Hot Topics—The Digital Transformation: The Time to Upgrade is Now!

In the latest Hotel Business Hot Topics session, “The Digital Transformation: The Time to Upgrade is Now!” panelists discussed how technology is changing the hospitality industry, from back-of-house operations to guest services.

Moderated by Abby Elyssa, digital content manager, Hotel Business, the group of panelists included Mark Fancourt, cofounder, TRAVHOTECH; Justin Jabara, president, Meyer Jabara Hotels; Shawn O’Connell, director of sales/head of hospitality, Samsung; and Beth Paschetto, VP, owner solutions, IHG Hotels & Resorts.

Offered an opportunity to define the term digital transformation, Fancourt noted, “There’s a complex technical term, but I don’t much like complex technical terms,” adding, “It basically has its roots in the customer, and the customer’s experience driven through digital technology. But it’s not purely about the customer. It’s a holistic approach to how you run your business, which includes your customer experience, [as well as]the front of house and the back of house from the staff experience. And if you take a full organizational view for our industry, it will include your third-party supporting partners, vendors and also your ownership, and how you shift the way that you deliver your products and services enabled by technology as an overall way of doing business.”

Paschetto believes there’s something in the digital transformation for guests, operators and owners.

For guests: “It’s all about, in recent days, how important contactless has become and how we automate the process of making the reservation, checking in and then getting into your room, to facilitate that contactless experience.

For operators: “There’s a lot of advantage in terms of the challenges with labor. The more efficient you can make the operation in reducing some of the tasks and activities that today they’re doing manually, the better off the operation is going to run and the more time [the staff will]have to spend with guests.”

For owners: “The power of a digital transformation is the data that you’re able to unlock and gather to create great personalized experiences; to really evaluate your hotel’s overall performance, and to continuously improve and reinvest in that data to understand the data science and the business intelligence behind it [in order to]really understand your guests and appeal to them.”

According to O’Connell, “It transforms the hotel product, your employees and your constituents, and, ultimately, it transforms your brand and your people all at the same time. So, it’s one cohesive push of all those moving parts, as complex as they are, simultaneously as best you can to transform your business.”

Jabara pointed out that the digital transformation didn’t start with the pandemic, but the crisis gave it the push down the hill.

“Right now, with the pandemic, we’re seeing the uptake rates on digital check-in through the roof, but it’s also allowing us to be more efficient with our operation,” he said. “I think it’s a large commitment. It’s not easy to adapt to some of these technologies that are out there, and they’re not cheap. But, with the right technologies and the right implementation, the ROI that we’re seeing, even just from a guest standpoint—knowing what their preferences are and understanding their booking habits—is quite large.”

Look for more coverage on this Hot Topics webinar in the Oct. 15 issue of Hotel Business.

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