HFTP’s CYBER HITEC kicked off yesterday with a keynote speech from John Picard, a technology visionary and design innovator based in Silicon Valley.
Right off the bat, Picard noted that 2020 has been a very difficult year for hoteliers. The pandemic not only disrupted everyone’s business, but it also shined a light on deeply rooted issues in the hotel and travel industry. “The pre-existing model for hospitality and the meeting business has been broken, and we’ve all known that. The impact of COVID-19 has laid bare the vulnerability of the old structure, and the future doesn’t appear to include a return to its past,” he said, adding, “Maybe we weren’t willing to honestly assess our circumstances, because the system was working just well enough for all of us to maintain that comfort of the status quo.”
Picard encouraged attendees to look at the challenges of the COVID era as a starting point from which they can create something better. “I see hope and the opportunity for a new genesis, a major reset for the hospitality industry,” he explained.
According to Picard, the pause the pandemic forced on the hotel industry gave hoteliers time to think about their circumstances and consider new approaches to the way they do business. Picard also urged hoteliers to consider what the guest of the future is going to want from their hotel space. “We will need pliable physical ecosystems that house an ever-evolving convergence of technologies, with a single goal in mind,” he said. “How do we create the most meaningful guest experience and environments for people to deeply connect with content and the participants they’re gathering with, physically and digitally?”
From Picard’s perspective, the future of the hotel space is intrinsically tied to wellness. “What if health and longevity was at the center of everything we did for our guests, customers, employees, and ourselves?” he asked. Picard envisioned hotels of the future serving as wellness centers, and believes the way to best set up these buildings to serve the needs of guests is through artificial intelligence (AI). “Imagine a building that thinks and learns as it lives and actually becomes the companion to its guests,” he said. “With today’s AI capabilities, a building could have software consciousness that allowed it to interact with its guests.”
From there, Picard described how an intelligent hotel would evolve, learning from its guests and developing a wellness algorithm that would operate like a guide or virtual assistant to travelers. He also saw technology innovators buying into the system, developing apps to further its capabilities and driving incremental revenue to properties.
While these futuristic hotels may sound like they belong far out in the future, Picard said that Silicon Valley innovators are already looking into new ways for hotels to upgrade, differentiate, and drive loyalty. “[Silicon Valley is] where the moonshot thinkers live, trying to solve big unsolvable problems like COVID and climate change, the future of health and transportation, entertainment,” he described.
Despite all going on in the world right now, Picard exuded positivity and optimism. He ended his CYBER HITEC presentation with, “Be safe, work together, help each other, choose love over fear, and most of all, don’t be afraid to lead the way.”