The last few months have been packed full of industry events, including AAHOACON, BITAC, the Choice Hotels annual Convention and numerous events around the world. Our team has been on the road (or in the air) traveling to conferences, and it’s great to see so much momentum as we head to the big industry events this summer, including The Hospitality Show and HITEC.
Mike Gray, our global VP, strategic partnerships at Nomadix, recently met with Hotel Management editor Elaine Yetzer Simon to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the industry. Here’s how the discussion went:
What issues are currently causing headaches for the industry?
Gray: Two million hospitality and leisure jobs still remain open. Staffing will continue to be one of the most challenging problems for the industry. Despite this, guests are still traveling and expecting great service and value for every dollar they spend at hotels. Guest complaints across the board include Wi-Fi quality and poor staff service. Hotel workers complain of overwork and personal safety. When hotels upgrade technology to combat these issues, the products need to work together with existing systems, or it will cause more harm than good.
What will it take for those issues to smooth out, and when do you anticipate that will happen?
Gray: Unfortunately, staffing was a pre-pandemic challenge. It may never fully resolve, but adopting new processes, operational and guest-facing technology, and keeping current staff safe, trained and happy will make a substantial difference for the hotel. The rebound of revenues continuing to return throughout 2023 and a restored confidence from growth shown in ADR, RevPAR and GOP should result in positive budgeting for these new technology upgrades.
What new trends do you see affecting the hospitality industry the most in 2023?
Gray: According to the 2023 lodging study, 54 percent of hotel operators currently offer or plan to add voice-controlled devices to their guest rooms in 2023, and 61 percent say they believe voice-enabled devices are an emerging technology that should be given serious consideration going forward.
This technology brings new levels of accessibility to help with mobility and vision limitations. Instead of getting up to adjust the thermostat, trying to read small print or calling the front desk, in-room voice assistants can alleviate pain points for guests. It also can help with language barriers to answer questions in preferred languages of the guest.
Voice technology can also add new efficiencies that create valuable returns to hotels. It can remove staff intervention for common requests (e.g., directions to the ice machine, setting wake-up calls, offering late checkout, placing orders for food items), offer upsell and advertising revenue (e.g., recommending bar items, offering discounts to entice booking a spa package), and boost loyalty by recreating the comforts of home – 75 percent of U.S. families will own a smart speaker by 2025. (Source: Voicebot).
The need more than ever is for technology to provide better integration, where products work together to create a seamless experience for the guest. Successfully implemented, guests can do more without staff intervention, which also helps adapt to the smaller workforce that hospitality is struggling with.
What do you see as the biggest opportunities for the industry as we make our way through 2023?
Gray: Today’s guests enjoy large-screen TVs, lightning-fast wireless internet and access to multiple streaming sources of entertainment in their homes. Aligning to these comforts of home will create a big opportunity for hoteliers. They need to provide equal (or better) services to keep loyalty, which requires a serious look at current technology and budgets, planning and execution to stay relevant. Guests have choices and will make them loud and clear with their buying decisions, responses via social channels and online reviews.
Connecting everything together will be another big opportunity. Wi-Fi is the backbone to all the necessary and cool technologies that claim to boost satisfaction, operations and loyalty. But self-service kiosks, IoT thermostats and (insert anything digital) won’t work without a solid Wi-Fi connection. Investing in these upgrades now will be a big opportunity for hotels. And while supply-chain challenge headlines have been plastered all over the news, there are suppliers out there that are ready to help hotels now.
What do you think the industry’s biggest win this year will be?
Gray: AHLA predicts that the hospitality industry will surpass pre-pandemic levels this year. As guests return for events, take more vacations after so much uncertainty and look for “experiences over things,” this will create the return to normalcy in the minds of business and leisure travelers that is needed to boost spending and revenue for hotels.
What are you most looking forward to at The Hospitality Show?
Gray: I appreciate the efforts of the event planners who are bringing everyone together face-to-face. The value of the discussions, timely topics for the sessions and the relationship-building opportunities with the AHLA community and the full hospitality industry is immeasurable. I’m excited for this opportunity and that my team at Nomadix has a big focus on helping create a fantastic inaugural event.
The Q&A was originally posted in Hotel Management. If you are at HITEC (booth 321) or The Hospitality Show (booth 419), please stop by our booth to say hello and see what’s new since last year.
With over 35 years of experience in the Hospitality industry, Mike Gray brings a wealth of knowledge and insight to his role as Global Vice President of Strategic Partnerships at Nomadix. His focus is on building deeper relationships and specialized programs for hospitality brands, management companies and ownership groups around the globe. Previously, Gray led hospitality technology efforts for NEC, BellSouth, FCS Computer Systems, Cardola USA and other resale channels. He directly managed relationships with key brands, bringing the technology and hotel worlds together to help hoteliers control costs, improve staff productivity and enhance the guest experience. He also currently serves as a board member on AHLA’s Vendor Advisory Council.