Why 2016 needs to be the year of the digital guest standard

The hotel market is renowned for its inertia and late adoption to technological innovations.

Yet, it was one of the first industries to move online around 1995/1996 (when Travelocity and Expedia first appeared).

NB: This is a viewpoint from Max Waldmann, chief executive of Conichi.

Hospitality relies heavily on the digital world and the standards which go along with it, but it increasingly fails to meet these standards inside its properties. Hotels invest a lot of time, effort, and money into establishing a connection with guests pre-stay, but there is a noticeable break in this communication once a guest enters the hotel.

At this stage one must question why no digital connection to the guests exists – the hotels’ most important relation.

In a time where guests are used to the ease of digital services, they don’t want to give up this comfort during hotel stays. This has led to a competitive market situation where large hotel chains and newcomers, most notably Airbnb, are improving the guest experience at a rapid clip.

Guests are getting used to these enhanced standards and are willing to give up some of their personal information in exchange for digital services – 75% are willing to share personal information if they get something in return.

One could argue that various individual hotel apps have already established a guest connection. However, these apps have brought very little, if any, value to the respective guests. Firstly, because there is too much effort in the use of these applications for both the guests and the hotels, and, secondly, the functionalities are very questionable.

When taking a closer look at many of these hotel apps, it’s evident why user figures are so low and churn rates so high – opening times or hotel pictures can also be viewed on the respective hotel website so why download a dedicated app?

For apps to be useful, they need to be context-aware and provide the user with what they require at any given moment, e.g. ordering room service or special pillows for their beds.

But even enhancing the functionalities of an app doesn’t solve the long-term problem: the effort on both the guest’s and the hotel’s side is too high on all levels. For hotels, it’s very costly to build and maintain these apps. For guests, the effort of downloading and registering personal details – in order to integrate useful functionalities which are personalized – is enormous.

Hotels are not software companies, and neither should they aim to be. It’s evident that there must be a universal digital connection to the guest instead, in order to meet the requirements of the digital traveller. Using this connection to boost the experience will ultimately generate greater returns for both guests and hotels.

This digital standard is a necessity for the hospitality industry to survive in the digital age, in which hotels will have to increasingly connect and integrate with new digital services centered around the traveller.

Large chains in particular are seeing the signs: Starwood is implementing Whatsapp, – the de facto messaging standard – even without the availability of an API, to be able to meet guests’ demand to exchange text messages with their hotel.

But workarounds like this are quite inefficient and, again, create effort. A technical standard must be established instead, allowing for efficient communication and connectivity from both sides. A standard which can easily grow with the requirements of the rapidly shifting digital world. A platform on top of which partners in the travel chain build their services in order to enhance the guest journey while increasing the efficiency of in-house processes.

If this standard is created, the possibilities are endless. For example, if transport providers are connected to this standard, they could push delays to hotels, automatically requesting late-check-out for respective guests. Hotels could use this standard platform to enable corporates to directly link to them, reducing travel cost management efforts while making the accounting easier for both parties.

There are many more ways a platform can act as a universal interface to make hotels and the guest journey a lot smoother. That is, of course, if guests are willing to opt in because the benefits of sharing information are compelling.

A technology standard made widely available at low cost can create a level playing field for smaller hotels to compete with chains, because the additional effort is low and the guests’ stay is vastly improved.

Hotels have the advantage of a unified interface from which they can overview and manage their entire guest connection, controlling which services their property should offer. Only a standard will allow all parties to benefit from digitization.

For this, tech companies and hotels have to work together in overcoming market fragmentation and creating a truly unified standard to make the hotel stay as easy and smart as possible.

NB: This is a viewpoint from Max Waldmann, chief executive of Conichi.

NB2: Guest experience image via Shutterstock.

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About the Writer :: Viewpoints

A founding principle of tnooz was a diversity of viewpoints from across the spectrum. Viewpoints are articles by guest contributors from around the travel and hospitality industries. The views expressed are those of the author. and do not necessarily reflect those of the author's employer, or tnooz and its partners.



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  1. MR

    Hi Max,
    through the capital raising your company will work very closely with the OTA “HRS”. I’m a hotel owner and interested in a hotel app for our small hotel group to increase direct bookings but I am very insecure because your cooperation with HRS. Please let me know your opinion to this topic.

  2. Rd

    Hi Maximilian,

    I have a few question regarding your startup and successful capital raising, is there anyway to connect with you and talk online? or via Email?

    Anyway, great article and good luck.

  3. Maximilian Waldmann

    Thanks for your comments.
    Yes, there are multiple tech standards around proximity and connectivity as pointed out by Glenn. Also there are various organizations working on thought leadership in regards to travel innovation as mentioned by Valyn.
    There although is not one single technology standard in the market, with a strong enough penetration to achieve a critical mass hence creating a de facto standard, connecting guests to hotels and vice versa, inside the properties.

    As Glenn emphasised, content which is to be exchanged between guests and hotels, varies largely even within one brand. Fortunately enough this is the case and hopefully these disparities between properties will continue to grow in order to make hotels unique and tailored to local circumstances, enhancing the experience and souls in order to give travellers a reason to consider booking a hotel, instead of an Airbnb. Hotels will need to offer diverse content and experiences, which will need to be transmitted to guests either via the technology standard, with the smartphone acting as the output medium at the moment or the personal interaction, which is to be enhance through the respective standard. This hotel-guest standard not only acts as a bridge to exchange content in order to personalise experiences inside the properties, but moreover builds the ground infrastructure between the two parties in order to be able to swiftly add innovative and value enhancing services if required.

    As mentioned by Valyn the issue of technology fragmentation is present, this although is due to lacking standards and the rapidly transforming technologies. By creating an underlying technology standard, which can be integrated into various apps as well as IT ecosystems, with the purpose of merely connecting the guests and hotels, one has created a universal technology framework which is capable of evolving with the innovation of technology while catering to the local requirements of the properties. Note that this standard is only part of the technology base, while the UI/UX or even the app on top may vary vastly in their use-cases.

    The question is not whether individual players are willing to integrate a guest standard but moreover who is the fastest and creates the most value for their guests in order to maintain competitiveness whilst attracting a new generation of travellers, making hotels a personalized home in which one can truly experience the future of hospitality.

  4. Avinash Udayakumar

    Guest Attract in 2016 plays important role for hoteliers
    a) A large number of people depend on the internet for travel related information
    b) Reviews can be a deciding factor when it comes to building trust with guests
    c) Social media activity is critical for hotels to keep engaging guests, a large number of people are also influenced by social media posts
    d) Hoteliers can empower their property by boosting their hotel’s independence by building good online authority

  5. Valyn Perini

    Perhaps Mr. Waldmann is new to the industry and hasn’t heard of OpenTravel, HTNG or HEDNA, all existing organizations that work in one way or another on standards for the hotel industry.

    The bigger issue is platform and technological fragmentation – people, including hotel guests, use all sorts of apps to communicate, and creating a technical integration standard that underpins them all isn’t realistic. Add in future-proofing, and you’ve got quite a complex exercise for an industry that’s not known for its collaboration.

    Add this to Glenn’s excellent point that hotel content would be practically impossible to standardize (and no hotel wants to believe its content is ‘standard’), and you have a futile exercise in hand.

  6. Glenn Gruber

    Standards around what elements? There are plenty of tech standards around location, connectivity and integration to be adopted by brands.

    It seems to me the biggest hurdle is the fact that each property, even within a brand, can vary so much that maintaining and building the local content and making it accessible to the guest. No “tech standard” is going to solve that.


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