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Florida Professor Says Customer Buy-in Is Largest Tech Hurdle for Hoteliers in 2021

As 2021 begins, many are trying to figure out what the future holds for hospitality. HT is no exception. In our quest to find out how IT priorities are shifting and what technologies will be the focus of the upcoming year, HT has reached out to various individuals for their perspective. Here, we speak with Joseph Cilli, Director of Distance Learning for the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management at Florida International University, to get his perspective on how things have changed in the hotel technology space.

What should be some hotel IT priorities for 2021? 

Since we have experienced a shift in technology use, I would recommend hoteliers focus their priorities on hyper-automation and the execution of automating anything in the organization that can be automated.

What is one IT challenge hoteliers should work especially hard to solve in 2021 and why? 

Educating consumers on how to use their brand’s technologies is critical to the long-term success of any new technology. If the consumer is not comfortable or the tech is not user-friendly, then the technology will ultimately fail. Customer buy-in is critically important to technology success and longevity.

What technologies got a boost due to the pandemic? 

Although not very futuristic, it is no secret that communication platforms have shined a light on remote work capabilities. Many of these technologies existed prior to the pandemic but were not considered mainstream. The pandemic has moved these bleeding-edge technologies to the forefront and consumers have been intrigued, if not willing to use them.

How has the pandemic changed guests’ view of contactless technologies? 

Contactless technologies have existed for some time, but I believe consumers are more willing to use contactless devices and options now that they are now better educated on how easily the virus can spread.

What was the most underrated technology of 2020? 

High speed internet. Imagine if this pandemic occurred in the 90s. How much remote work could have been done via dial-up internet?  How would online ordering for restaurants have happened? This leads us to smartphones, streaming media, and the list goes on and on.

Was hotel technology underserved in 2020? 

I do not believe technology was underserved in 2020. Most, if not all, of the technologies prior to the pandemic existed. Prior to 2020, technology in the hospitality industry in general was viewed as embrace or avoid. 2020 forced many once-hesitant companies to embrace it. I see more of the same for 2021, but I am curious about how much of the pandemic-specific tech will remain post-pandemic.

In 2020, hotels leaned heavily into guest-facing technologies. Will 2021 see an emphasis on BOH tech?

2021 will focus on BOH specifically because the forward-facing technologies have now been implemented and will serve to feed the BOH data to better assist customers.


About Joe Cilli:

With more than 24 years of direct experience in the computer technology industry, Joseph Cilli currently serves as the Director of Distance Learning for the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management at Florida International University.  He has served as a professional speaker and educator.  Through his experience and educational pursuits, he has become a recognized expert in online learning and instructional technology.

Mr. Cilli holds a Bachelor of Business Administration (B.A.) degree in marketing with a minor focus on computer science; a Master of Science (M.S.) degree in computer science from the University of Miami; and has pursued a Doctorate (Ph.D.) degree in computer science in the field of data mining. 

His speaking engagements have included presentations on current trends in online learning, curriculum development for online programs, hospitality technology innovations, privacy and security, and customer expectations.  Although his primary role is related to online learning, he continues to teach various subjects related to computer technology.

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