How a Flattening World Impacts Hoteliers

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The hospitality industry’s greatest task may be, not using technology to add value to the guest experience, increase revenue and cut costs for owners, but learning to adapt to and leverage change to reshape the industry.

Younger sisters sew bags for the family laptops so they won’t get dirty.

The recent Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition and Conference (HITEC) in Minneapolis focused hospitality’s attention on using technology to add value to the guest experience and to increase revenue while cutting costs for owners. These are familiar goals. They are also very specific to the hospitality industry. A wider view is less obvious but equally vital, and could benefit our industry. Today, society in general is like a bubble floating in a sea of unprecedented cultural, technological and economic change.

“How these forces of change are affecting hospitality is impossible to tell right now. Two global trends could impact what is happening in hospitality and provide insights into a new type of guest that is evolving,” says Michael Squires, president of Softscribe Inc. Squires cited those trends as:

  •      The rise of China and the opening of India;
  •     The flattening of the world through the Internet and Globalization 3.0.

The rise of China and the opening of India: call centers with no accent

At a recent government thought leadership conference, two books were repeatedly cited in panels and keynotes to underscore this message: software development and technology are being commoditized globally; America’s competitive advantage must now focus on innovation, creative imagination and thought leadership. One of the books quoted was New York Times’ columnist Tom Friedman’s best selling The World is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century that deals with the rise of China and opening of India; the flattening of the world through the Internet; and implications for America of Globalization 3.0. For a synopsis of the book see: http://301url.com/TheWorldIsFlat.

“Three Billion New Capitalists: The Great Shift of Wealth and Power to the East,” by Clyde Prestowitz also provided insights on the impact of China’s growth. Three billion people, or one-half the world, have come into the global economy in the last 15 years from India, China and the former Soviet bloc. The bottom line is anything that can be done digitally can be done anywhere. Medical tourism is booming, in part because a plane ticket to Bangalore and most surgical procedures costs 20% less than in the United States. Call centers in India teach power words in their accent-neutralization classes such as, “Trust me. Believe me. It will work.” American travelers call Delta agents in India for an airline reservation, and then are instantly switched to a call center in Canada to book their rental car.

What does it mean to hoteliers?

What does a flattened world mean to hoteliers in day to day commerce? What happens when people from across the world contact us or come to see us? How do we prepare for the future? What does it mean to be truly global? How do we sensitize staff to treat Chinese visitors the way they wanted to be treated?

Flattening of the world: A new type of guest is growing

John Burns, President of Hospitality Technology Consulting, explains, “I recently traveled to Tokyo’s Narita International Airport. In the Admiral’s Club they had a very high tech Japanese toilet with hot water and hot air. The challenge was the user pad was in Japanese, so you didn’t know what would happen if you pushed a button. This points to the question: how do we make people feel comfortable in our facilities? We will deal with travelers who are sometimes unfamiliar with our facilities and customs.” Burns summarizes, “We must learn to be both understandable and welcoming. Globalization means taking extra steps to recognize and respond to the needs and sensitivities of our foreign travelers before they make a reservation or check in.”

Burns also believes the world will continue to be flattened by new generations of travelers. “Gen-X’ers and Millennials are making the boutique brands like Kimpton and Starwood’s W very successful. Among the Millennials, everyone carries a cell phone but they rarely make phone calls. They use it for text messaging and they are communicating with a different circle of friends than we have. In many cases, these are people they have never met, people who are far, far away.”

One implication of this, according to Burns, is that these future guests are growing up as the next generation of video conferencers: they do not need face-to-face meetings. “This will be a massive challenge for the hotel industry and providers of traditional meeting services. We may see fewer and fewer business travelers and more leisure guests,” says Burns, as the world continues to flatten.

Children grow up to be guests

One hallmark of the flattening of the world through the Internet and access to wireless and broadband is the education of people in India and China, American hoteliers’ future guests. Says Julie Keyser-Squires, CFO with Softscribe Inc., “Two child-related projects come to mind that illustrate this and both are amazing.” One is New Delhi’s Hole in the Wall kiosk project that places high-speed touch-screen computers in the wall that separates the city’s biggest slum from India’s international software giant, NIIT Ltd. Free computers placed where children play is helping bring basic education to India’s 200 million young people under age 15.

Keyser-Squires said a second project to educate the world’s children – likely guests for America’s hotels – is futurist Nicholas Negroponte’s global plan for One $100 Laptop Per Child, which launches in Q1 ’07 in Brazil and will deliver an eventual 100 million units to developing nations. The two-pound bright yellow “laptop and electronic book with rabbit ears” operates with a hand crank (which can be turned by younger siblings to generate the needed two watts of electricity) on a mesh network that maintains connectivity even when the child closes his laptop. In rural villages without electricity the opened laptop might be the brightest light source in the home. This initiative by developing nations is just one element fueling the flattening of the world, and it is creating a new type of educated traveler. “There is also a pride of ownership,” said Keyser-Squires. “Younger sisters sew bags for the family laptops so they won’t get dirty.” She noted the unit’s distinctive shape and color help minimize its attraction to the gray market. “If you have one of these, you had better be either a child or a teacher.”

    This is a time of unprecedented change with three billion new global guests coming on line. The hospitality industry’s greatest task may be, not using technology to add value to the guest experience, increase revenue and cut costs for owners, but learning to adapt to and leverage change to reshape the industry.

About Hospitality Technology Consulting

Established in 1992 by John Burns, Hospitality Technology Consulting provides international expertise in reservation technology and strategic distribution planning. Clients include chains, management companies and independent properties from across the globe . HTC Founder and President John Burns, is the author of numerous hotel industry articles, and in June 2006 was inducted into the prestigious Hospitality Financial and Technology Professional Technology Hall of Fame. For more information about Scottsdale, Arizona-based Hospitality Technology Consulting please visit http://www.burns-htc.com.

About Softscribe Inc.

Founded in 1999, Softscribe Inc. practices true public relations, not just publicity, to help technology companies targeting the US government, hospitality and healthcare industries drive product sales and solidify their brands. The company does this through a blend of traditional one-to-one-marketing public relations and imaginative Search Marketing with an emphasis on media and influencer relationships, writing and a focus on messaging strategy. Softscribe’s clients include Aptech Computer Systems, Inc., Gold Key Solutions, Hospitality Safe, LodgeNet Entertainment Corporation, NORTHWIND, Manugistics, Troux Technologies and many other leading technology companies. For more information please visit http://www.softscribeinc.com.

John Burns is president of Hospitality Technology Consulting. Michael B. Squires and Julie Keyser-Squires, APR, are President and CFO, respectively, of Softscribe Inc.

Contacts:

John Burns

Hospitality Technology Consulting

(480) 661-6797

http://www.burns-htc.com

Michael Squires

Softscribe Inc.

(404)256-5512

http://www.softscribeinc.com

Media Contact:

Julie Keyser-Squires, APR

Softscribe Inc.

(404)256-5512

http://www.softscribeinc.com

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