Thought leadership from some of the industry’s top “tech brains”

In this virtual roundtable, we ask six of the world’s top industry specialists what they see as being the key issues of the moment and how they are dealing with them.

Floor BleekerFloor Bleeker – Chief Information Officer, Mövenpick Group

Our biggest challenge in hospitality IT is to accelerate innovation to digitise customer and employee touchpoints in a cost-effective way. The expectations of hospitality IT are sky high, because other industries have done it so well. The travel, transportation, entertainment and banking sectors have all managed to create digital customer and employee experiences that are user friendly and cost effective, and this is now expected from us as well. That said, IT spending in hospitality is far lower than in any of the other industries, making this an even bigger challenge. At Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts we looked at the entire guest journey and are now working on digitising key touchpoints and processes such as check-in and payment.

Chris ChanChristopher Chan – General Manager, Research & Technology, the Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels, The Peninsula Hotels

The burning topic for us right now is how do we integrate smart home automation into guest rooms. This includes everything from wireless connectivity to voice commands as well as getting to the point where all the controls of a rooms are done by the guest’s phone or through other smart devices. It’s a question of using these kinds of ideologies to streamline the use of power consumption in the guest room, to providing information as to how the guests are actually moving from one location to another inside the room, or in the hotel.

The other issue is big data: using this as a way to learn more about our guests, such as where they are spending their money, what they ask for first when they arrive, or how they use our guest room technologies.

Hansen ScottC. Scott Hansen – Director, Guest Technology, Marriott International

For my work, specifically, the area of focus is not dissimilar than that of my colleagues I would imagine – which is intelligently and strategically identifying operational platforms that are able to accommodate future growth and opportunity. How do we make the right decisions around integration points with current systems? Where do we invest our time and resources to deliver long standing, scalable products for years to come? I will give you a practical example – and a focus of mine currently. Several years ago, a hotel television was just a screen connected to an antenna – delivering entertainment content. Today, we are implementing net connected appliances to all our television. To provide entertainment? Yes – but more importantly to deliver relevant messaging to guests about their loyalty level, preferences, trip/hotel information, etc. All of this requires us to create the right back-end environment that provides the TV – the same information that the guest receives on their mobile device, website etc. There are no standalone systems anymore – everything is integrated.

Christian LundénChristian Lundén – Director of Future Business, Nordic Choice Hotels

Co-creating with others is one of the most important issues I now see in our industry. So many things are happening right now in so many different areas, it is impossible to be on top of everything ourselves, and we need to get help from others. Together with other well-known companies and start-ups we can create a much better guest experience than if we try to do it ourselves. It will often be a much better solution and we can move faster if we start partnerships and cooperation’s with others. From a guest point of view, it is also better to utilise the platforms and solutions our guests already have at home, instead of trying to encourage them to use similar kinds of “parallel” services.

Monika NergerMonika Nerger – Global Chief Information Officer, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group

I think that one of the most critical issues we face at Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group is striking the right balance between enabling innovation and managing the increasingly complex security and data privacy landscape. Consumer technologies designed for home and personal use are challenging to provide in a hotel room occupied by many different guests. We are approaching this pragmatically, with a view to providing as much technological innovation outside of the core systems, using an enterprise services bus methodology. This ensures that our operational technologies have the right layer of protection without limiting innovation on the periphery. It also ensures that we can adapt our environment to a faster pace of change, and implement new technologies as they evolve in the marketplace.

Josh WeissJosh Weiss – VP – Brand & Guest Technology, Hilton Worldwide

Building on the success we’ve had, it’s mobility. Guests want to have control from their app, not only building an experience, but making it an outstanding experience. We have put tremendous resources behind making sure our app not only has the right functionality, but is also highly useable, globally relevant, responsive, fast, free from glitches, and really delivers an outstanding experience to the guest. We have deployed room selection, so now guests going to any of our hotels worldwide can choose their room from an interactive map. We are the only ones who have that and guests love it because it gives them choice and control. We then added on the digital key, which is now available in more than 1,200 hotels, and growing rapidly. The focus remains on ensuring that the mobile experience and door unlocking are totally intuitive and secure.