HOSPITALITY IN A DIGITAL AGE

As human beings we experience the most significant bits of change when we go through something that challenges us past our known ability. In order to do really well at something that is new to us, we have to work at it. We have to submerge ourselves in our new interest and challenge every pre conceived idea we have of the topic. When you were a child your challenges may have included how to tie your shoe laces while as an adult your challenges progressed to suite the things that life demands of you and those that you demand of yourself. Human beings are, however wired to seek out the comfortable bits of life, so growth and change are a challenge to us. Since businesses are run by people, businesses also find themselves complacent and stagnant in their growth. This is how individuals change the face of whole industries without industry leaders recognizing it or being able to stop it.

This is how the face of business in the hospitality industry met a challenge to change. The internet changed things and the accessibility of information on destinations and hospitality properties. All of a sudden, it was easier to find out what a place was really like without ever having set foot there. All these inventions and innovations made it easy for smaller businesses to find their share in markets and grow past the small business stage to medium or large business. People could suddenly find an exclusive hotel or lodge in the most remote town or city on Earth if that business had a mention on the internet.

The introduction of internet based solutions did little more than change the way hospitality businesses are marketed and how services are paid for over the internet. Real change was experienced when platform businesses (Businesses that offer businesses in a particular industry a platform on which to sell their goods e.g. Airbnb, Alibaba or Uber) made their mark in the industry and left linear business owners (actual businesses with building costs and other operational costs e.g. A hotel, a shop that sells produce from multiple suppliers or a meter taxi) with the hassles of running a full time business while they made large profits on simply offering businesses platforms on which they can sell their products and services. Platform businesses get higher valuations at a faster pace due to their low costs and high venture capital fund injections. In other words, Platform businesses are to linear businesses the challenge that has the potential to make or break linear businesses.

You might be wondering if you should sell your hotel or restaurant business and start a platform based business. The truth is, even platform businesses will be overtaken by a new type of business in the future. Business owners and managers can stay ahead of the ever moving wave of change by applying simple but beneficial habits and practices.

Stay Customer Focused;
The foundation of any successful business is its ability to keep solving consumer problems. That’s why customer centered businesses thrive beyond their competitors. Businesses that solve today’s problems as thoroughly as they possibly can by remaining aware of their customer’s needs retain the edge over their competitors.
e.g. Hotels can offer free Wifi to their in-house guests. The availability of a decent internet connection has been rated as a top priority for travelers from across the globe but even this simple offering is overlooked by most South African hotels.

Keep looking for ways to create USP’s;
Knowing your customers’ needs is important but it may not be enough to keep you ahead of the innovative wave of change taking over industries. It is important for businesses to keep looking for USP’s (Unique Selling Points). This way of thinking and challenging your business will drive innovation which is an essential part of business survival and growth. Focusing your USP development projects around innovative customer centered solutions will always result in an increase in sales.
Note: Word gets around fast so it is imperative that the generation of new USP’s becomes a norm for you and your team.

Use technology to your advantage;
There seems to be a social media platform hitting the market every other day. It is not realistic to expect every platform to work for your brand so you will have to give some of the new arrivals on the scene a miss for your business. Beyond using the platforms that have already been created and are widely used (these can be used for marketing but not as a differentiating aspect of your business), you should look for ways to develop and implement technological advancements that will further your business and serve your customers better.
e.g. Hotel guests often complain that they have to sign when they go to the restaurant and then again when they visit the bar and perhaps again when they order Room Service. This is a simple problem that can be solved using technology. Try finding technological methods to eliminate multiple dockets being a necessity at your hospitality property.

Keep an eye on global developments;
Keep an eye on global developments from a service and product offering point of view but don’t forget to observe technological advancements. Technological advancements may not be presented in a manner that directly serves the Hospitality Industry so be creative when you hear of a new product.

Always consider information security;
People are increasingly aware of whom they hand out their personal information to. Cyber terrorism, amongst other things is the cause of extra precaution. It is therefore in every businesses best interest to evaluate how safe their guest’s data is. This especially applies to applications that are owned and developed by your company ad not a second or third party.

Change and adaptation are challenging eventualities. Finding ways to adapt to the significant changes in industries that interact with your business sets you apart and positions you as a market leader. Technology is changing more industries, processes and functions than any other industry or sector in the world right now. I would therefore say that it is worth investigating and possibly adapting your business to technological advancements.

 

By: Elizabeth Ngulube

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