I have been working in hospitality for more than 12 years. In these 12 years, I have seen an evolution that nobody could have expected. When I started in hotels as a trainee, there was a lot of paperwork and the main task to be performed by trainees was often times filing papers. Nowadays you can see front desks where no paper is found, everything is now in digital format. For people like me, that are not digital natives but digital immigrants, a look back shows us the huge changes that the hospitality industry has undergone. From a reception full of papers we are going to immaculate front desks with no paper at sight.
Nowadays, when I explain to my students what a room rack is and why hotels have a rack rate, they look at me with strange faces because, when they go out on their internships, racks are less and less present. The hospitality industry’s evolution has gone from all tasks performed manually to all transactions performed by a computerized system.
My question these days is: What is better? Should we use machines for everything in hospitality? Should we replace our staff with machines? If we ask old hotel managers they will tell us no, of course. But if we have a closer look into the business we will see how technology is heavily influencing daily hotel operations. We can take Starwood as an example. They have already implemented a new smartphone key system in the Harlem Aloft Hotel in Manhattan. They give their guests the option to check-in online and in this way they have access to an app that allows their smartphone to be used as a room key, with absolutely no human contact at check-in.
Twelve years ago, when I started working in hotels, this was inconceivable. But on the other hand, there are still some Ritz hotels where you can find metal keys with big key rings still in use. What would you think is more appropriate? Should we completely adapt to new technologies, or should we keep some remembrance of the old days? If we talk about cost and time effective solutions, we need to look to technological improvements very seriously because they will always help us save our staff time and this translates to money and profit for our company. But what about the customer service we are intending to provide our guests? Technology helps us improve our customer service and, in my opinion, those who think otherwise are completely wrong.
What is the main con of using so much technology in the hospitality industry? Dehumanized service. I like bringing this discussion to my classroom to see how my students react to this question. They are the future generation of the hospitality industry and you would be amazed at how they react to this question. From the point of view of a teacher delivering their lessons to a digital generation, you would expect that they all agree that technology should be used in hotels to the maximum extent. But I am often surprised when I find some students’ opinion is completely on the opposite side. The main reason why I bring up these types of questions into my classes is to point out that what usually makes a hotel different is not how comfortable our rooms are, or how many new technological devices you can find in the room or the hotel, or how nice a room’s view is.
All of this is irrelevant if your staff is not customer oriented. Would the Burj al Arab in Dubai be the same if they were not providing a good customer oriented service? Technology can help us to improve our service but will never be able to replace the personal human touch that a person can put in a service. In the end, the success of our company depends on humans relationships. As Maya Angelou said once:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
This is the main goal I want to achieve every semester in my work at Les Roches Marbella. I try to ensure that my students have a clear idea of what hospitality means at the end of each semester, in the end, everything can be summed up with the term “care”. Treat your guests and coworkers as you would like to be treated and try to arouse inspiring feelings of honesty, ethics, loyalty and humanity in others.