Originally published at https://www.oklahoman.com on August 2, 2020
Whatever else develops with this pandemic, one thing is certain. It has changed the world.
Today, I am launching a series of columns based on discussions with thought leaders from across Oklahoma — individuals in various industries, in private and public sectors, in nonprofits and education, and more. Our conversations have been about how the last six months will change the next six years and beyond.
One of the industries impacted fastest and most is the hospitality industry.
"There has been a shift across hospitality, not just hotels, but the restaurant business and the entire sector,” said Marcus Robinson, CEO of Monscierge, an Oklahoma City-based interactive software company with solutions installed in hotels around the world.
In hotels and other accommodations, he says, companies large to small are rethinking every aspect of the interaction between the guest and the property. Industry wide, companies, even those who may have previously been resistant, feel the imperative to implement technology to improve levels of service.
"When ATMs first came in,” Robinson said, "banks wanted to maintain the in-person relationship with clients. They didn’t want customers to go to machines, but customers just wanted to get their cash and move on with their day. Instead, ATMs elevated the level of customer service.”
It’s similar in hospitality. "Hospitality has been clinging to the thinking, that they needed a front desk and to interact directly with every guest,” Robinson said. "The pandemic is making hotel people think differently. We never want to get away from the level of service the front desk provides, but we do want to use technology where it is positive.”
Robinson and his team have been working with hospitality leaders since well before COVID-19 to provide ways to manage interactions between guest and hotel on guest terms — scalable, affordable platforms so that hotels can implement technology in an affordable way. "Things that were available to only large corporations are now, thanks to cloud and mobile computing, available and affordable for all," he said.
And that leads to another evolving industry trend. "It is fascinating to me,” Robinson said, "the rise of interest in local and national parks, and campsites and cabins. People are becoming more than happy to jump in the car instead of an airplane. We are seeing occupancy growing in rural boutique hotels and cabins in Vermont, Maine and Wyoming, and in RV parks.”
With a turnkey solution that can scale up or down, depending on the needs of the property, these industry changes offer new opportunities to Monscierge.
"A business that has a technology to make its customers more efficient, save costs and increase the guest experience can go into the tough situations that Covid has caused and come out stronger on the other side,” Robinson said.
For Oklahoma, that says it all.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.