Why it matters:We’re in agreement here with Conichi CEO Max Waldman. Every hotel and on-property technology provider is solving the problem of the digital connection differently, but all guests, more or less, have shared expectations. It’s clearly to the consumer’s benefit for there to be a digital guest standard - how great would it be if you always knew free WiFi was waiting for you at your hotel room, never mind the highly desirable seamlessly integrated scenarios Waldman envisions: “If transport providers are connected to this standard,” he writes, “they could push delays to hotels, automatically requesting late-check-out for guests.”
A digital guest standard might also be good news for us startups, giving us the assurance of a baseline of support from the industry, as well as encouraging second-order innovation, like all of the companies building businesses on the back of the now firmly-established sharing economy.
But most of all there are advantages for hotels when it comes to standardizing digitalservice. Differentiating through digital amenities is fine but when it comes to service and the SOP around digital, standards can still be set. A Forbes five-star hotel has the same standards as another Forbes five-star… but not so when it comes to digital service. Why is a digital request viewed differently as a phone call today? We are working hard with our hotels to create theirs, but boy would we appreciate the opportunity to work with Forbes and with other companies in our space to create common ground. As Waldman correctly points out, to continuously reinvent the wheel would be very expensive. Let's build the wheel together.
Why it matters: As one of the companies implicated in this analysis (Expedia Invests in Hotel Experience Platform ALICE), it’s been really amazing to see so much support of the industry this past year and it feels like we’re on the cusp of a tech revolution within hospitality. Will this trend continue into 2016?
Perhaps not...While last year saw record occupancy for hotels, not everyone is so optimistic about where we’re headed (as we wrote about in Newsletter #9) and the new year’s Asian stock markets agree.
However, the implications for this funding boom are significant. Talent will surely follow this money - so we do anticipate continued innovation in the space. All this activity also bodes well for the traveler - with travel tech solutions giving ever more control to guests and consumers, and increasing competition between all these newly-capitalized companies raising the collective bar. (CB Insights defines travel technology as tech-enabled companies offering services and products focused on tourism, including booking services, search and planning platforms, on-demand travel, and recommendation sites. Car-hailing services, like Uber and Lyft are excluded.)
For all this capital and deal flow within the category to truly transform travel, it’s imperative (from our slightly biased perspective…) that hotels and other travel incumbents learn to work with this younger, freshly-minted travel cohort (something we’ve also written about quite a bit - most recently in the context of sentiments expressed by Citizen M’s Lennert de Jong on the need for hotels to be more open to innovation).
Why it matters:Uber is clearly making a move towards owning the entire travel experience, from the moment you book a trip to when you arrive at your destination (and perhaps one day, to when you check into your hotel).
Because Uber is more popular than any single airline, it’s a safe bet they have a chance where Amazon has previously stumbled. Unlike airlines, whose innovations have been more understated, Uber is known for its seamless mobile experience and ability to quickly innovate its existing offerings.
However, we see this as more of an Airbnb-type play and are not sure we should put too much stock into this news yet. A company of Uber’s size gets a lot of chips to take to the poker table and can spare a few playing a long hand. If this maneuver works, then it follows there has to be a reduction in direct bookings, as well as other trickle down effects to other on-demand services. If this strategy works out for Uber, it wouldn’t be surprising if other giants (ahem, Airbnb) began replicating this strategy, leveraging their hold on consumers’ attention spans to extend their service further into the experience. However, the cards are still out on this one.
Hotels might even borrow a page from Starwood’s playbook and consider ways of partnering with a service like Uber. Beyond the increased exposure to consumers, there could be marketing opportunity that would increase the relevance to your guests and increase bookings.
In evaluating innovations in hospitality it’s helpful to consider the biggest problems facing the industry, and then identify the technology that helps solves them. Here are some of those problems and ways hotels have been solving them with innovative technology...
Just as Apple used mobile technology to redefine the notion of customer service in retail, and Uber used mobile technology to transform the meaning of customer service in transportation, mobile technology can similarly improve the provision of customer service in hospitality.