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Rob Jones
Written by Rob Jones
November 28, 2017

9 Technology Takeaways from HFTP Hotel Yearbook 2018

Every year, the good people at Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP) publish a yearbook comprised of insights from the experts in the field, touching on some hotels industry technology trends of the past year. From there, those trends point to the future in the coming year ahead. 

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Reflected in this year's edition, 2017 was a year that had everyone in the industry continuing to think about business data and the best way to collect, examine, and action it in an era of data overload. Threaded through that conversation were the topics of the growing importance data science and analysis, AI, and IoT, and how these emerging movements and technologies are signs of where the industry as a whole is going.

Here are some of the key takeaways from HFTP's 2018 yearbook that are worth considering as you're thinking about the year to come. Take a look.

1. Technology leadership roles are changing

There's a burden on the technology platforms of organizations to have a direct impact on the success of the business more so now than ever. The very nature of IT roles and the priorities of teams are now less of a specialized silo,  and more of a hub to educate the entire organization on direction and strategy. 

"IT leadership 2.0” professions are becoming connectors between people and departments. Out of that, leaders in the space are seeking to better understand business needs, not just how to better manage applications. Promoting continual improvement to do that more effectively, and to create tangible results out of that effort is the emerging mandate of technology teams for hospitality organizations.

2. The technology “ecosystem” model is becoming more dominant

The model of how a technology is fixed around a PMS is shifting from a standard "wheel and spokes" model to a more interconnected and non-linear ecosystem of applications of which PMS is but one. This shift makes hotel technology infrastructure a better vehicle for gathering insights, and creating better service to guests driven by data.

In part, this is in reaction to the profusion of data sources we've seen move more into the mainstream in 2017, with smart appliances, smart phones, and even the internet itself playing important roles. This decentralization of where the data is sourced is indicative of how technology and its management is likely to change over the next year, and beyond.

3. Better connections between CRM and strategy are essential

Throughout 2017, there were many important conversations between hospitality professionals around how to get to know guests better; what they respond to, what they expect, and what technology should be in place to serve them best. This means that as the industry goes forward, traditional CRM has to inform technology buys and marketing strategy.

As much as data is decentralized in relation to where it's collected, the emphasis to connecting all data sets into one coherent source of truth is mandatory in 2018. From there, a big picture of what's happening in the data will enable organizations to better serve repeat guests and more intelligently attract new ones, too. All of this will help hospitality businesses to better prioritize technology investments that will yield the most return.

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4. Greater safeguards on personal data collection must be a priority

With the data-rich nature of the hotel industry that is only becoming deeper in the next year and into the 2020s, the burden of responsibility is all the more consequential when it comes to consumer data. Knowing more about a consumer through collected data must be balanced with that individual’s right to privacy.

The key issue to solve is this; how do organizations make it as easy as possible to protect the consumer, while also fleshing out a much better profile to better understand and serve guests? Something to keep an eye on from 2018 and beyond must include attention to international laws concerning the collection of data, especially around the area of consent. This has important implications as applied to an even greater emphasis on data security as well.

5. Open integration is becoming even more important

Integration and frictionless functionality has been a topic for a long time by now. In 2017, there were many discussions in the hotel space about leaving behind legacy systems that lock organizations into using proprietary tools that don't scale easily. The new direction in 2018 is about technology platforms that are designed to evolve as a given, and to help brands be better prepared for what the future brings.

Hotels must continue to retain and develop their agility in keeping up with emerging applications in areas like loyalty programs and payment processing, among others. To support that goal, their technology platforms have to be enabled by the “ecosystem” model touched on earlier with applications that speak each other's language, whether internal or external to the company platform.

6. Examining preferred payment methods and accommodating them is necessary

Just as new applications for loyalty and reporting are expanding, so are diverse payment methods. These must be implemented centrally instead of on a location-by-location basis to accommodate changing trends of consumer preferences on a global scale. 

This approach also enables a common experience of easy and seamless transactions at every brand location to maximize guest convenience. Further, this investment in new payment processing applications moves the industry closer toward mobile-based payment methods, currently in the testing stages among brands today.

7. Personalization is still a priority

As the millennial consumer base becomes more dominant, the requirement for greater personalization follows in parallel for the coming year. Targeted promotions based on real guest preferences and shared between all locations is still a given. So is pulling in transactional data from multiple sources to flesh out who consumers really are, and what they really want. 

Personalization efforts also allow for warmer communications with consumers, which should also be mobile-first. This could mean personalized emails and texts to check in with guests before, during, and after their stay to create a continuum of communication at every stage. This is all a part of an effort to use emerging technology to serve a traditional role in the hospitality industry; to extend a greater sense of welcome. The 2018 version of that goal must be data-driven and technology-enabled.

8. All technology solutions must connect with measurable results

This seems like a standard practice all around. But because there are so many players out there vying to partner with enterprise hotel chains going into a new year, practicality must be the primary guiding principle to choosing vendors and solutions in 2018. Brands must focus on what specific technology will remove specific barriers to success, seeing through flashy features in some products that perhaps won't do that. This is the foremost lens technology professionals will use to proceed into next year.

What does that practical approach look like? Technology that hotels invest in must make the guest’s stay better in some form. It should help to encourage return visits. It should make staff member’s jobs easier to allow them to serve guests more efficiently, and also to retain employee talent. It must be tied to increasing revenue. It must integrate with PMS and other systems to create better clarity on what's really happening to enable better communications, corrections, improvements, and measurable wins in all of those areas.

9. The industry needs to focus on innovation, not business as usual

Creating new visions for the hotel guest experience must continue in 2018. The questions to ask are this: how does/should emerging technology enhance the room? How should technology help re-define what a hotel stay means as we go into a new year, and soon a new decade? 

The industry must move beyond the problem of how to make a slower burning candle and more toward how to invent the electric light. 

What will that look like for you in 2018? What technology gaps have you already identified in your technology platform that may help you to answer that question?

We'd love to hear more about your 2018 roadmap, and about the kinds of challenges you're gearing up to face in the new year and beyond.

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