10 Key Takeaways from This Week’s Cyber HITEC Conference

Discover the best quotes and insights from the hospitality and technology leaders who hosted sessions at HITEC.

This week at HITEC, hospitality leaders and operators gathered together to discuss the future—what should hoteliers be doing next week? Next year? In the next ten years? And yet, even as experts spoke and shared their opinions, the overwhelming attitude of the conference was one of community and learning. In a year of complete disruption, everyone was eager to listen to the experiences of others and find innovative solutions to the unexpected problems hoteliers are facing in the COVID era.

Over three days, hundreds of hoteliers, vendors, and industry leaders gathered to compare notes, hear stories of struggles and success, and plan together for what’s next for the hospitality industry. Here are some of the best quotes and insights shared during the conference:

1. Visibility plays a crucial role in safety. It’s not enough to be effective, hoteliers also need continuous “hygiene theater” that shows a deep commitment to clean.

– Cyber HITEC Session: Hotel Technology Choices in a Pandemic World 

There’s a huge difference between being safe and feeling safe. Once new measures and protocols are in place, what hoteliers show and tell people about safety measures will directly impact their comfort level. Don’t underestimate the power of signage, digital communication, and visible cleaning supplies.

2. Labor is an investment, not an expense—and right now, it’s critical to get staffing right. No one cares how much you save if service quality drops.

– Cyber HITEC Session: How Your Largest Operating Expense Can Produce Your Biggest Profits

Traditional labor cost controls enforce a false binary that says under budget = good, and over budget = bad. Instead, hoteliers should be looking to build the most efficient teams with productivity standards, forecasting, and automation. Then, they can optimize—saving costs, raising productivity, and recognizing the value of their team all at the same time.

3. There is no guarantee guests will ever be comfortable with the amount of contact they had with staff and other guests pre-pandemic. It’s likely there will be a shift towards a more digital and less physical future.

– Cyber HITEC Session: The Digital Transformation Movement

Many consumers haven’t hugged their friends and family in months. The vast majority definitely aren’t looking to interact with strangers, and even if a vaccine got approved tomorrow, that likely wouldn’t change. The truth is, social distancing and contactless measures are here to stay for the foreseeable future. And when the pandemic is over, who knows what the new normal will be?

4. Everyone is reducing physical touchpoints and congestion in areas of gathering to manage hotel liability and reduce anxiety. As a result, there are new challenges during arrival, especially with communication.

– Cyber HITEC Session: Can’t Touch This: Ideas for Social Distancing at Hotels

New safety measures also need to come with entirely new processes, and can’t leave out the critical guest communication aspect. From pre-arrival emails to SMS messaging to signage, hotels can’t do enough to make sure guests are kept informed about requirements to socially distance and options to embrace contactless service.

5. IT and technology are no longer just a cost center, but a revenue driver. Companies that involve IT in decision-making see lower costs, more accurate project timelines, and a more future-proof business in the long run.

– Cyber HITEC Session: Human Factors: CapITal at the Table

That’s a combination to be reckoned with in any year, but the value of IT has been reinforced even more strongly this year. Their ability to recognize hidden costs and lead innovation delivers terrific ROI. When it comes to project and budget planning, make sure they have a voice.

6. “Mobile key is the technology that hotels around the world are clamoring for. There are limitations and questions every property has to ask themselves, but it’s out there and it’s possible.”

– Cyber HITEC Session: Hotel Technology Choices in a Pandemic World

Speaking of contactless service options and the arrival experience for guests, mobile check-in and mobile key top the technology wish lists of hoteliers around the world. As Steven D’Erasmo from Hilton points out, asking the right questions and building the right process is important before investing—but contactless entry is turning out to be very valuable to those who do it well.

7. “When digital transformation is done right, it’s like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. But when done wrong, all you have is a really fast caterpillar.”

– Cyber HITEC Session: The Digital Transformation Movement

The only thing worse than not modernizing a property or brand is doing it poorly. Hotels can’t afford to make a monetary investment that isn’t also embraced on the cultural and human level. Otherwise, technology is just wasted budget. Real digital transformation only occurs when management and staff buy in from the start and educate guests effectively.

8. Digital transformation and digital synergy aren’t the same thing. Digital synergy will go beyond digitally enabling traditional processes to create totally seamless and connected experiences for consumers.

– Cyber HITEC Session: Payment Trends: Just Waiting to Check In

While some hoteliers are just now embarking on the path to digital transformation, others are looking even further ahead to digital synergy—planning for a future where neither a wallet nor a phone may be necessary for purchases or ID verification. It’s futuristic, but closer than you think.

9. “When consumers say they want things like privacy and safety, what they’re really saying is that they want to trust you.”

– Cyber HITEC Session: The Digital Transformation Movement

Hospitality is one of the oldest industries in the world—and no matter how the industry evolves, it always comes back to these core values: making guests feel welcome, gaining their trust, and keeping it. Whether it’s COVID measures or data security, that value should remain front and center in every hotelier’s decision-making process.

10. There are four key elements in any successful mindset shift: necessity, disruption to sociological norms, financial incentive, and a champion to lead the transition.

– Cyber HITEC Session: Game-Changing Disruption: Shifting the Legacy Mindset

COVID has provided the need, the disruption, and the financial incentive—the industry is seeking a new equilibrium, an innovative way forward. Who will lead? What can you do? It’s a great reminder for every vendor and leader who’s in the midst of planning for 2021.

Looking to find out more about how contactless technology like mobile check-in, mobile key, and mobile dining can transform the guest experience at your property or brand?

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