HB ON THE SCENE: At The Lodging Conference, Leaders Talk Tech

PHOENIX—At The Lodging Conference, held here at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, industry leaders led by Don Landry, owner, Top Ten Hospitality Advisors, discussed trending topics in hospitality. The hotel cycle and a possible economic downturn set the stage for the panelists to cover industry disruptors and how evolving technology plays a role.

Consistency and Creativity
OTAs and Airbnb: How much of a risk are they really? The hotel leaders agreed that the industry needs to keep an eye on these platforms, but that there is a way to manage their presence.

“Where possible, activate and work with them,” said Heather McCrory, CEO, North & Central America region, Accor. McCrory said that as these types of platforms evolve, and as hoteliers take notice, it is best to keep up and work alongside the evolution, but in a way that hotels can—and it begins with brand management and consistency.

Tyler Morse, CEO/managing partner, MCR Investors, said managing a brand may be more about managing a product from an experiential standpoint, which begins with creativity. “The creative dog is going to get the bone. People have shown that they appreciate creativity and they’re willing to pay a premium for that,” he said.

Saturation and Service
David Kong, president/CEO, Best Western Hotels & Resorts, expressed his concern for brand proliferation and over-saturation. “I’m much more concerned about the overbuilding situation,” he said. “In a lot of markets, we have a lot of new hotels opening up and that’s putting pressure on occupancy.”

Customers are key for Kong, who said that brands help hotels grow as long as brands deliver what customers want. “Broaden the hotel base so we have protection from a downturn,” he said, advising operators to decrease costs and plan for a softening of the industry.

A lot of costs are drowned in faulty or misplaced technology, Morse said, which—although it’s often promoted as a boon to customer service—ends up slowing things down, quite literally. Morse said that a prime example of this is hotels text messaging guests, a technology that few properties can afford, both financially and operationally.

“Just because people like to text doesn’t mean that you have to have the product when you add that to your product mix,” he said. “We can’t just keep layering on new products in a flat RevPAR environment and the price point stays the same… If you don’t get a text back in two minutes, now you’re disappointed and had a bad service experience.”