March 28, 2024

Navigating the Digital Seas: A Dive into Corporate Digital Responsibility in Hospitality

Research>MS Program
Written by Khoi Yan Phon — Contributor

In the dynamic scene of hospitality, where traditional business practices meet disruptive innovations, a seismic wave is on the horizon. This is not just referring to the usual corporate social responsibility (CSR) jargon; it is diving into the digital deep end with corporate digital responsibility (CDR). This article will explore the nuances of CDR, and how it reshapes the way hospitality giants navigate the tech-infused landscape. 

The Crossroads of CSR and CDR

Unlock the mystery of CDR: think of it as the cool cousin of CSR, orchestrating a symphony of digital prowess and ethical commitment. As the hospitality industry dives deeper into the digital pool, it is also a tightrope walk — balancing obligations to people, the economy, and the planet. It's about managing the values guiding digital technology use, a voluntary commitment to legality and ethics, ensuring wise tech use, and being accountable for the consequences. CDR goes beyond the social, economic and environmental dimensions. Today, the digital divide, sensible data stewardship, cybersecurity, sustainability, and human rights are taking center stage — it's a responsibility buffet. Essentially, it's CSR with a digital twist. 

Riding the Digital Wave

But why should we care about this shift? For one, the digital divide is at our doorstep. Imagine a world where not everyone has access to the wonders of the digital domain. Hospitality companies must bridge this gap, ensuring that their technology adoptions are inclusive, rather than alienating potential customers. It's not just about using fancy new technologies, but how they can be utilized to ensure everyone rides the digital wave, too.

And the stakeholders in this digital saga? Everyone from customers to employees, society, stakeholders, suppliers and Mother Earth. Collective values and norms shape an environment where consumer privacy preferences move in harmony with transparent guidelines. This surpasses mere transactions, impacting the dynamics of customer-company relationships, organizational ethics and societal discourse.

The time has come for sustainability and digitalization to meet. Picture this: artificial intelligence turning the wheels of revenue analysis, chatbots handling customer quibbles, internet of things aiding smart energy, and virtual reality summoning guests into a realm of immersive experiences. The hospitality industry is not just checking you in; it's checking into the digital age. That's where CDR steps in, asking companies to embrace innovation while respecting the environment, society and their own future. 

Echoes of Change: The Call for a Comprehensive Understanding

Here's a thought to ponder: how do major hospitality companies report on their digital responsibilities, and how does it influence your choices as a consumer? Major hotel chains, as digital trendsetters, find themselves at the forefront of this endeavor. The challenge? How to dance with customer data without tripping on the privacy and cybersecurity tightrope. Those are some of the dragons they must conquer, especially when dealing with substantial financial transactions and sensitive customer data.

Take Walmart and Deutsche Telekom, for instance. They're not just talking the talk; they're walking the walk. Walmart emphasizes "digital citizenship," focusing on ethical data use and responsible tech practices. Meanwhile, Deutsche Telekom is on a mission of "responsible digitization," integrating CDR into its corporate responsibility DNA. Companies are encouraged to craft individual CDR strategies, revisiting and revising policies to keep up with the ever-evolving tech landscape. 

It is intentional that this exploration raises more questions than answers. CDR is a relatively fresh subject, and we are navigating through the uncharted territories of digital responsibility. But as the hospitality industry sets sail on the digital seas, the real question is: will it weather the storm responsibly? 

This blog post was an Honorable Mention in the Fall 2023 HFTP/MS Global Hospitality Business Graduate Student Blog Competition presented by the HFTP Foundation. Participants are students participating in the Master of Science in Global Hospitality Business, a partnership between the Conrad N. Hilton College of Global Hospitality Leadership at the University of Houston, the School of Hotel and Tourism Management at Hong Kong Polytechnic University and EHL. The blog posts that received the top scores will be published on HFTP Connect. Learn more at HFTP News.

About the Author

Khoi Yan Phon is a student in the Master of Science in Global Hospitality Business. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the School of Hotel and Tourism Management at Hong Kong Polytechnic University; throughout her studies, she accumulated extensive experience in the food and beverage sector. Following the completion of her master's program, she has developed a keen interest in hospitality development and the financial aspects of the industry, fueled by aspirations to pursue a career as a hospitality consultant.

Reference List

corporate social responsibility 2023 Fall University of Houston Hong Kong Polytechnic University corporate digital responsibility HFTP competition hospitality EHL honorable mention