SiteMinder CEO on future if hotel tech, Integrations again, the case for hotel management systems

Siteminder CEO on the future of hotel

Mike Ford of Siteminder wrote a thought provoking piece on the future of hotel tech after the recent AccorHotels acquisition of Availpro. It is worth a read, I will however preface that read with a very real problem that hotels will face if they don't somehow start working with larger tech players. That problem is that the future of AI powered travel distribution will mostly only be accessible to larger companies who have the power and position to get access to Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft etc. So somewhere a consolidation is desperately needed for hotels.


Word of Mouth is still King

No matter how much marketing technology evolves one thing remains more powerful than any ad and that's word of mouth. Some years ago, I conducted a survey of some 20,000+ direct bookings to find out how the guests had discovered the hotel. The survey was done on independent hotels primarily in Europe. The outcome at the time astonished me and everyone involved. It turned out word of mouth was the number one way people booked independent hotels. So despite OTAs and all online advertising, the old rules of marketing still ruled. Recently at the Skift forum in Europe the founders of Mr and Ms Smith mentioned the same thing. It turns out that no matter the technology, we still want that human referral more than anything else. For those building AI bots, it’s a wildcard to take into account. 


Full Hotel Management Systems or Apps?

Are we going to a future of all-in-one technology or an open and integrated exchangeable stack? I’m not sure I have enough data to estimate how that will roll-out. But both will survive if they are kept open. All-in-one’s suffer the problems of all hybrid system in that they are good but lack specialized solutions that might be required. On the other hand they are simple to manage and often cheaper (until they aren’t).  Open stack system (multiple integrated applications such as a PMS, Housekeeping system, channel manager, revenue manager etc) are messier to manage but offer more flexibility. One size doesn’t fit all, that much we know. But as long as both types are open - we’re pretty safe that hoteliers will win and both have equally good chance of becoming the standard. 


AI is coming to travel, period.

So much has been said about it that I wont belabor the point. Microsoft is now officially working on improving artificial intelligence in travel search, Trivago has mentioned it, Expedia etc. As hotels this is both scary and exciting. Exciting because it can grow the travel pie and bring business to hotels that wouldn't otherwise receive it, scary because access to the channel will be a lot harder to obtain for direct bookings. And the scary part is already happening, not every hotel has access to Google Hotel Ads for their website. So how we'll prepare for that is yet to be solved. 


Oh Integrations...

A recent poll by Hospitality Tech Magazine found that integrations was one of the highest challenges in hotel tech. It's not new, but it is still an issue. It is exactly why the industry needs more consolidation, the best (or most established) hotel systems frequently fail because of that one problem, they are not good at integrations. The next big thing in hotel technology will probably come from a small startup and that small startup will need to get integrated. So hoteliers, please, demand your providers make simple (and affordable) integrations a priority. And if they can't, find another supplier. 


Martin Soler