Advances in technology don't always replace good old-fashioned service, says Peter Hancock, chief executive of Pride of Britain Hotels
If, like me, you have been listening to advice from the experts at various symposia over recent weeks, you will probably be feeling at risk of falling behind where information technology is concerned.
That is because predictions of what the future holds are almost always characterised by what can be achieved using the next-generation phone, app or system.
Here's an example. The new Hub by Premier Inn, which looks very smart, I must say, encourages its customers to download an app so they can check in without having to speak to a living soul. They can also operate the electrics in their room using their phone. As one who finds a simple light switch well within my capabilities, I would probably be among those who give the app a swerve, even if it means missing out on other useful stuff. But Whitbread has done its homework and it knows this will appeal.
At the other end of the spectrum, top-end luxury hotels increasingly provide in-room technology, such as tablet computers, for booking meals and spa treatments, to cut down on the need for human interaction.
Where will it end? I suspect there may be a backlash as we begin to view these devices as work tools and crave an escape from them when at leisure. Until that happens, the brains behind progressive brands will continue to look for ways to integrate new technology into mundane activities.
My own guess is that the personal delivery of service will prevail. Most people like giving and receiving hospitality and, the more expensive the hotel, the greater part service plays in justifying the price.
Technology is already part of home life and we belong to a generation that is used to doing its own domestic chores. But the whole point of an indulgent stay is the joy of having things done for you: doors opened, curtains drawn, cars parked and wine served.
Danny Pecorelli, on accepting the Hotelier of the Year award at the recent Hotel Cateys, said that finding and retaining talented people will be our biggest challenge over the coming years. I think he's right, because despite all the labour-saving systems being created, nothing can quite beat one friendly, courteous and efficient human being looking after another. So I challenge the notion that our future will be determined by advanced technology.
In fact, the highest compliment a hotel can receive might be from the guest who was so enveloped by the warmth of hospitality they completely forgot about their work. A place where everything just happened and you didn't have to lift a finger…