Front Desk

Use Technology Wisely and Do Not Lose Sight of the Basics

The cloud. Mobile. Mobility. You couldn't walk more than 10 feet in Baltimore this week without hearing one of those words, at least if you were anywhere near the convention center and HITEC. There were plenty of cool products and technologies on display, but what caught my eye was what I saw disappearing: front desks, the check-in process, locks, TVs, remotes, the concierge and more.

Sure, those things really aren't going away, but at some hotels in the near future, if not now, guests can and will book their rooms using smart phones, then they'll bypass the front desk at arrival because the hotel recognizes they're on property through a mobile app they're carrying and their room number will come via a text message. They'll head there and open the door without using a key or even seeing a lock. They'll use their voice or smart phone to activate the TV, which of course was hiding behind a massive painting on the wall, and they'll watch a movie streaming wirelessly from their iPad to the flat-screen TV. Instead of ordering room service by phone or visiting the concierge for dinner recommendations and reservations, they'll use their iPad to do all that and more.

That may sound futuristic, but multiple vendors at HITEC were showing off products with those capabilities, all powered by some combination of the cloud, mobile devices and the behind-the-scenes bandwidth making it possible. With technology continuing to evolve at a rapid clip, it's hard imagine what's coming next, but two savvy leaders cautioned hoteliers not to get too carried away.

“Technology for the sake of technology is a waste,” said Kris Singleton, chief information officer for the tech-forward Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

Monika Nerger, CIO of Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, said her hopes for the industry is that “we make sure what we deliver really works well. A piece of technology not working can be a huge failure. In delivery of customer experience, be cautious not to over-predict what guests want.”

Great advice. At the core, this industry is still about being hospitable and providing great customer service. Use technology to enhance that, not forget it.

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