July letter: The wave of our industry’s future

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by Bharat (Bruce) Patel, AAHOA Chairman (2016-2017)

Just yesterday, conventional wisdom dictated that the customer (or “guest” in the hotel world) was always right – an easy-to-follow truism that offered only the barest idea of what he/she actually wanted. Nowadays, the guest has changed indeed. Old and young, sociable and introverted, tech savvy and technophobic, modern hotel guests are as different as they are numerous – and they demand a modern approach.

Developers of hotel technology have wasted no time catching up to their demands. In fact, some might say they’ve outstripped them. In Japan’s Henn-na Hotel, for example, guests can choose to be checked in by a smiling young woman in a cream-colored suit or a large green Tyrannosaurus Rex – both of which are robots. UAE-based Jannah Hotels & Resorts took it a step further, eliminating the physical front desk altogether and replacing it with an electronic concierge they call “Karim.”

While artificial intelligence has yet to have a significant impact stateside, there are plenty of American hotels getting a head start on what is undoubtedly the wave of our industry’s future. Already, check-in kiosks have been installed in the lobbies of brands like Red Lion, Best Western’s V­b, and Marriott, allowing guests to fully bypass human staff – at least upon arrival.

There are plenty of cool tech options available and undoubtedly many more to come. Our responsibility, as hoteliers and job creators, is to answer guests’ desire for “cool” with amenities and extras that are innovative, functional and sustainable. We must take a broad view when it comes to our properties, weighing the evolving needs and preferences of our guests against the long-term viability of available technology.

Most importantly, we must bear in mind that it is we who are ultimately responsible for the quality of a guest’s stay. Computers cannot interact meaningfully with guests, solve complex problems or offer a welcoming smile. Technology has its place – and I urge you to take full advantage of its benefits – but only humans can go above and beyond to make a guest’s experience truly memorable!

 

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