Powering High-Touch with High-Tech
Technology and the luxury hotel experience may often seem to have an uneasy relationship. Upscale brands pride themselves on high-touch, but the realization has come that this cannot come at the expense of high-tech. Even the most white glove of establishments know that antiquated digital touchpoints can quickly impact a guest’s sentiment and perception of a brand.
Finding balance means that often hotels across segments battle the “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should” war when it comes to the technology available in hospitality. Too much caution or hesitancy, however, results in lags where innovation should be happening. Mobile payments is one example where guest demand (52%) continues to outpace hotel adoption (28%). Another example: More than half of guests (55%) desire guestroom controls, but only 17% of hotels offer that technology.
The outlook is better where the in-room television is concerned. As guests want to use personal devices to watch and stream content, enabling in-room televisions to integrate with mobile devices so guests can access personal content is an initiative that 35% of hotels have taken and an equal number of guests (35%) say they desire this amenity.
After a sluggish start, hotels are closing the gap somewhat on mobile keys with 41% of guests wanting the capability and 35% of hotels offering it, according to data from Hospitality Technology’s 2018 Customer Engagement Technology Study.
The reality is that today’s guests are digital-first throughout the journey. Gartner predicts that “by 2020, 85% of customer interactions will be managed without a human.” To have machines and artificial intelligence (AI) powering the guest experience, hotels must look at how this hyper-digitization will impact overall IT strategy and infrastructure investment.
With digital touchpoints connecting guests to the enterprise, networks must be nimble enough to flex with fluctuating demands of guests and operations. Shoring up infrastructure to support transformative technology is a key focus for Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, according to Marco Trecroce, who took the reins of the luxury hospitality company’s IT strategy, eight years ago. As the company’s first CIO, he was brought on board to transform the company with cutting-edge innovation, while maintaining the brand’s signature high-touch service. Trecroce recognized that infrastructure – including robust and consistent Internet globally – was key to support a tech-forward strategy. This groundwork is what would make it possible to implement transformative technology for both guests and associates.
“We then were able to use that technology to build out additional applications,” Trecroce told Hospitality Technology for an April 2019 cover story. “Getting the groundwork done allowed us to focus the next five years on delivering more transformative IT initiatives and really moving our digital strategy forward.”