Preparing for the next big thing
Preparing for the next big thing
23 MAY 2018 7:00 AM

Instead of planning for the unknown, it’s a lot more realistic to think about what’s next in hospitality and what you can do to capitalize on it.

If you’re in the hotel business, you’re probably feeling pretty good about things lately.

The general feeling is that the steady growth the industry has been experiencing for some time looks likely to continue, and—at least for the next year or so—there is no real reason to think that won’t continue. We’re seeing supply somewhat constrained—which is a good thing at this point in the cycle—at least in part due to a more conservative approach on the part of some lenders.

But you don’t need me to tell you any of that—not if you’re in the business, or even if you pick up a paper every once in awhile. Conventional wisdom is just that: conventional. Not only is it not exactly breaking news, but it’s also just as likely to be wrong as not. How many times over the years have we seen it? The economy takes a turn for the worse, and no one saw it coming.

Sure, there is always a lot of post-mortem analysis and hindsight wisdom flying around, but if anyone could consistently predict market movements and economic trends, there would be more Warren Buffetts walking around out there. Some of the smartest people in the world have dedicated their entire professional lives to predicting what the economy will do next, and none of them gets it right with any kind of regularity. The economy is so complex that trying to predict what will happen in the economy next year is about as useful as trying to forecast what the weather will look like next year.

Here’s the good news, however: You might not be able to see the economic future, but recognizing that fact does free you up to make smarter decisions about what you can control.

Instead of wasting time and energy trying to predict the unpredictable and plan for the unplannable, think critically about your business and your industry. It’s a lot more realistic to think about what’s next in hospitality and what you can do to capitalize on it. You can control how much you pay attention to new tools and new ideas in the hotel business. You can control how committed you are to learning about emerging technologies and to thinking about how to leverage those tools for your own benefit/operation.

Don’t think about what’s next, think about what’s the Next Big Thing. And think about what you can do to take a big idea or a new opportunity and turn it into a practical, everyday reality. And if there’s one thing we can predict, it’s that technological innovation will continue to shape the future from how we travel, how we work and how we communicate. It’s all changed dramatically in just a few short years.

Look how fast Uber changed the way we get around. Think about how fast the Apple ad slogan “there’s an app for that” turned from aspirational motto to virtually a reality. Here’s how quickly things change: Until June 2007, the iPhone didn’t even exist. Now iPhones and other smart mobile devices are such an integral part of our lives that it’s almost impossible to imagine a world without them.

In the hotel industry, social media platforms and online booking and review sites have already had a profound impact. Automation, big data, AI and machine learning are almost certainly going to continue the trend.

Automation—from washing dishes to checking in guests—is already making inroads. Digital room keys and mobile check-in are becoming more readily available. Automation promises new efficiencies and conveniences, but it also has the potential to affect guest experiences in both positive and negative ways. The implications also extend to the balance sheet. Your labor costs will likely decrease, but maintaining and upgrading new systems and technologies will cost you.

Big data is another area where tech innovation promises to dramatically change the way we operate. The volume of information that brands can gather—and the sophisticated ways that we’re able to crunch the numbers to tell us more about who is staying in our hotels—is enormously valuable, making it possible to supercharge rewards programs, provide more personalized service and ultimately capture more dollars. At the same time, powerful new revenue-management tools are providing new financial insights and operational efficiencies.

Cutting-edge hotel owners and operators already have a leg up on the competition. And that’s the real lesson about predicting the future. Put your crystal ball away, and instead, work to capitalize on the tools and tech that you know are coming. I don’t know exactly what’s next. No one does. But I do know that trying to make precise economic forecasts is a fool’s game, and positioning yourself to take advantage of the Next Big Thing in technology and innovation is something you can control.

Steve Van, president and CEO of Prism Hotels & Resorts, founded the Dallas-based company in 1983. Under his leadership, Prism has become an award-winning full-service hotel management, investment and advisory services company. For more information, visit

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1 Comment

  • Renaissance May 24, 2018 2:47 AM Reply

    The next Next Big Thing won't be this, but one day it will be. When the hotel industry generally discovers one day that the body has an energy field and that everything is made of energy, hoteliers will have discovered the means to making the greatest transformation in the guest experience since the hotel industry began. When hoteliers discover how they can work with human energy in a hotel contect, and they put love back into the essence of hospitality, we will see levels of hospitality not considered possible now. But, this is impossible in our generation because everyone is copying the SOP-Customer Satisfaction concept.

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