing, reservation platform hyper connectivity, high-tech amenities, virtual concierge, virtual reality entertainment, new ways to access the Internet, personalised hotel rooms, confirmation and payment with DNA (finger printing), in-room entertainment, etc. It is critical that technology be free to guests, is user-friendly and enhances the guest experience.

With the plethora of new technologies on offer, one aspect to focus on would be technology that creates a truly personalised experience for individual customers.

Total hotel management revenue

This is an area where organisations must continue to be proactive. A must-have is an upgraded daily revenue optimisation system addressing new measurements like who books what and when, making best use of supply and demand data, selling the ideal room to the ideal customer, revenue per available square foot/meter for the whole area (not only rooms), pricing, promotions, low/high demands, segmentation etc.

Mobile

Mobile e-commerce, Chat-bots with artificial intelligence (AI) for customer service and reservations, DNA mobile check-in/payment, room selection/assignment, opening of room doors, mobile-friendly and video ads etc. And the impact of 5G mobile…we simply cannot get away from investing in a wide range of solutions that create service automation and immediate and personal engagement.

Robots

For better or for worse, robots are on the way and are no longer a gimmick. All indications are that this trend is unstoppable. Most large hotel groups are already experimenting with robots – Japan is leading the way as the first “humanoid robot” was introduced at a hotel in Japan in 2006. At present, there are robots for concierge, front desk, porter, food server/room service, bartender, housekeeping, training etc. But will robots come at the cost of human interaction and human jobs? Are customers at ease with robots? While planning for the future, robots have to be considered at least for some basic services.

Global brands

Large global brands will have an advantage over the smaller hotel groups/brands. Mergers, acquisitions, affiliations and combining of loyalty programmes will continue in the future as it will be more difficult and expensive for the non-branded properties and small hotel groups to compete. Economies of scale will come into play. The rise of “super chains” with strong negotiating power will generate new and disruptive forces and change the way hoteliers think about their business. Small-medium size brands must clearly identify and define their strengths in order to survive.

Travel networks

Will branded travel networks such as TripAdvisor, Airbnb and others fill hotel rooms at much lower costs as compared to hotel systems? And will they begin working directly with owners and developers of hotels? Will the traditional management and franchising agreements become too expensive for hotel owners? It is a fact that hotel owners are becoming far more savvy about HMA’s and Franchising agreements. Will hotels put their inventories on sharing economy networks?

Loyalty programmes

An effective loyalty programme is and will remain an essential part of the hotel business allowing recognition, reward and communication with customers. The travel market will be defined by constantly rising customer expectations and the need to exceed them. It is critical for hotel brands to continuously engage with both their existing clients and with new potential customers. Loyalty is always evolving and must respond accordingly. The key to loyalty is to get customers to book directly with the hotel. Therefore, it’s a must to keep the programme and processes simple and customer-friendly. There’s some indication that in some cases, the industry is moving away from points and more toward guest recognition, perks and experience.  The question is will convenience and value matter more than brand and loyalty?

Food & Beverage

Restaurants within hotels must also evolve and innovate as with the constant increase in operating costs and ever-increasing competition, profitability will continue to decrease. Can hotel restaurants survive and if so, how? The present all-day dining concept is fading very fast and it has to be addressed. Specialty restaurants need economies of scale in order to survive and in most cases this is not happening.

Gradually hotels have to plan on putting in place Gourmet Genomics where meals can be custom-designed based on an individual’s DNA. Improving health, nutrition and fitness have become priority for most travellers.

Remote working opportunities

The global rising culture of virtual offices and co-working spaces enable millions of workers around the world to tap into the global workforce from anywhere given Internet connections. Hotels will have to respond to the demand from the technological-minded, next generation travellers who are driven by a world immersed in technology and social media and who are determined to make the most of the world.

The hospitality industry is in the midst of one of the most dramatic periods of change in its history. Responding to the present consumer demand is a given but how do we create products and services for the future? One thing is for sure, it is a must to look beyond the hotel walls.

Original content at: https://www.webintravel.com/look-beyond-hotel-walls/