Three tech innovations revolutionizing hospitality


While travel and hospitality will always be essentially a ‘people’ thing, the industry is no stranger to innovations designed to enhance the customer experience. We look at how three technologies – robotics, blockchain and virtual reality – are already making exciting advances into a business that trades on the ‘thrill of the new’.

Innovation #1 – robot “waiters”

When Matthias Schmidt, a Senior Service Instructor at Les Roches, sat down for dinner while on a recent trip through Germany, he was in for a surprise. Among the human staff at his hotel’s restaurant were two robots, ferrying food from the kitchen and taking back used plates and cutlery to be washed.

As someone who lives, breathes – and teaches – the practical arts of hospitality, Matthias was naturally curious to see these ‘electronic interlopers’ at work. After speaking with the hotel’s owners, however, the concept began to make more sense.

“The fact is that hospitality lost a lot of people during the pandemic, as hotels, bars and restaurants were forced to close for prolonged periods. Many of those employees have now changed careers and are not coming back, so there are staff shortages across the industry,” Matthias says.

“As such, robots like these are not replacing staff, they are supporting existing ones. It’s not a gimmick but a trend I think we will see more and more as the industry deals with reduced staffing availability.”

Innovation #2 – blockchain

Think blockchain and most of us will focus on cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin; or maybe the NFT artworks which are fetching insane prices at auction right now. But blockchain is going to revolutionize the travel, tourism and hospitality industry, even if most of the time you probably won’t even know it’s there.

“Blockchain… is open-source, meaning all market participants such as airlines, travel companies, hospitality distribution systems can easily connect and exchange transactions. They benefit from reduced costs as they can interact with each other directly and perform transactions without intermediaries. Another main benefit is that the blockchain creates security and trust. Therefore, it is easier for various types of companies to connect with each other.”

The technology is also finding its way into one of hospitality’s most important customer retention tools: loyalty programs. Through Spark, Les Roches is getting involved in helping to make blockchain-powered loyalty a reality.

The first such project is with a partner company called qiibee. Its aim is to combine loyalty with sustainability, rewarding good actions by customers (such as using less energy and water, or reducing food waste) with bespoke cryptocurrency which can be collected in an e-wallet and then converted into hotel services.

“For this academic project, our Postgraduate Diploma students were tasked with analyzing whether qiibee’s blockchain technology could improve loyalty for customers in specific hospitality segments,” explains Pablo J. Garcia, Director of Spark at Les Roches’ Crans-Montana campus.

Innovation #3 – virtual reality

For everyone excited at the recent launch of Facebook’s virtual reality (VR) powered Metaverse, there will be others for whom the idea of spending time in a virtual world sends a chill down the spine.

That said, the closer the ‘virtual’ experience gets to actual ‘reality’, the more likely we are to see VR travel taking a growing share of the overall market. After all, if we are to live more sustainably, the most environmentally-sound form of travel is to do it virtually, without leaving our homes!

More immediately, VR has the potential to transform the way hospitality companies market and sell their products, conduct training, communicate, and offer value-adding virtual events at hotels (for example, cooking classes with master chefs or wine tastings with famous wine makers).

The training element, in particular, offers fascinating potential for startups and disruptors to claim a share of the market by leveraging the power of VR. One example is SatisFIND, a startup which is now receiving incubation support and mentoring from Les Roches via Spark.

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