HITEC Panel: Technology investment requires direction, clear goals

HOUSTON — It doesn't pay to invest in technology without a plan. However, a panel of hotel executives at the Hospitality Industry Technology Exhibition & Conference 2018 in Houston accused the industry of failing to look before it leaps into technology upgrades, charging ahead without a precise objective.

 From left: Michael Levie, COO at citizenM Hotels; Cindy Estis-Green, CEO and co-founder of Kalibri Labs; Mark Carrier, president of B.F. Saul Company Hospitality Group; Barry Goldstein, chief commercial officer at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts; and Ash Kapur, SVP of hotel asset management and chief revenue officer at Starwood Capital Group.

From left: Michael Levie, COO at citizenM Hotels; Cindy Estis-Green, CEO and co-founder of Kalibri Labs; Mark Carrier, president of B.F. Saul Company Hospitality Group; Barry Goldstein, chief commercial officer at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts; and Ash Kapur, SVP of hotel asset management and chief revenue officer at Starwood Capital Group.

Ash Kapur, SVP of hotel asset management and chief revenue officer at Starwood Capital Group, said he is concerned by the number of legacy systems propping up the industry. He also is weary of the number of systems in a hotel’s “tech stack” (a combination of software products and programming languages used to create a web or mobile application) that have been temporarily repaired with “Band-Aids,” as he said. Furthermore, Kapur said that as the industry works to fix its growing list of tech limitations, organizations within hospitality continue to attempt to disrupt or reset aspects of the customer journey, creating more problems.

“The hotel space right now is very myopic. I think in some cases we have to press reset and ask what is a brand’s vision, what is the customer journey, and is there technology out there to help connect the dots,” Kapur said. “It’s important to have a vision, a sense of where you want to be three to five years down the line, and I don’t see that happen all the time.”

Cindy Estis-Green, CEO and co-founder of Kalibri Labs, said the hotel industry once was tactical in its approach to technology spend and integration. Today, however, she sees and industry that is hungry to innovate while simultaneously lacking direction.

“Technology was very tactical in the early days,” Estis-Green said. “If you couldn’t justify saving labor, then you couldn’t put new technology in. Accounting, point-of-sale and front-desk check-in took priority. Now we want the tech stack to deliver guest services, and we want technology to be front-and-center, which is a challenge because we have a lot of legacy systems.”

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