Innovation Challenges in Hospitality

March 18, 2020 •

4 min reading

Innovation Challenges in Hospitality


Learn about today’s biggest innovation challenges for hoteliers, from data to technology and sustainability.

As technology, innovation and the environmental pressures continue to shape today’s hospitality industry, it’s becoming ever-more important for hoteliers to adopt new ways of working, and deliver their guests with a more personalized, seamless and sustainable experience.

Bracing for digital disruption

Digital disruption in the hospitality industry can come in many forms. The biggest development in recent years has been that of big data. While it seems that every company in today’s marketplace owns customer data, it’s only those who do something with it that gain a competitive edge. And it’s growing at an accelerated rate. According to Forbes, 90% of the world's data was generated in the last two years. So, now more than ever, it’s critical to not only understand what customers really want, but to use that data to help customize and tailor experiences to each individual guest.

Another area of growing importance is voice search. Google has reported that 20% of its mobile queries are now activated through voice, and the overall use of digital assistants and voice search has risen over 40% in the past year. Voice search is transforming the booking process, making it increasingly easy and convenient for customers to search for their next stay, without having to type a single word.

Augmenting the customer journey

When it comes to the customer journey, the hospitality industry is falling behind. Today’s hoteliers need to recognize is that it’s no longer about simply providing a guest with a room, but providing them with a seamless experience – from the moment they book their stay to the moment they arrive back home, and beyond. Today’s guests want to be delighted by hotels, and there are many was to do that with new technologies;

One such way is in providing a deeper level of personalization within the booking process. Take, for example, air travel booking. Today, travelers booking their flights can opt for special seats, speedy boarding preferences, meal preferences, and even select their in-flight entertainment. But when booking a hotel room, options are largely limited to check-in time and the request of an extra bed or baby cot. Guests want to be heard, and understood. In fact, when guests feel that a hotel understands their needs, they are 13% more likely to return. By using new technology-driven tools, hotels could offer a more seamless online booking experience and show their guests that they’re paying attention to their individual needs.

Another growing trend is the use of technology to enhance the guests’ stay. Modern guests are increasingly looking for high-tech experiences, and many are willing to forego traditional amenities to get them. Here are few examples of technologies today’s trendiest hotels are leveraging to better serve their guests:

  • Facial recognition to reduce and automate the check-in process
  • Voice-controlled rooms
  • Robots – as butlers or as a concierge
  • RFID wristbands
  • Mobile room keys
  • Chatbots
  • Smart amenities, allowing guests to fully customize their in-room

Sustainable innovation

To some, it’s a buzzword, while to others, it’s a way of life. Over the last 10 years, sustainability has been a growing focus for private and public sectors alike – and the hospitality industry has a big role to play. Historically, the industry has had a dramatic environmental impact, from construction processes to energy and water consumption, but many hoteliers are changing their tune. Major groups (like Radisson, Intercontinental, Marriott and Starwood) are leading the way, and demonstrating just how sustainability can go hand-in-hand with long-term success.

But what do hoteliers need to keep in mind when innovating for sustainability?

  • Firstly, sustainability doesn’t require a complete overhaul of your operations. Conduct a bottom-up analysis, and start with small changes. Step by step, you can then enlarge your strategy to encompass different initiatives and areas throughout your hotel.
  • Secondly, don’t be afraid to leverage technology. For example, by knowing when guests have left their rooms, hotels could save energy by lowering or increasing the room temperature or turning off the lights. Alternatively, by engaging in smarter booking technologies, hotels could automatically group guests on the same floor to reduce the need for heating through the entire establishment.
  • Lastly, keep in mind that sustainability goes beyond environmental management. To truly support long-term sustainable development, companies need to think beyond water and energy-saving methods and consider their impact on economic progress and social development – promoting health and well-being, gender equality, stimulating entrepreneurship and supporting local communities.


On November 27th, EHL hosted a conference on ‘Envisioning the Future: The Innovation Challenge for Hospitality Leaders’. Following the conference, we’ve highlighted the key trends, topics and technologies that today’s hospitality leaders need to hone into if they want to stay relevant, and sustain continued growth and success.