According to him, technology is an “enabler” that should be embraced, but fully-digital hotel concepts lack the important element of the interpersonal relationship, which Manikis feels is a big part of what drives many people to travel in the first place.
Christopher Hartley, CEO at Global Hotel Alliance, echoed this point, adding that leisure guests in particular value human interaction. “There are some types of customer who absolutely want human interaction. I think especially with upscale hotel brands, leisure guests have more time in particular in that segment and expect human interaction when entering a hotel and interacting with staff. It’s at the forefront of what hospitality is about,” he said.
Looking towards technological impact over the next few years, Hartley said, “Hotels deliver the customer experience and the product; that won't change much. For pre-arrival though, we need technology to improve engagement with customers because that will help reduce the cost of doing business. Keep in mind that profitability will remain an issue for the coming three years.”
With accommodation establishments having layed off or furloughed many positions during the height of the pandemic, the hospitality industry is now finding that a lot of workers are not returning and is now facing a labour shortage. And as more countries open to travellers, hotels are discovering they do not have the staff complement required to service them.
Manikis called it “one of the greatest challenges” the industry will have to face, noting that younger generations are either not entering hospitality or are not remaining in it.
“The hotel of the future should not have a back office and a front office. It's not an office but a community. The way we position ourselves as an industry needs to change, otherwise we won't be successful, no matter what technology we deploy,” Manikis said.
“The people we hire tend to be tech-savvy marketeers. So for us, attracting those people is more about competing for the best talent. I think what’s happened at hotels over the last 20 or 30 years is that everything has been centralised, and technology has enabled that.
“Graduates want to go into marketing and tech, because that's where the money is, that's where all the disruption is happening, and that's where all new technology is emerging from. We have millions more university graduates than we had 20 years ago, but they don't want to take that learning and apply it in a hotel operation. That's the challenge we have.”
Manikis encouraged businesses to make technology a key part of their strategy and operations, but added, “One thing I think we all learnt during the pandemic is the need to go back to basics, because it’s the human element that kept us all going.”