In June, Event Temple’s Founder and CEO Bob Graham sat down with Jos Schaap Founder and CEO of ROOMDEX and Richard Valtr Founder of Mews. The webinar was moderated by Paul Peddrick, an independent consultant who has been advising hotels on digital touch points for over 20 years. The four discussed hotel technology and decisions that hoteliers can make today to speed up recovery.
The conversation revolved around long-term tech strategies that properties can implement today to help recover from the covid-19 crisis. These were our biggest takeaways from the hour long webinar.
1 – Hoteliers Should Double Down On Cloud-based Technologies
Cloud-based tech provides your employees with accessibility to their software from anywhere in the world. This gives them the flexibility to work from home without any roadblocks. During the current pandemic crisis, working from home became the only option, however hotel groups tied to legacy PMS systems had to find ways to get to their hotel to do mandatory tasks like pulling their night audit report.
While hotels were closed during the initial global outbreak, they also still needed to be able to manage their front desk operations from home. As Schaap simply stated, “if a hotel was closed for a couple of months, [staff] still had to take reservations and they had to do a lot of cancellations”. The pandemic shone a light on the limitations of server based systems by complicating an employee’s workflow especially for those working in areas that had mandatory stay at home orders.
Cloud-based systems not only provide hoteliers with the flexibility necessary to manage a hotel during a global pandemic, they are typically the more affordable solution.
From Schaap’s perspective, “it’s actually a lot cheaper because most of the time, we’re not thinking about the hidden costs of having a server in a hotel”. These hidden costs include the actual cost of the physical server, the electricity to keep it running (even if it’s not being used), the licensing necessary to legally use the software, and the risk of unplanned downtime that comes with server based systems.
2 – Invest In Smart Hotel Technology
It’s called the hospitality industry for a reason. Technology should assist you and your teams to focus more on customer service and connecting with your guest rather than tedious administrative tasks.
Graham touches on this, “you’re not trying to get rid of service [with your tech], you’re trying to take away the points of service that are strictly administrative and are actually cogs in the customer journey.” Hoteliers should use the technology to enhance the guest experience at their property.
“When you do see someone, it’s ‘Hi, how are you? Welcome back to the hotel. We remember that you loved a mocha, so here it is.’ [Your guest is] thinking, ‘Wow, they know about me. They remember my preferences.’ Everything else is just easy and effortless.”
Hotels still need people and thinking that technology should replace your staff is the wrong mindset. According to Valtr, this type of thinking is “an awful, awful thing for most customers.” Hoteliers are going to be “fighting as hard as [they] can for every single dollar and for every single customer that’s actually coming in through [their] doors,” and, by investing in technology that saves time, they’re able “to use that time in front of them to actually start thinking about how they can actually work harder for even the singular customer.”
3 – The Future Is Integrated
There’s a quote from Heather Hart that says “it’s better to do one thing well than ten things poorly”. There are so many hotel tech companies out there. Rather than looking for one company that can do everything, hoteliers should look for businesses that specialize in one product or sector and want to collaborate and partner with other companies in the Saas space through integrations.
It allows hoteliers to cherry pick the products that work for their specific property without paying for unnecessary features or add-ons. This is called the API marketplace model and is something Mews, Event Temple and ROOMDEX are all passionate about.
For example, if you’re purchasing a new PMS, Schaap recommends that once you “select the PMS, make sure it has open APIs, truly open APIs and get that confirmed with some of the vendors you want to have them to connect to that PMS. That’s the biggest lesson I’ve seen in the last couple of months now that we are trying to connect ROOMDEX to multiple PMS.”
“I think the biggest thing to consider is there is no cost to the hotels when it comes to integration.” Schaap continues, “The integration is basically shared between both vendors. Also, because it’s so much easier, it doesn’t have to cost that much anymore. This means the marketplace is very important, or you need to make sure that your PMS has a very open API that is pretty much free to connect to.”
Simply stated – investing in technology companies that believe in integrating with others creates unlimited possibilities. Hoteliers can design a tech stack that fits their property perfectly without any unnecessary additional costs.
4 – Get Creative And Stand Out
One of the biggest criticisms of the hospitality industry is that hotel operators have been content with the status quo. Vacancy rates were low, ADR and total revenue were high so there has not been a need for innovation or creation. Disruption to the market by Covid-19 has forced hotels to re-evaluate their current business strategies. While Covid-19 has not been easy for the hospitality industry, it also has provided an opportunity to be creative and reinvent themselves.
Valtr suggests that hotels should start thinking like a tech company. Hoteliers can use ideas like webinars and make the topic relevant to their property. For example, “if you have a chef that is a super interesting person, why don’t you create a webinar for people? Why don’t you create a small cooking show basically with somebody at home? Why don’t you think about those things?”
It’s a simple idea but it allows you to connect with your potential customers in a relatable way. People are more likely to make a purchase when they feel a personal connection to the product. This is the main psychology behind influencer marketing and can be applied to any business model.
Graham believes hotels should stop looking at traditional spaces for meetings and events and start looking at other spots within their property that can be used for meetings. After going for a drive, he found a restaurant with 12 cabins around it. “They were promoting meetings and events. I thought, “this is the future post-COVID. We’re not going to be having 50 people in a meeting room at a big hotel, we’re going to be outside and we’re going to be having a lot more smaller groups in meetings.” This makes perfect sense. Hoteliers should start looking at other spaces like outdoor patios or their pool decks and use it to promote events and meetings while we are in a pre-vaccine world.
At the end of the webinar, Valtr states we should “never let a good crisis go to waste”. This simple statement is quite profound. Sales are down, hotels are seeing the lowest occupancy rates since 9/11 and the industry is in shambles.
Coronavirus has also given hotel operators the gift of time. Hotels typically operate at a different frequency than most businesses. GMs don’t always have time to assess software or change processes unless there is an immediate need. Right now, travel restrictions have given hoteliers an opportunity to find the gaps in their operations and solve for them.
The hotels that will come out of the pandemic ahead will spend time finding the right software. They will look for programs that streamline their processes and has an open API. These properties will be able to leverage their new tech stack to spend more time on the things that matter – their guest experience.