It would be hard to find a more overused phrase in management lore than ” thinking outside the box.” Nevertheless, that is what will spur discussion in today’s BITAC conference at New York’s Marriott Marquis hosted by Hotelinteractive
Yesterday’s Financial Times has an article on kiosks and technology that only underscores why that trite phrase is still vastly relevant, particularly for the hotel industry. Airlines have raced ahead in incorporating technology throughout the check-in process with many mandating electronic boarding cards and, now, British Airways has abandoned conventional check-in methods altogether in a couple of cities in the UK. However, hotel companies remain distant laggards – Hilton being the notable exception in rolling out kiosks that enable automated check-ins. Others are following suit although at a considerably slower pace and with some reluctance for fear of alienating customers (in the mistaken belief that use of technology translates into an impersonal touch). Clearly that thinking does not apply anymore to electronic locks and key cards although some (including, unsuprisingly, legislators in Albany) believe that these cards are a repository of personal information that will somehow be used by hotels to track them. That, however, is another topic for another day. But like tellers, the inevitable push towards electronic checking of guests is a matter of time. What is notable is that – despite the rhetoric – hotel companies are slow to think outside the box. In using advances in technology that are readily available as templates in other industries, the hotel industry merely remains boxed-in.