Hospitality is the heartbeat of travel and tourism, with technology dictating the rhythms.
The relationship between hospitality and tech is constantly shifting in response to not only industry developments but also the evolution of technology itself.
Distribution dilemmas are one of the most obvious manifestations of how hospitality and technology are entwined. This dynamic has been in place since the emergence of the online travel agents and has now morphed into a more complicated and sophisticated dialogue than the former simplistic exchanges around “direct versus indirect”.
The facilitated booking functionality of metas, the shift of the major OTAs into B2B tech providers for their hotel partners, the incentivisation of brand dotcom customers to use loyalty schemes and the increasing alignment between business and leisure travel all feed in to the distribution debate.
And the emergence of Airbnb – well funded, legacy free, ambitious – into the hospitality space cannot but be a part of this conversation. Do not forget mobile’s growth, ad tech sophistication, globalisation, data and more.
However, there are other technologies emerging to complement and complicate the existing conversations. Artificial intelligence (AI) has matured over the past couple of years and is on the verge of becoming a mainstream part of hospitality. A sign of how quickly AI has developed is that that many hotels are offering guests the chance to engage on-property with enterprise versions of voice-activated consumer devices such as Alexa, Siri, Cortana and Google Home.
AI is also feeding into the desire of some guests to use chatbots or automated messaging services such as WeChat and Facebook Messenger. AI in turn allows the hospitality industry to deliver on their guests’ desires.
Blockchain is another new tech which is maturing rapidly. Blockchain-enabled initiatives are on the radar of many hospitality businesses and technology partners, although the buzzword factor is still deterring some from entering the fray. Nonetheless, some major names in the space are active and the library of use cases continues to grow. The unanswered question at present is how many of these uses cases will end up as a success story.
But hospitality is not only about tech. There are some examples of hotels which position themselves as tech-enabled, but inevitably there is a need to have people working on-property to help deliver the experience to the people staying on-property. Technology helps optimise the people-to-people aspect of staying somewhere, from giving staff insights into the personal requirements of guests to the ability to make operational improvements and efficiency gains.
All this and more will be discussed at ITB Berlin 2018 at the Hospitality Tech Forum, taking place as part of eTravel World on Thursday 8 March from 2pm. A series of seven 30 minute presentations and panel discussions will be moderated by Nick Vivion, editorial director of tnooz.
The afternoon kicks off and concludes with sessions looking at two of the bigger picture conversations taking place – why corporates and travel management companies should become traveller-centric in their approach begins proceedings, with a panel session looking at what is influencing the current “OTAs and Hotels – confrontation or cooperation?” debate ending the afternoon.
Attendees will also get the chance to hear experts share specific use cases in hospitality for not only blockchain but also AI. A session dedicated to direct guest messaging will take a data-driven approach to validating its importance while also sharing best practice on how hotels can communicate with guests and through what channels.
Social recruiting – the use of digital platforms to advertise positions and attract candidates – is an example of how tech is being used to help operations. Getting the right staff to deliver the right experience is vital for any hospitality business and this session looks at how human resource departments are adopting to an increasingly online mindset.
Personalized pricing in hospitality sits at the intersection of many technologies – big data, revenue management, customer experience for starters. Representatives from hotel brands and tech suppliers will look at the theory and practice of this emerging concept.