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Evolution of the hospitality Industry in the new era

Op-ed: Eric Wong on why a focus on cultural trends and technology development remains vital for the industry

To say that the hospitality industry has gone through a transformative period in the last two years is an understatement. 

In one sense, the radical and sudden shifts have knocked the wind out of the industry as it once was. In other ways though, it’s been a valuable way to illustrate the dangers of the status quo. Hospitality technology as it serves the guest experience is.

But, in every era, that challenge becomes a different version of itself. So, hotel groups must continue to undergo change accordingly, too.

With culture and technology intertwining and informing each other, the main driver for hotels and resorts is to consider what present and near future needs in the industry demand of them and how their current technology and strategy will prepare them for success – or not.

With that understood, what factors have come to a head during our era that leading hotels and resorts organisations are leaning into to redefine themselves? Let’s take a look.

Restrictions, limitations, and seeing value from other angles

The advent of the pandemic and the restrictions that followed placed a significant barrier on business as usual in the hospitality industry across the board as it once was. But what these restrictions also brought about was a period where hotel groups began to reconsider the basics, and then redefined their approaches accordingly. The most innovative and forward-thinking of them took the time to consider long-term strategy and new ways of finding value, while addressing a new set of guest sensibilities, not to mention operational requirements.

This includes an emphasis on safety and making sure that housekeeping and maintenance operations and processes to manage volumes of people in a space are in line with exacting standards.

Another is the continual exploration of new ways to attach value to spaces that hadn’t been traditionally mapped or conceived of before – outdoor spaces for events, guest rooms as alternate work from home spaces, and many others. In this way, embracing limitations and leaning into the change has opened a vista of new possibilities. Being able to scale toward them with flexibility in all locations is essential to success.

Deepening value shifts in millennial guests (and anticipating Gen Z ones)

When it comes to the guest experience and adjusting strategy to meet it, our current era has rushed things along. The path on which key trends were moving remained mostly the same. Continuing to follow it at the start of the decade was just a question unexpected and increased velocity. This is all to say that the modern guest experience has been evolving in a few important ways that hotel groups can still benefit to follow, including:

  • An emphasis on mobile engagement
  • Creating environments for more guest control, direct interaction, and visibility over the details of the offering at any point in the experience
  • Less necessary interaction with staff

This is reflective of a shift in values as much as in a turn toward new technology and responses to specific conditions. This has been an important trend as the industry began to focus on emerging generational behaviours and expectations driven by technical innovations around mobile and contactless technology. Those values that emphasise independence by way of personal devices as the hub of a buyer journey is a vital thread to follow.

These values and expectations have major implications that have only accelerated the need to create a stable and unified technology platform to continue to support them.

Agility counts – in attitude as well as implementation

Cultural trends and technology development are two major influences that affect how consumers approach their buying decisions and set expectations for what a great experience means for them. In the same way, planning the next steps for digital transformation and creating roadmaps for success requires agility in thinking, an awareness of cultural shifts, and in the considerations for fresh perspectives. These are as important as the details of technology implementation.

The industry will continue to evolve. Leaning into change requires multiple viewpoints and collaboration with internal and external experts to help shape a vision for where the business and the industry is headed. Having a sturdy platform in place to enact that change, and being able to scale as new ideas, new challenges, and new sets of expectations emerge will be crucial to continuing success. But so will a continual examination of the status quo, and a willingness to depart from it when necessary.

Eric Wong is Vice-President of Hospitality, Infor Asia Pacific.

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