By Cory Factor
For as long as the hospitality industry has existed, it has hung its hat on the hook of customer service. Some guests are happy with a clean room, a hot shower and a cozy bed. Many others are charmed by—and even expect—a smile, a friendly “How may I help you?” and that most irresistible and irreplaceable of elements: the human touch.
And although those days are most certainly not behind us, the sector is facing unforeseen circumstances. While a majority of industries were blindsided by the pandemic, few were rocked as severely as the hospitality space. In fact, the World Travel & Tourism Council reported that the industry lost $4.5 trillion in 2020, with its massive contribution to GDP decreasing almost by half (49.1%).
Despite the industry’s gradual rebound, many hotels and resorts have been forced to do more with less, attempting to appeal to guests amid staff shortages and limited resources. In particular, luxury brands—those most associated with hands-on, white-glove service—have been hit hardest during the pandemic. And because equilibrium appears to be a long way off—McKinsey & Companyestimates that a recovery to pre-pandemic levels may not happen until 2023 or later—the tools of hospitality, out of necessity, must change to stay relevant.
The challenge is clear: How can hospitality businesses, particularly premier brands, possibly offer guests the pre-pandemic levels of service they have come to expect while still maintaining a viable budget, now and for the foreseeable future?
Technology will be the key to the industry’s success in the coming months and years. Hotels and hospitality venues have been historically conservative and risk-averse when it comes to unfamiliar or new technology. But now is the time for hospitality brands to evaluate their tech stacks and ensure they are poised for success in an increasingly automated and touchless economy.
Now is the opportunity for hotels and hospitality venues to make up for lost time—to reach more guests than ever and to drive revenue using tools that have been proven to pay for themselves (and then some) over time. But where to start?
First, ensure that your tech stack is integrated and cohesive. Most innovative hotels are fully streamlined in their digital approach, which often is precisely what allows them to operate with a leaner workforce. Whether it’s touchless room entry and digital room service ordering or the latest customer relationship management software and innovative RFP tech for a brand’s sales and marketing team, technology is leading the hospitality industry into its future—and sooner rather than later.
The most critical insight hesitant hospitality brands should understand is this: Others in the space have already embraced new technologies, and guests are already adapting and adjusting their expectations. The moment to act isn’t coming—it’s here.
The value of the hospitality industry’s human touch will endure. But as tech disrupts the sector—just as it already has disrupted so many others—hospitality brands must seize the massive opportunity that lies in connecting with increasingly tech-savvy guests, while capitalizing on key cost-savings and sales opportunities that can lift a business from in recovery to thriving.
For five+ years, Cory Factor has been the president of Sportsdigita. He was previously the CEO of MinuteBids for more than five years and the CTO of Entrip Inc.
This is a contributed piece to Hotel Business, authored by an industry professional. The thoughts expressed are the perspective of the bylined individual.