Though hotel revenue overall is down, some hoteliers are budgeting for new technology to help staff and guests during the pandemic.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—The coronavirus pandemic has increased the need for technology to keep hotel guests and employees safe while also reducing the revenue hoteliers need to invest in that technology in 2021.
With less revenue coming in, hoteliers face difficult choices in budgeting for 2021. Though potentially an expensive investment, new tech could also yield significant returns during the pandemic.
The budgeting involves decisions at the property level, management level and ownership level, said Richard Jones, EVP and COO at Hospitality Ventures Management Group. Budgeting while in a pandemic is a different experience, and requires decision-makers to be thoughtful, productive and as efficient as possible.
HVMG is always open to tools that help find efficiencies and create added value, he said. The future will be about getting more done with less at every level from the management company down to the property.
However, not every company is in the position to spend on new technology.
Mark Hemmer, president of Vesta Hospitality, said there “would have to be a dramatic savings, a dollar-for-dollar savings in order to invest in (new tech),” he said.
To remain fiscally responsible, Vesta plans to maintain its current systems and will not be adding tech, but at the same time sees no need to cut anything, he added.
HP Hotels* is considering touchless technologies that benefit both guests and team members at properties that don’t have this in place, said Kerry Ranson, chief development officer at HP Hotels.
One consideration is components that allow guests to message the front desk directly, he said. Another would ordering via mobile devices, which connect directly into the property-management system, at hotel restaurants.
HVMG is also in the process of moving forward with enhancements to a platform that will improve communications and engagement throughout the organization with hotel associates, Jones said. It’s an app the associates can use to communicate more and create a stronger sense of community and teamwork throughout the company, he said.
Keyless entry is area of investment for HP, Ranson said. Hilton’s rollout of its digital key system means many of its assets already have this technology in place, but the company is working with its franchisors at other properties in the portfolio that still do not have keyless entry.
“Some of them may be an independent where we have the ability to just go ahead and do it ourselves,” he said.
Ranson said HP is also looking closely at eliminating redundancies within its business intelligence systems, in which more plugins and stacking of platforms were added in efforts to get the best data possible.
For example, the vendor the company uses for accounting has a business intelligence platform that clients could use to create their own dashboards, he said.
“Because someone else might have had a fancier dashboard, we weren’t exercising what we could,” he said. “We’ve now compressed it and completely started utilizing what was out our fingertips and exercising a bit more with it.”
This focus will help take the pressure off the individual properties, Ranson said. The hotels have seen a lot of human capital taken away, so the company has to offer something to help make up for that. Automated systems can make it easier at the property level.
“We’ve been focusing on spending money at our end to ensure that we’re assisting from the efficiencies on the property,” he said.
From a management perspective, HVMG will focus more on improving its analytics and business intelligence so it can better understand where and how the business is performing, Jones said.
“We’ll find that little extra ounce of performance and use all the information that’s available to us to be able to get the most out of the reduced revenue environment that we’re going to be in,” he said.
*Correction, 13 August 2020: This story has been updated to correct a company's name.