The hotel industry has been resistant at investing in technology while focusing on being a people industry, delegates at HOSPACE 2013 were told yesterday.
Speaking on a Leaders' Panel, Heiko Figge of the Moorfield Group private equity company and former managing director of Guoman and Thistle Hotels, said that too much emphasis had been placed on the industry being all about people, with the result that hospitality was now being left behind other industries as regards technology.
"So often we talk about the technology we provide for guests when they walk through the door when we should be introducing it much earlier," he said.
Jonathan Raggett, managing director of Red Carnation Hotels, agreed, saying that the online travel agents (OTAs) had been much sharper at developing technology to help them achieve a stronghold when it comes to hotel bookings.
"Arguably it is too late for us to compete with OTAs on the technology front," he said. "The best means we have of combatting them is ensuring the guests who come to us via the OTAs have such a good time that they will book with us directly next time."
Robert Cook, chief executive of De Vere Hotels and Village Urban Resorts, said that hotels have to play the game with the OTAs by investing in mobile and tablet apps. "We run 11 golf resorts and there is no way that we are going to win the battle with the golf OTAs. We have to work with them."
Figge said that he does not understand hoteliers obsession with talking about battling with OTAs. "There is no battle. They exist and we have to make them work for us, using them to fill rooms at the right time.
"We also have to use technology to enhance our own websites. We are obsessed with making hotel websites look like brochures with pretty pictures and details of the facilities, but we don't pay enough attention to the functionality of the website and make it easy for guests to book."
Raggett also spoke about the success of the 16 hotels within the Red Carnation portfolio in consistently achieving glowing reviews on TripAdvisor. "There is no secret in how we do it, it is all about looking after each and every guest and ensuring that their stay with us appears effortless," he explained.
With regards social media, Ragget said that it is important that up to five people in each hotel are charged with taking responsibility for posting messages as well as ensuring someone at a regional level oversees the activity to ensure the right information is broadcast.
Figge warned against the centralisation of social media activity. "It should be all about the here and now, centralising the function can sterilise it. It has got to be driven by each individual property.
Held at the Sofitel Heathrow Terminal 5, HOSPACE is the annual conference for technology, finance and revenue management professionals.