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Tourist arrivals are booming, an increase of 7% worldwide, and this number is naturally driven by technology. At the W2F panel High Tech vs. High Touch, all experts agree on one point already when the window to the discussion is opened: high tech and high touch are a fusion, and not a tradeoff.

One of the major aspirations in the hospitality of the future is to offer personalized services to each guest individually. Christophe Dubi, IOC Olympic Games Executive Director, shares his view on the topic with a striking line whilst opening the W2F panel High Tech vs. High Touch, “I believe it is High Tech for High Touch”. His vision is that technology will allow hospitality providers to offer a personalized experience to each attendee of the Olympic Games in the future. The question is how will technology make the magic happen?

Although hospitality is an industry that evolves at quite a steady pace, as Quang Thai, Chief Strategy Officer at Jing Jian Europe & Louvre Hotels Group, says “over the last 30,40 years, the hospitality industry hasn’t evolved very much. Today, we are facing an opportunity to change our mission and vision based on guest experience, staff experience and optimization of the P&L”. it is not at a fast-paced industry and hospitality experts and professionals are witnessing increasing pressure to welcome technology into their world.

The three opportunities mentioned by Quang Thai match with the three main friction points presented by Catalin Cighi, Managing Partner at Cain Hospitality Innovation.

  • The P&L and staff experience can be improved by getting rid of anything that wastes time. Whether it is front of house, back of house, before during and after the experience.
  • The guest and staff experience can be improved by eliminating the transaction part of the experience. As Ted Teng, President, CEO at the Leading Hotels of the World, said “eliminating things that are unnecessary allows people to have more time to provide personalized individual service, which brings us to our goal for the hospitality of the future”.
  • Finally, the space before coming to the venue where desire is created, and the space where memories live. This same space can be illustrated differently with new technology tools. Ted Teng is confident that Virtual Reality can help promote a hotel during the booking process, before allowing guests to collect memories following their stay.

Sarah Miller, Luxury Brand Ambassador at the Wall Street Journal, the moderator of the panel, underlines how desire for memory and space for imagination can be satisfied by high tech and invits Tej Tadi, Founder & CEO of MindMaze, who usually has the view point of the other side of the coin, the customer experience.

Tej explains how virtual reality can make people dream, but also have their augmented reality at any time anywhere. For instance, if a traveler left his pet back home, he can see his pet virtually at any point during his stay. Or with artificial intelligence having an avatar organize your entire reservation with personal interactions.

Christian de Barin mentioned that GDPR will be a major challenge in the industry. Tej, the tech expert at the panel has a positive view on the impact of technology on the hospitality industry, he is confident that there are many ways that hotels can engage hotel guests in a safe way. For instance, a wellness tracker during guests’ stay, or the examples mentioned above to make customers dream, “VR does not replace reality, it is an enabler”!

The 2018 MicroMetrics Report highlighted hospitality professionals’ fear of investing in technology. For instance, everyone uses social media and recognizes its power, but nobody truly knows how to use it effectively. The marketing department often fosters social media. As it is quite time consuming and has unpredictable results, technology will probably be outsourced in future, as predicted by Ted Teng.

During the panel, the audience was all ears when the question of technology replacing hospitality employees raised. This represents one of the plausible explanations for hospitality leaders’ fear to invest in technology.

Technology will not change hospitality, or replace hospitality stakeholders, it will be an enabler of new practices to increase guest satisfaction, and to meet the high customer expectations. This thought was shared by the majority of the speakers during the panel.

Quang Thai explains that there are two aspects that should be focused on, first the guest experience but as well the staff experience. Louvre Hotels Group focus in their innovation process on various projects. For instance, they are testing how staff members could communicate in any language with tech tools. Another test is to see how the customer is feeling, his moods, his sentiments. Finally, another level for the future could be to find ways to personalize training programs depending on staffs’ balance of soft vs. hard skills, “we have to grab the future” adds Quang Thai.

The world is at our feet with technology, Tej Tadi is positive that decoding dreams will be possible within the next 20 years, we can already control cars with our brains today!

What we feel, what we touch, and experience will be enhanced by innovative technology tools in the future, how the magic will come true just cannot quite be determined yet.

The panel’s final note shifts to the core of hospitality, the touch aspect.

Catalin Cighi predicts that there will be a movement of “back to the basics, we don’t only want to live only with the cutting edge.”  As Christian de Barrin says“the aim is to put high touch first whilst using the high tech.”  Ted Teng states that technology will just allow us to do what we do now, but even better in future.

The wonder of our industry is that humans and the magic created in hospitality are irreplaceable. Hospitality leaders and professionals are encouraged to invest time and more in new technology tools. Wouldn’t it be rewarding to have hospitality employees’ challenging operational chores facilitated? And to find what the best fit and role would be for them? And how about various touch points for the customer, enabled by Virtual Reality and new technology innovations… The dream to give an efficient and more personalized experience to the people opening the door and the ones stepping into the hotel is certainly come true very soon.