How technology wouldn’t work without the hospitality human touch
The speed of technological and organizational changes makes it necessary to reflect on the tools we must have at our disposal for companies to maintain their levels of competitiveness. These tools must materialise not only in the form of technology but also in the form of competences transferred to professionals in the sector.
Just as NTG will draw a map of skills and training possibilities for each position in the tourism sector, the ITH Innovation Summit discussed what skills professionals should have and, above all, how entrepreneurs must offer them.
ITH (Hotelier Institute of Technologie) is an organisation made up of hoteliers and suppliers whose objective is to develop specific solutions tailored to the needs of the sector.
On June 26th and 27th, the 2nd edition of the ITH Innovation Summit was held in Madrid. In spite of the “youth” of the event, it enjoys the trajectory and all the expertise of the ITH, as an integral part of the Spanish Confederation of Hotels and Tourist Accommodations. ITH, in its 14 years of trajectory, has already become a frame of reference for the hotel transformation in Spain, providing solutions to the important questions of our sector. Along these lines, it has created the ITH Innovation Summit, a forum where professionals can meet to discuss the issues we will face in the near future and to learn about technological solutions from the most important suppliers in our country.
Innovation in line with technologies
Within this framework, a round table discussion took place in which the CEO of the five most important Spanish hotel chains participated; having two of them, NH hotels and Room Mate Hotels, as well as an international presence. The table, moderated by the President of CEHAT, one of the key partners of the Next Tourism Generation Alliance, dealt with the theme “Innovation in line with technologies”.
H Rovira (NH Hotels) said:
“It is necessary to know well what brings value to the client to apply the technology there”
It is evident that technology is creating a new general framework, not only in processes but also in society, which must have consequences in the way companies are managed. The question is whether technological innovation is the one that has to decide the future of process automation or whether it is the processes that have to demand technological advances.
What can be a simple question for any company within the industrial world, can become the cornerstone in the innovation of a company in the tourism industry. Although it is true that industrial companies must look for the best output/input ratio, in the tourism industry this ratio is not always the yardstick and it is not even possible to measure either outputs or inputs.
Quote by JA Preciados (Ilunion Hotels):
“Transformation is a cultural issue, technology won’t work if it doesn’t start from the ground up”
For some time we have stopped measuring the results of the sector by the amount of product sold, hotels no longer sell accommodation in rooms. The high competition and the great knowledge of the product on the part of the clients have made that the hotelier sells “experiences”. And how to measure the result when what is sold is an experience? In what type of input must it be invested so that the output is an “experience”? Let us not forget that “the factory”, that is to say, the hotel establishment, is still the same as it was 20 or 10 years ago, but what is sold are not the rooms, but the experiences that can be generated there.
The importance of human contact in an experience
In this whole process of transformation from product to service, the employee plays a fundamental role. Contrary to what happens in the industrial world, in which the separation of roles between those who manufacture the product and those who sell it are very limited, in the world of tourism there are many employees whose role is not to sell experiences, but they are in contact with the customer, sharing with him, indirectly, workspace.
On the other hand, it is evident that technology must be, and is doing so, quickly in the production processes of the “experiences”. The current client is immersed in a process of digital transformation and lives with technology in such a way that he cannot do without it during his travels. And, as this is what he hopes to find in the destinations and establishments the tourist visits, technology must be one of the elements, one of the inputs, that the entrepreneur can count on when designing “experiences”.
Quote by JG Díaz (Artiem Hotels):
“Our business is happiness, technology is the means, not the end”
Innovation in technology must be made with the needs of employees in mind
At this point, we must ask ourselves the question of how the introduction of technology in the production processes of hotels will affect the employee. The employer must always take the employee as his ally: all the professionals of a hotel have a contact moment at some time of the day with the clients lodged, and they are always the face of the company. The clients consider that all the professionals that work there should always be able to satisfy all their demands: the hotel employees do not have only one boss, but they have as many bosses as clients since they see their work at every moment.
And for this reason, as the CEOs of Spain’s largest hotel chains rightly said, innovation in technology must be made with the needs of employees in mind. An interesting point of debate arose when it was put on the table whether an investment in technology should be measured by the economic cost it has or by the value it generates in the employee. It was even stated that an innovation that does not generate value should not be implemented.
Human skills to provide outstanding service
Another element of discussion that should not be forgotten is whether we can leave all customer satisfaction in the hands of technology. It seems quite obvious that, no matter how technological a customer may be, he will always want to be treated with a smile in the tourism sector. Therefore, to the question of whether it is possible for technology to dominate all production processes, the answer seems very clear. Technology must help the employee to offer a faster and more efficient service, a service that meets the expectations of the customer, but service must always be that: a treatment between the person who provides it and the person who receives it.
Quote by K Sarasola (Room Mate Hotels):
“The business has to adapt to the needs of the client”