As a hospitality and tech enthusiast, to my dear friends and family there was nothing more logic than me switching sides and landing in this industry: the hoteltech. This rapidly evolving part of the hospitality industry always had my interest since it is driven by innovation and data. New initiatives, disruptors and challengers draw my attention as hotelier. In this column, Ask Mark, I will share my point of view from both perspectives, these being the old hotelier and the new techie. The subjects of each column will be based on topics I discus in the field.
This month’s topic: How did my perspective change since I switched sides?
Seeing things from a different perspective made me realize that as a hotelier I had blinders on sometimes, trying to protect the thing I loved the most: the vibrancy of hospitality. Now – being on the other side of the bridge – I realize that maybe we were (and still are) creating our own bottleneck. The world (of hospitality) is changing at a faster pace than ever, I think we can all agree on that. Being a new ‘techie’ myself, it may sound like a gospel fitting my own reason for being. Still, I believe that we, and with us many others, can really help the hotelier with their struggles. However, you must remain critical.
The past few weeks I spoke to many ‘like-minded’ people circling around the hospitality industry. Often young entrepreneurs focused on a part of the guest (or customer) journey. Many of these ideas focus on enhancing the guest experience (mostly once arrived in the hotel) or reducing the customer effort in making the booking. I believe that many of them are dreaming of being the new booking.com or Airbnb, although mentioning those two unicorns may not be so popular in this context.
I also spoke to different hoteliers, and they reflected on the observations I made about my previous role as commercial director of a hotel group. The primary focus is the absence of business due to Covid and the struggle to handle the business when C-word (or the lockdown measures) allows more business to come in. As before the pandemic, hotels are struggling due to a shortage of staff. The hospitality industry has been lacking new generations for the past two years, now more than ever. Moreover, the fight for talent and competition with other (well paying) industries has made it even worse.
Combine those two perspectives and you have a clear sight on the challenging era for the hotelier nowadays. War for talent and ever-changing IT landscapes with new market entrants and innovations. As hotelier you are trained for the human aspect of hospitality not connecting, configuring, and setting-up new systems and platforms. However, this changing mentality is now very common in the world we live in, across many industries. We all want to avoid that your hotel will become the next Kodak, Nokia or V&D (the last one is for the Dutchies), therefor I truly believe that the hotel industry should also embrace these changes.
Some platforms are not there to enrich the customer experience (and with that taking a piece of the profit margin of the hotelier instead of letting the user pay for their own ease) but to really make the lives of the hotelier happier. Platforms, possible with AI, can help the hard-working hotelier to make their processes leaner and more efficient. This gives them the opportunity to process the same amount of work with less people and the chance to spend more time interacting with their guests. In the end, humans are the only ones that can make a difference in the personal connection. We should let machines do what they do best, process data. It is up to you as hotelier! Choose wisely.
Do you have suggestion for the next topic, please let me know. Always interested in meeting new people or discussing topics affecting our Hospitality (and tech) industry. Reach-out to me via LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/mark-struik-2123649/