Last month HT produced its 10th annual Hotel Technology Forum. Ten years is a long time in technology. A decade ago Facebook had just been founded on Harvard’s campus and the newsfeed wasn’t even a glimmer. In 2004 we were still three years shy of the iPhone launch and the commercial price of a high-end 42” LCD could approach $5,000 (ouch). In 2014, television prices have dropped drastically and the iPhone is in its gazillionth iteration. But I wondered… just how much have hotels’ technology priorities evolved since then?
In prepping for this year’s event, I flipped, literally, through some old files on the first annual HTF (hard copies because the electronic versions weren’t even on the current server). Here were some of the featured sessions: Understanding the Next Generation of Guests; Integrating Property Technologies; Differentiating the In-Room Experience; Transforming Your Networks to Meet Demand. Wait -- these topics are 10 years old? Yes. And they still resonate today. The delivery solutions may have changed, but the core objective of providing great service and catering to the needs of guests hasn’t.
Case in point: as a part of celebrating this year’s 10th annual, we also opted to take a look ahead, 10 years into the future, through a new part of the HTF program dubbed “Hotel of the Future: Top Tech Challenge.” Teams were challenged to create a tech-powered service concept for hotels in the year 2024. After an hour of brainstorming, the teams presented their ideas to a panel of judges. Interestingly, all of the concepts addressed one common theme: how technology could be used to provide a more personalized experience for guests. All of the concepts would predict guests’ needs, and all involved intriguing uses for geo-location, predictive analytics and dynamic packaging. But one concept stood out because that team applied an additional layer: they would also ask the guest, in the moment, what they would like to have in order to better enjoy their stay.
This refocuses the predictive bells and whistles that technology can provide. It reminds us that, even in the year 2024 when your ambassador is a hologram — which theirs was — it still comes down to reaching out and asking the guest how you can best be of service.