March 1, 2024

Exploring the Future of Hospitality Tech at HFTP's Inaugural Digital Horizons 360 Symposium

Written by Bianca LÜTHY — Contributor

Hello there, fellow hospitality enthusiasts! Last week, I had the pleasure of attending HFTP's inaugural Digital Horizons 360 Symposium (DH360), an exhilarating hospitality tech event in the sun-soaked paradise of Palma de Mallorca. Surrounded by 60 industry professionals from all over Europe, we delved deep into the ever-evolving landscape of hospitality technology, uncovering exciting insights and discussing innovations that are shaping the future of guest services and hospitality technologies. Take a look at the event in pictures.

The Future of Guest Services with AI

One of the sessions on the first day of the symposium revolved around the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in guest services. Michael Chen, vice president of partnerships at PolyAI, and Kevin Burgess, CTO of Fourteen IP, initiated an interactive discussion on the transformative power of generative AI in providing personalized guest experiences.

Michael discussed at length PolyAI's development of intelligent IVR with AI technology with its focus on spoken conversation, and built into Fourteen IP’s, Evolution Virtual Agent service for hotels (EVA). By harnessing the potential of AI-driven voice assistants, hotels can streamline operations at the front desk, handle guest inquiries, and possibly enhance overall guest satisfaction. The future of guest services is envisioned to be dynamic, personalized, and seamlessly integrated with both modern and legacy hotel systems.

During the discussion, industry leaders highlighted the potential of AI in educating new staff members, alleviating operational pressures, and driving efficiency in guest interactions. While some expressed concerns about the shift towards voice-based AI, it was generally agreed that voice remains the quickest and most natural communication method, and the consensus remained optimistic about its transformative impact on the hospitality industry.

However, challenges such as labor shortages and cost constraints were acknowledged, particularly for smaller hotels. Despite these hurdles, the consensus was clear: embracing AI technologies is essential for staying competitive and meeting evolving guest expectations.

Revolutionizing Guest Identity

Another captivating session delved into the future of guest identity and its implications for the hospitality sector. Pedro Torres, founder and CEO of Youverse, presented a compelling vision of digital identity solutions designed to enhance security, streamline check-in processes, and elevate the guest experience.

Discussions centered around the role of governments in driving the adoption of digital authentication and the potential for collaboration among key industry players to create unified identity systems. With data privacy concerns in focus, participants explored the importance of prioritizing user-centric and privacy-first approaches in digital identity solutions. It was also clear that governments need to come together to establish global standards for accessing and processing identity data.

E20X Competition: Showcasing Innovation in Hospitality Technology

The Entrepreneur 20X (E20X) competition added an extra layer of excitement and a “Shark-Tank”-vibe to the conference, featuring ambitious startups presenting four-minute-pitches about their innovative hospitality technology concepts. From process automation to personalized guest intelligence platforms, the pitches showcased the diverse range of solutions driving industry innovation. 

Two awards were given out, one by the judges panel and one that the audience could vote for online. The winners were Aphy – the People’s Choice winner and Crqlar – the Judges Choice winner, recognized for their groundbreaking contributions to streamlining hotel operations and enhancing guest experiences through automation and data-driven insights.

Data Protection Challenges in our Industry

In the realm of hospitality, where technological advancements are reshaping every aspect of guest services and operations, the issue of data protection emerges as a critical concern. Daniel Johnson, CEO of Venza, shed light on the evolving landscape, emphasizing the staggering number of guests and hotels falling victim to data breaches. During lively roundtable discussions, participants confronted common excuses for lax security measures, highlighting the misconception that small hotels are immune to cyber threats, and discussed ways to engage their organizations all the way up to the board-level. With data being the crown jewel of the hospitality industry — or any industry at all — the imperative to safeguard it becomes increasingly apparent. Despite the early hour start on day two, participants engaged fervently, underscoring the urgency of addressing cybersecurity challenges head-on.

The Future of Hospitality Tech Talent

In the last session Ian Millar, senior lecturer in IT at EHL, delved into the evolving talent needs within the hospitality tech sphere. As technology continues to evolve rapidly, the demand for skilled professionals versed in cybersecurity, cloud computing, and data management grows exponentially. Amidst challenges in competing with other industries in attracting and retaining talent, the debate unfolded around the intersection of high tech and high touch in the industry's future. With a focus on mentorship, diversity, and providing purpose-driven opportunities, the discussion navigated the intricate landscape of talent recruitment and retention. As the hospitality sector grapples with these transformative changes, the importance of embracing technological innovation while nurturing human capital remains paramount.

Wrap-Up: Embracing the Future with HFTP

As the conference drew to a close, it was evident that the future of hospitality lies at the intersection of technology and guest-centricity. From AI-powered guest services to digital identity solutions, the industry is undergoing a profound transformation aimed at delivering unparalleled experiences to travelers worldwide.

In conclusion, DH360 2024 was not just an event; it was a glimpse into the exciting future of our industry. As we navigate this ever-evolving landscape, let's continue to innovate, collaborate, and delight guests with experiences that leave an ever lasting impression.

Until next time, keep innovating and embracing the future of hospitality tech!

Europe hospitality technology 2024 HFTP