With hotel technology serving as a linchpin, The Hospitality Show yesterday concluded its inaugural event, which reportedly drew an estimated 3,500 attendees from various facets of the industry.
The technology focus was underscored by a panel discussion entitled “Hospitality CIOs Meet Their Customers,” during which executives from brands and a major third-party operator assessed the artificial intelligence (AI) revolution within hotels and shared their respective strategies going forward.
Scott Strickland, EVP and chief information officer, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts—which includes more than 9,000 hotels and 24 brands—addressed some of the recent changes on the AI front, particularly the widespread popularity of ChatGPT, and how it can benefit hoteliers.
“AI is a tool, just like business intelligence is a tool and data is a tool. The way we’re looking at it is how do we apply this tool for our three customer segments, which is our team members, our franchisees, and our guests? For our Wyndham employees certainly it’s a great tool to accelerate finding reference data and for our franchisees it’s going to help them focus more on the guest experience,” he said.
Dan Kornick, chief information officer, Loews Hotels & Co., maintained that AI is hardly a new concept for hoteliers.
“We’ve been using it for the last five to 10 years in the hospitality industry. It’s inside of every tool and process that we do so it’s nothing necessarily new. If you think about it revenue management is all machine learning data and it’s really transformed our industry in terms of how we sell our price points,” he said, adding things like guest sentiment surveys are another example of how it’s been utilized.
Kornick went on to illustrate AI’s potential impact on consumers.
“For guests it’s opening a whole dynamic to really change how you plan and schedule your vacations. Expedia is now putting their customer tool out there in terms of how to truly book a vacation and it’s stunning. That is going to dramatically change how people book,” he noted.
Andrew Arthurs, chief information officer, Aimbridge Hospitality—which is the industry’s largest third-party operator—opted to focus on the technology’s application among its associates.
“As an industry we have invested a lot of time and money on the guest experience and guest-facing technology and that all makes sense. But we haven’t spent as much time or energy on the employee experience. For us we look at the employee journey and that starts at the top during the recruiting process. We’re looking at AI tools that enable a better recruiting experience for the candidate and that is all about real time, relevant information.
“It could be something as simple as a benefits query or it could be something that we inject into AI to promote the culture of the individuals that we want to bring into the organization…We know that AI will be a valuable tool to customize the experience to the employee,” said Arthurs.
The executives later elaborated on some of their top priorities with respect to technology.
“We’ve got to look at technology from a platform angle. We will not deploy technology that is not cloud-based,” said Strickland, who earlier remarked on a personal level “there’s never been a better time to be in technology.”
Kornick, meanwhile, noted that the luxury brand company—which has some 26 hotels and 10,000 employees—has as many as 170 disparate technology solutions.
“My focus is not necessarily divestiture but how do I make it simpler? How do I have actually less? For example, there are too many systems for front desk agents, how do I change that process? I want to make it simpler. I don’t want to divest the company I want to add more to it,” he said.
Arthurs again emphasized the importance of the company’s associates.
“We think about the tools that we put in the hands of our employees. We’ve got over 60,000 employees globally and it’s important that we provide them with the tools that have self-service capabilities, because frankly it gives them the ability to leverage technology on their own terms.
He continued, “We know that investments in any self-service capability, whether it’s on the guest side or on the employee side, certainly is money well spent. You’ve got to get it right though, which is part of the challenge we’ve had as an industry. We’ve rolled tech out in the past that’s been out of date and that’s when you start to lose a little bit of trust with your employee base.”