HITEC: Industry must think holistically about tech

 Cindy Estis Green of Kalibri Labs; Mark Carrier of B.F. Saul Company Hospitality Group; Barry Goldstein of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts; and Ash Kapur of Starwood Capital Group; speak during the Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference

Cindy Estis Green of Kalibri Labs; Mark Carrier of B.F. Saul Company Hospitality Group; Barry Goldstein of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts; and Ash Kapur of Starwood Capital Group; speak during the Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference

HOUSTON—Technology is vitally important to the overall success of the hotel industry, but the industry’s general approach to utilizing technology might be holding it back, according to a panel of experts speaking during the Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition & Conference.

During the “Technology and the power of the C-suite” general session, Ash Kapur, SVP of hotel asset management and CRO for Starwood Capital Group, said he’s witnessed a lot of what the industry does wrong with tech over his years of combing through acquisition opportunities.

“When you look at the tech stack, in most instances you see a lot of band-aids,” he said. “There are a lot of things broken, and it’s not just the companies we’re pursuing. You see it across the landscape of hotels.”

He said the industry’s piecemeal approach to technology can often lead to bad guest experiences. He used the example of a front-desk employee having to ask a guest for a cellphone number at check-in to enable an on-property texting system, when the hotel already had the guest’s phone number in either its property management system or customer relationship management software.

“That’s the break,” he said. “Those are issues that need to be addressed.”

Data and privacy
Each of the panelists highlighted the need for systems that intuitively speak to each other and share important data for both guest-facing and behind-the-scenes improvements.

“Capturing that (data) flow and making it seamless is the challenge,” Kalibri Labs CEO Cindy Estis Green said. Achieving that goal will ultimately lead to a better level of recognition for repeat guests and better guest experiences, she added.

But Barry Goldstein, EVP and chief commercial officer for Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, said the need for seamless data sharing across a property’s systems and across brands comes with the very practical challenge of ensuring guest information remains safe and secure.

“The lens that makes this harder is privacy,” he said.

Panelists agreed that ultimately guests will agree to share data with hotel companies if there is an obvious payoff in terms of an improved experience.

“That’s driven by if you give me a good enough reason (to share information),” Kalibri Labs’ Green said.

She noted the hotel industry has had to shift how it views the ultimate purpose of technology. In the past, technology was largely viewed as a money-saving tool, and any new implementation would have to be tied to labor savings to drive return on investment, she said. But today, guest experience should be the driving factor in considering technology investments, she said.

“Now we’re using technology to be front and center as part of the guest experience and brand definition,” she said.

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