It seems almost every day a new problem arises, and a solution is created for a previous problem that already existed. Hospitality Technology Next Generation (HTNG) is a non-profit trade association set up to better handle the process of finding solutions for these issues in hospitality and how they get implemented – whether it be in a single property or global hotel brand.

HTNG anchors 400 corporate and singular memberships with a total of 4,500 individuals from hospitality companies, technology vendors, consultants, media and academic experts across the world. HTNG’s direction-setting body is its board of governors, which consists of 21 top IT leaders from hospitality companies, and is responsible for technology in over three million guest rooms and across world-leading venues.

In addition to HTNG’s leading governance committee, it has a leadership committee for the vendor community, ensuring the organisation continues to recognise not only the needs of a hotel, but additionally the voices of technology providers. HTNG was founded in 2002 under the name Hotel Technology Next Generation, and in 2017 it renamed itself with the ‘H’ standing for ‘hospitality’. It has since expanded its efforts into other hospitality verticals, including multi-family unit housing, cruise ships and casinos.

HTNG collaborates with over 35 organisations in the hospitality industry, ranging from joint events, work groups and academic advisory councils. Our organisation currently holds annual educational and networking events in North America, Europe, the Middle East and the Asia- Pacific, and is continuing to grow through these partnerships in other regions of the world.

To expand its business development and help move hospitality forward, HTNG’s members participate in focused work groups to bring to market open solutions that set about addressing specific business problems. Additionally, we foster the selection and adoption of existing open standards, and also develops new open standards to meet the needs of the global hospitality industry.

The organisation facilitates 10–15 working groups at any given time, which each focus on a trending topic or problem in the hospitality industry. Through fortnightly meetings, HTNG’s members meet via teleconference to address these problems and collaborate to develop deliverables for the industry. These can range from best practices and white papers to self-assessment tests and buyer’s guides, among others.

Challenges facing the hospitality technology industry

HTNG’s current work groups are 5G for hospitality; Application Programming Interfaces (API) Registry; blockchain for hospitality; business analytics transactional extract; converging AV and IT; fiber to the room; frictionless check-in; global privacy regulations; improving the guest Wi-Fi experience; internet of things [IoT]; payments; Open Payments Alliance [OPA] standards; staff alert technology; unique global identifier; and wireless power.

While all of these topics matter to the hospitality sector in their own ways, the following fragments are going to walk through some of the groups that have made recent leaps of progress.

There are a number of inefficiencies in the hospitality API space, including finding potential technology partners whose products and/or services could add value to a hotelier’s offerings. HTNG members created a public API registry as a repository for APIs to allow prospective business and technical partners to find each other by quickly identifying counterparts with the most likely matches and most desirable options for their needs, and the best person to contact once they are found.

The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect on 25 May 2018 with a mission to strengthen the protection of individuals’ personally identifiable information (PII). This regulation affects any company doing business with European citizens, regardless of whether the company is based in Europe or not. Prior to the GDPR taking effect, HTNG formed a working group that produced a framework and a self-assessment tool to help the hospitality industry prepare for this new privacy regulation. Since GDPR has been in effect, the group rechartered to continue their work to update this white paper, and released a second version in June 2019.

Near-field communication (NFC) contactless payments include, but are not limited to, Apple Pay, Google Wallet and Samsung Pay. Among hospitality brands, there has been an uneven acceptance of these contactless payment methods, which causes an inconsistent payment experience throughout the industry. This conflict often results in a negative customer experience and the uncertainty for brands to continue to use this type of payment in the future. HTNG’s NFC contactless payments work group recently produced a white paper to help hospitality brands better understand the contactless payment-enabled solutions currently available and help drive other solutions to accept such payments.

In today’s world, risks and threats are growing, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to protect employees from privacy invasion, assault, noise and both drug and human trafficking – and the rare and horrific threat of terrorism and shootings. In 2018, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) created its 5-Star Promise with five of the country’s largest hotel chains, which committed that their properties would provide employees across the US with personal safety devices, having a goal of broad implementation by 2020. Additionally, many US cities have mandated this requirement and we are starting to see other regulations develop across the world.

Although many people outside of the hospitality industry recognise this safety impact, those outside of the field may not realise the difficulty of actually selecting and implementing a panic button. There are some initial questions to consider, such as these buttons may use GPS tracking, but how can they track vertically in a tall hotel building? Should someone rush to the scene if a button is pressed, and how do you know if the person may have an immediate health concern or if there is an active shooter and backup units may be preferred? How often do employees need to go through a safetytraining procedure? And who is the proper person to respond to the scene if a button is pressed?

Therefore, HTNG partnered with AHLA and built upon its 5-Star Promise with its staff alert technology work group. In 2019, the group released a device buyer’s guide to point hospitality companies in the right direction, whether at the start or during the process of device adoption.

Strategic pillars and the global strategy team

HTNG’s leadership and membership bases have identified the greatest challenges and opportunities within the business of IT, and grouped them into strategic pillars. Its quality of the guest experience mission sets out to increase guest satisfaction by providing hotel guests with cutting-edge technologies and personalised content. The focus is on reducing costs, improving efficiencies and enabling staff to connect more directly with guests. The staff recruiting and engagement mission seeks to improve technology and its use to increase staff engagement, to make staff members’ lives easier and to generate greater productivity while also making careers in hospitality operations and IT more attractive. Its ‘distribution mission’ seeks to provide chains and independent hotels with a way to seamlessly represent their brand identity and products through all channels to enable more complex and dynamic revenue-management strategies, and ultimately sell a guest experience that matches their needs.

These further pillars are a ‘modernising infrastructure mission’ – provide insights into emerging technologies, easing the difficulty of deploying and accelerating the pace of modernising infrastructure. Our ‘security mission’ – increasing security awareness beyond compliance, promoting best-practice security measures, and developing a common understanding of risks and threats targeting the hospitality industry; and our ‘operational excellence mission’ – giving operational stakeholders the ability to measure whether a solution makes a positive, neutral or negative influence, including the evaluation of sustainability, cost savings, staff retention and satisfaction, brand goal attainment and more.

A global strategy team was established to bring focus and attention to the strategic pillars, and align HTNG work groups to higher strategic concepts. The strategy chairs and strategic advisers, who are experts in these fields, lead HTNG’s global strategy team to help increase progress and performance of the group.

While the world is constantly turning with new technologies, it is important to stay on your toes and be at the forefront of changes in order to accelerate businesses. HTNG encourages those in the industry to become part of the group that is helping to move the conversations and actions of hospitality forward.