Author: Mitchell Zak, Head of Product at UrVenue
Resorts learned a hard lesson in 2020: never underestimate the power of technology.
When the pandemic hit, many hotels and resorts were running decades-old technology stacks. As travel began to pick up near the end of 2020, hotels and resorts that were unprepared to meet the new consumer expectations failed to maximize profitability.
Consumers needed more than what many establishments were ready to offer and they came to demand the same things of hotels and resorts as they did of other businesses:
- Assurance that health and safety protocols were being sufficiently followed
- Real-time information necessary for a safe, convenient, and pleasant visit
- Access to contactless service and booking capabilities
The hotels and resorts that beat the odds were quick to respond to the changes by making everything at their properties digitally available. Guests could find property information such COVID policies and restrictions, book rooms and experiences, interact with team members, and ultimately plan a complete itinerary in advance to remain safe and travel responsibly.
Why do so many hospitality technology stacks fail to keep up?
In a broader sense, legacy systems are notorious for their siloed data, lack of interoperability, and complexity of system upgrades. For hotels and resorts, this results in many challenges.
- Guest experience: When siloed guest data is not shared across outlets, resorts’ guest-facing teams don’t know what guests are doing across the property and, consequently, can not provide personalized service.
- Share of wallet: Siloed data (especially revenue data) also prevents properties from effectively upselling, cross-selling, packaging, and bundling experience-based inventory. This leads to lost revenue opportunities through cohesive revenue optimization.
- Fragmented booking journey: In the age of online commerce, siloed inventory can mean a fragmented booking journey for the guest. Instead of offering everything under the roof in one place, guests must wade through multiple sites and apps to find what they need.
- Generational gaps: Decaying operational solutions also don’t jive well with newer generations of the workforce. As Millenials and Gen Zers become a larger part of the workforce, their productivity and effectiveness depends on providing them with familiar technology they can intuitively learn and use.
- Technical limitations: Lastly, legacy systems make deploying updates and upgrades complex as they are built using outdated architectures and lack cloud and mobile-based capabilities. That’s why many modern enterprise systems are built on APIs and can host a curated collection of integrations.
To regain their foothold, future-forward resorts will need to find ways of transforming their technology stack into a more manageable set of integrated solutions built with a modern architecture.
Redefining the Hotel and Resort Technology Stack
The co-existence of hotel and resort technology stacks is not a new concept, but true front-to-back-of-house integration is a significant, emerging shift in the way properties manage room inventory and revenue, and increasingly, non-room inventory. There are many short and longer-term factors contributing to this evolution.
In the wake of the Covid pandemic, guests expect an increased focus on hospitality technology that allows them to interact with staff and to direct their own stay. The evolution of cloud computing, edge computing, mobile, and the Internet of Things (IoT) has created more opportunities for this approach, while also presenting a challenge as the need grows for contactless experiences.
But giving guests better access is only half the story. What should they be given access to? The way hotels make their money now widely differs from years past. In places like Las Vegas, hotel rooms were–by far–the primary revenue driver outside the casino.
Going beyond the room
Today, guests choose hotels and resorts, at least in part, to gain convenient access to unique resort offerings such as on-site nightclubs or popular restaurants. As a response to this evolution, a more holistic approach should be built from the point of booking to deliver more experience-based offerings that keep guests engaged on property throughout their stay.
For years, the hotel and resort tech stack was defined by the solutions used for selling and servicing rooms. But the experience economy has drastically shifted focus from rooms to all sorts of experiences that a property can offer. The modern hotel and resort technology stack has to accommodate this shift and go beyond the room. That’s a big difference in the definition.
To deliver a full-fledged in-stay experience, hotels and resorts have to rethink their disparate operations throughout their properties. Instead of keeping operations siloed into several teams — Housekeeping, Concierge, Operations, Guest Relations, Food & Beverage, and so on, all working within their own systems — a modern hospitality technology stack should aim for cohesion and integration across all outlets within a property.
Opening lines of communication
Much of the shift to a consolidated, integrated resort management approach rides on the advancements in cloud and mobile technologies. Cloud is helping properties break the chains of local storage and enable systems to utilize services outside of their local network and ecosystem. Meanwhile, mobile is freeing teams from their desks, enabling them to use cloud services and, consequently, service their guests from anywhere.
This direct accessibility creates opportunities for resorts to engage like never before and to consider new, endlessly evolving digital marketing, sales, support and fulfillment channels. Operators should have the means to be in constant communication with their guests, meeting them wherever they are.
Overcoming Hotel Tech Stack Gaps
If integrating the hospitality tech stack is so desirable, why are most properties still behind? Enterprise-wide transformation is painful, especially digital. Aligning tens if not hundreds of stakeholders is a massive organizational, political, and technical undertaking that requires a top-down approach to adoption.
Part of what makes that alignment so hard is that it requires stakeholders to reprogram how they see their hotel and resort real-estate as opportunities to drive incremental revenue.
Stakeholders need to reimagine how to turn cabanas at the pool into rentals, create pop-up and activation experiences, or incentivize guests to put a deposit down for a restaurant reservation on a busy night.
Even more challenging is finding the right technology that can creatively digitize and monetize these assets, and then make them available online on all the right channels. It takes an extremely robust and flexible inventory management solution to accomplish this because every property’s real estate is so different.
Properties should implement the necessary capabilities to turn analog assets and real-estate into digital inventory guests can reserve, purchase, rent, put deposits against, sign spend agreements, or inquire about. All of these bookings then need to be routed to the appropriate operations teams and made visible across the property through their operational technology solutions so that teams can better serve their guests with access to spend history, consumption history, preferences, and so forth. Even if the property requires different operational technology providers for their outlets, consolidating their booking solutions is a fantastic start.
Widening the Operational Lens: The Unexpected Benefit of Hotel Stack Unification
Some of the benefits of consolidating the hospitality tech stack are clear. Connected systems open new commerce strategies and empower resorts to evolve toward a natural, experience-driven approach, which fits with modern guest expectations. At a higher level, integration leads to a level of organizational clarity and alignment that can completely change a property’s trajectory.
Democratizing guest services
Today’s back-of-the-house employee should be able to assist guests they might encounter, instead of simply sending them to the front desk. With a few clicks, they should be able to make a restaurant booking on a guest’s behalf, extend a guest’s stay, or add a request for housekeeping.
The value of sharing information in an information economy is boundless, whether it’s data being shared via integrated resort software or simple conversations among teams. Team members feel more confident about big-picture operational views, and they become better equipped to take ownership of their roles within those views, as opposed to guessing what’s expected of them.
How Can You Unify Your Resort Tech Stack?
Often, hotels and resorts with nuanced needs choose to build their own solutions from the ground up, but this approach takes time away from their core businesses. The best approach is to work closely and partner with technology companies who can do the heavy lifting of integration, such as OpenTable and UrVenue.
Once a property has assessed its needs, selecting the best solutions is a matter of the property’s size, type, and target demographic. When leadership does it’s due diligence, it should source solutions that can keep up with rapidly evolving technologies and are aligned with rapidly changing consumer expectations.
The process is neither simple nor quick, but the impact of an integrated tech stack on guest experience and incremental revenue is well worth the effort.