Innovation and the Importance of Hospitality Leadership

Today, opportunities for innovation are everywhere. Moreover, the demand for innovation is just as customary. As the world becomes increasingly digital, companies and consumers around the world are setting new technological standards. The hospitality industry finds itself in the crux of this movement, with vendors and guests alike continuously pushing the envelope for what constitutes and contributes to the modern, exceptional guest experience.

Recently, HospitalityNet™ and HFTP provided the first edition of the Hospitality Technology Sentiment Survey. The initiative provided greater insight into the technological priorities of hotels and vendors, and those subsequent trends affecting guest requirements, investments in technology, and more as we head into 2020.

Unsurprisingly, the topic of innovation was an integral component of the survey. Do hoteliers and vendors share in the belief that continued technological innovation in the hospitality industry is paramount? Does innovation top the list of priorities for hotels and suppliers alike? According to the study findings, not quite.

The survey showed that while vendors and suppliers embody a continued passion for innovation, hotel groups consider that subject with notably less enthusiasm. Specifically, when asked if their organization allocates budget for IT projects which are purely serving innovation or research without any immediate expectations in ROI or guest experience, 61.98% of hoteliers polled said no. When answering this same question, however, 73.42% of vendors said yes.

This begs the question, why are hotel brands seemingly apprehensive towards investment in innovation?

In the case of hospitality, innovation isn’t solely defined by the implementation of new technology. Instead, innovation can be better understood as a collaborative process through which vendors and hoteliers work together to uncover new and improved ways to do things. Legacy processes or platforms which may require reform can be better adapted, with the help of new technology and innovative ideas, to create a more positive guest experience across the board. Ultimately, it’s the willingness to see the bigger picture — beyond ROI — to offer guests truly incredible experiences that are supported by ever-evolving best practices.

While immediate ROI is undeniably important in the eyes of any business owner, hoteliers would be daft not to recognize the immeasurable value which a commitment to innovation brings to a hotel property. In a hyper-competitive market, hotel brands should actively seek out any opportunity to develop an edge while facilitating an improved connection to guests. Kevin King, CEO of Shiji, explains this best, “Today, guests expect convenience, personalization and anytime, anywhere service on the device of their choosing. It’s their journey that dictates your strategy. And in order to keep up with this new kind of “always-connected” guest, hoteliers must embrace technology to exceed these expectations.” From pre-stay to post-stay, booking to check-in/out, PMS to CRM, room keys to smart rooms, and on-property service and personalization, the opportunity to invest in cutting-edge, transformative technology and research is abundant.

Legacy, tried-and-tested processes and platforms may seem safe or reliable, but they simply cannot keep up with the demands of modern guests. Hoteliers have an undeniable responsibility to both their staff and their guests to adopt a more innovative infrastructure, and, fortunately, vendors are positioned to partner with them for the entirety of that pursuit.

John Spencer, Global Industry Leader in Hospitality at Accenture, explains that “Hotels need to draw upon brand recognition that allows them to draw a distinction,” and it is precisely this call for differentiation that makes a case for industry-wide innovation. Our industry finds itself at an exciting crossroads; 2019 was an especially impactful year, and 2020 boasts the promise of continued evolution. However, it’s essential to recognize that we have only just scratched the surface in terms of the true technology potential available. With the right perspective, and through means of adopting a truly collaborative approach with vendors, hoteliers can position themselves firmly ahead of the curve. We can curate an industry that is rife with leaders who have the tools and partnerships in place to change the landscape both now and well into the future.

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