For those of us that attended HITEC 2022 in Orlando, FL last week, it was likely an invigorating and inspiring few days after two years of virtual events or cautiously and sparsely attended hospitality tech events. It surely felt just like the large scale events of yesteryears and at the same time different. The HITEC agenda and themes seemed freshly thawed from having been frozen since 2019. Our CEO, Katherine Grass, addressed this in a recent article. When speaking to hoteliers on the other hand, something felt different. In the countless conversations our team had with them, a few things stood out:
To say that hoteliers are coming roaring back with the same force and energy as their guest, would probably be exaggerating. Our overall sense was that there was a general but cautious optimism in the air. Most of the hoteliers we spoke to seemed invigorated by starting to consider and research ways to improve and innovate in their business. No one came to our booth with their checkbook out. But, what felt different from pre-pandemic events was the genuine interest in hearing and discussing the possibilities. Dare I say that it was like the first day of first grade? Hoteliers arrived with a child-like excitement to learn. They’ll surely lose that by the time they get to HITEC highschool, but for now we’re loving it!
It’s the Economy, Stupid
Other than likely having learned from the many “false starts” during the pandemic, another reason for caution we heard from hoteliers was economic worries. This is not a surprise. Everyone is worried about the economy, and a large portion of daily headlines is about economic doom and gloom. Add to that, it’s a global phenomenon. Almost every single country in the world is facing the same (or worse) struggles as the United States. And travel is, after all, a global endeavor. And while inflation is and will make travel more expensive, and inflation in other sectors will take money away from travel funds, many, like us at Optii believe that the pent-up desire to travel is so strong that travel will be prioritized at a much higher degree than in past downturns. On a whole, we’re not back to 2019 levels, but some pockets are above already. And so far, the trend towards a full return to 2019 level has not shown signs of slowing in the last few months. Of course, there’s much to be seen, but we’re staying Optii-mistic!
Does it connect?
Integration is always a hot topic at any hospitality conference. But, as we emerge from the pandemic, technology has evolved while many hotels stood still. And as hoteliers dust off their systems, and review their tech-stack, they’re finding that new technology and changes to existing technology means more curiosity and scrutiny on integrations. Our prediction is that this is something the industry will continue to grapple with for some time. In other industries, all-encompassing platforms have emerged to solve some of this, but this is not the case for hospitality. While some of the hotel tech dinosaurs have attempted to do so, it has more than anything shown that experience doesn’t necessarily lead to innovation or value to the customer. So in the meantime, we suggest that you work with the innovators of the industry. Housekeeping, anyone?
To the Brave, Goes the Spoils
Hospitality has always been a technology-cautious industry compared to most. Maybe it’s the importance and reliance on human interaction that is so critical to hospitality. Human connection is so vital to travel that it’s unlikely to ever go away.
As a team of travel, hospitality, and technology enthusiasts, we believe that technology’s role in the travel ecosystem is to enhance human connection and experience. At Optii, we work every day to empower front desk and back-of-the-house teams to elevate the guest experience with their unique skills, and we can show you how. And there’s countless Optii partners and technologies that in the same way empower hoteliers to lean in into the human connection and guest experience, rather than detract from it.
On the hotelier side, it’s the forward-thinking innovators that lead the pack and shape the industry for years to come. Innovation in hospitality can take many forms. Some experiment with concepts and business models, some with design, some partner with technology companies, while others acquire them. Like any experimentation, innovation, or risk-taking, not every bet will pay off. At Optii, we argue that regardless of whether it’s the right strategy or not at the time, it’s the willingness to take risk and innovate that make those that do, market leaders over the long-term. So if you walked away from HITEC 2022 on a high of excitement and possibilities, be brave and embrace change!