Sounding Off: As hoteliers eye recovery, they must be smart about technology

Sounding Off: As hoteliers eye recovery, they must be smart about technology

Ian Schrager

“Technology has to be done with intelligence – not contrived.”

Quote from hospitality legend Ian Schrager in an article on PhocusWire this week about the future of hospitality.

Each Friday, PhocusWire dissects and debates an industry trend or new development covered by PhocusWire that week.

The New York Times once called Ian Schrager “the Steve Jobs of the hospitality industry.” Meaning, the Studio 54 founder and pioneer of the boutique hotel concept knows a thing or two about innovation and what consumers want.

With his Public hotel in New York City, Schrager made chic affordable – the idea being that a high-end experience doesn’t have to come with a high-end price tag.

He saw a need for the concept in the hotel market when he opened the property in 2017, and now – fueled by the onset of COVID-19 – he’s looking beyond bringing design and entertainment to consumers by examining how technology can enhance the experience.

But not just any technology: As Schrager says, it has to be done with intelligence. Mood boards in lobbies, fancy (and usually quite complicated) in-room lighting or voice devices in rooms – sure, they seem cool and useful, but are they really?

Schrager would argue no. The technology needs to either make the stay cheaper or easier. “If it doesn’t fit one of those two criteria, there’s no reason for technology for technology’s sake.”

Pre-COVID, that idea should have informed how hoteliers thought about the solutions they invested in: How is this technology improving the guest experience? Maybe some thought about it, maybe others didn’t.

But in the age of coronavirus, the question becomes critical. Hotels are suffering low occupancy rates, slashed staff and a myriad of other issues, but they also have to think about rebuilding.

Technology – intelligent technology – will be fundamental to getting back to business, as it will ultimately shape the guest experience. In addition to cleanliness and safety, guests care about a stay that’s as contact-free and seamless as possible.

Technology can help achieve that, and hoteliers are smart to invest in it. Those that do will emerge from this crisis on top.

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