Hotel executives that went looking for the next big thing at the World’s Leading Travel Trade Show, ITB, in Berlin were presented many ideas with plenty of potential. Innovations like day use and selling room features. But along with every probable solution a host of complications followed. And, conversely, for issues that need addressing (because every single person at ITB talked integration problems at some point), every shape and size of Band-Aid was available, though the core injuries would remain. In a nutshell, ITB raised more questions than it answered.
Frankly, I think it’s more valuable if you look for the problems. Only when the problem is clear can the right solution be found. And when we get the same question over and over again, the industry begins to recognize where the real issue is. Here are just a few of the questions I walked away asking after the event.
Service Buses are all the rage, but will they actually solve the problem of integration?
Everyone, literally everyone, announced they are in some stage of rolling out a Service Bus. Just like past efforts to standardize the messaging structure (HTNG, OTA, HITIS), I’m guessing that this is being overhyped already. And let’s be clear that while it will improve things on the IT side, it will not improve functionality.
Can hotels sell features and still deliver the right product to the guest?
I’m the first to say that selling features—giving guests exactly what they want—is a feel-good approach to guest service, and if it were done well, guest satisfaction could go through the roof. However, as it stands right now, most hotels cannot guarantee the basic guest preferences requested in the booking process, so I’m curious how hotels will handle a more complicated scenario, where features are part of the confirmed booking, without reverting to selling room numbers.
Has mobile failed?
When the topic of mobile check-in came up during ITB, it was mostly because hotels were saying they had tried it, and it didn’t work. Why? PCI compliance challenges and manual room assignments. These glitches are solvable, but until the industry is willing to compromise, or at least take a step-by-step approach to the problem, mobile will have failed.
How many widgets can one hotel handle?
PMS options are on the decline, and instead of more robust centralized systems, hotels are offered a pile of widgets and add-ons from an array of companies that, at this point, are either pivoting direction or calling it a day. Fragmentation continues to increase, a trend that can only lead to more operational issues.
What will day use do to hotel operations?
Day use seems to be the latest refuge of solutions. I don’t have an answer to what day use will do, but suffice it to say that major upheaval can be expected. While the revenue potential is certainly appealing, especially early and mid-week, the operational considerations, from manual room assignment (there it is again) to housekeeping, are enough to consider whether or not hotels are made for day use at all.
When I look at these questions as a whole, I see a trend. In our quest for solutions, the travel industry is looking for the next big thing instead of fixing core processes. For service providers in this industry, we would do well to provide solutions that don’t further muddy the waters. Instead of adding to the fragmentation, there is a wide-open space for companies that can find solutions that solve the basic problems—and then build on those.