Wednesday, 25 September 2013

HOSPA - mobile change in hotels

I’m a mobile man…are you? (sorry “person”)

Well we all know the trials and tribulations as we try to hook up to the Wi-Fi at hotels around the globe. The best places I found for catering to travelers needs are the South Americans, they know how to deliver free Wi-Fi. Hostels also recognize the value of Wi-Fi for guests, but why do hotels still struggle with this concept? Why can I go to the pub on the corner and surf, but not in my hotel room…and we wonder why hotels are struggling?

I attended the HOSPAWorkshop event to look at mobile technologies in hotels, beyond Wi-Fi it’s the strategy that hotels, on the whole, really need to catch up. While their retailing counterparts are outdoing them with online purchases and the buying experience, the hotel industry is still using archaic systems to manage their properties, their people and their guests.

Social media is in full swing as we blog, Tweet and Facebook / G+…and hotels are keen to commercialise this instead of jumping straight into the action.

Software companies at this event talked about the ‘cloud’, you know that place where we store our photos and documents from our mobiles?! And they talk about SaaS (software as a service), like our Gmail accounts, Flickr etc…

See. Several steps behind us right?

Well just imagine what their Reservation management system looks like? You wonder why it is so difficult to book a hotel direct, or a hotel has the right reservation details for you…well wonder no more…!

We are changing the way we book our hotels, where we find where we want to stay, yet we’re continually forced to use the big brands or TripAdvisor, Expedia or booking to research and make these decisions. We want a new experience to our hotel stay, and as the mobile youth generation begin to afford to travel their decisions are going to be on how well a hotel can service them…through our mobile.

And the impact? A big change in the way that the middle hotels 2 – 4* will survive to deliver guests these expectations.

Everyone talks so highly of CitizenM…the concept of community, loyalty and being part of the club, a hotel brand utilizing new technologies like Apple Passbook (you know how frustrating it is to have to find an internet café to print off your boarding pass or hotel reservation receipt).

Speaking to Mike Murray of Tripcraft, an enterprise solution for hotels, has the guest experience and loyalty at the centre of the system to help hotels improve that customer service. Facilitating multilingual conversation between the guest and the hotel staff…and incorporating all existing technologies in the hotel, so that OUR guest data is centralized so we don’t have to repeat ourselves time and time again.

Mobile technology is developing at such a rate, the question is will hotels be able to tap into it and keep up. iRiS Mobile Concierge is another one that is placing all hotel services within an App to help customers search for information, and order services and products themselves, from their room or when they are on their way to the hotel.

Speaking to Paul Lingard-Kay of Old English Inns, technology is moving in a hotel but adoption is not easy. At local property level, expecting staff to handle these technologies consistently is a challenge, and therefore centralizing this management of digital, marketing, content and communications with guests is the trend.

It helps to understand why some communications is more generic than we would expect from unique properties.

What we also have to understand, as travelers, is that on the whole, the industry has “forgotten” that it’s in the ‘people business’. Salaries have changed little, and you will often be confronted by the lowest qualified staff in the most important positions. As a guest this cannot excuse misgivings in the level of service or quality of experience at the hotel.

It is as though the level of trust in staff has diminished in favour of cutting basic operational costs, that include salaries, rather than trying to maintain a higher quality level of service.

We can put this down to one thing – hotels are looking for the quick fix.

Everything is being bolted in, hotels are trying to evolve rather than take a leap of faith and do something different. And travelers are only going to suffer.