Innovation technology has been one of the most popular topics discussed in various business circles in recent years. While most corporations want to innovate in one way or another, the results of such innovations and their overall impact on the bottom line could soon become overshadowed if in-depth research is not conducted.

This has resulted in some hotels being unsure of what actually constitutes impactful innovation, with it even being regarded – in some cases at least – as an enemy of success as its implementation means that customers need to start comparing all establishments as well. This includes competitors, on the basis of the new experiences that they offer.

Large hotel chains have often tended to have an advantage in achieving their innovation goals as they traditionally have had better access to knowledge-based tools. However, SMEs have a propensity to be more adaptable when it comes to facing the challenges associated with change.

Nonetheless, it is not always easy for either side of the spectrum. No matter what their size, companies do not have the resources (time, knowledge and budget) to work on multiple types of innovation at the same time. Choosing a strategy for how to innovate is, therefore, essential.

Revolutionise hotels

The first mistake is to think that innovation is only about new products. Any improvement to the user experience is also considered innovation and may simply involve a basic update of existing tools and features. Examples include interactive TVs, where guests can book restaurants and shop, with the possibility of using their own device to play music, provide personalisation of lighting, or even scents in room. Also, through this interactive feature, hotels are then able to research the customer’s public social media profiles to offer personalised services pre-arrival.

The goal will always be for hotels to positively influence the client. Hotel companies are finally understanding the importance of creativity and the relationship between having an entrepreneurial mindset, thinking creatively and its positive impact on innovation. There is no exclusive territory for innovation, nor is it the sole preserve of big budgets. There are as many forms and models of innovation as there are types of companies.

Improving service

Innovation in the hotel sector must focus on the customer, who is the cornerstone of the hotel’s business model and who will soon become essential as part of the conversation in the immediate future. This concept refers to the open innovation model devised by Professor Henry Chesbrough of the Garwood Center for Corporate Innovation at the Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley. The open innovation model invites companies to develop an innovation strategy through cooperation with external organisations and professionals, including the hotels’ customers. For example, Barceló Hotel Group promotes co-creation activities that allows its guests to participate in the creative process, hand-in-hand with outstanding professionals in the field of innovation. Together, they carry out pioneering projects that create the concept hotels and services best suited to the needs of present and future guests.

Innovation at any scale

Implementing the practices of open innovation has multiple benefits, including shortening the time needed to research and bring a solution to market. In addition, including customers in the development of new solutions will make the filtering of ideas more efficient, since they are the main beneficiaries and the ones who have the strongest link with the experience. In addition to customers, hotels have the option of involving their employees in open innovation processes. In this way, both audiences contribute to creating new solutions and improvements and all become active creators in innovation. This can be seen with small hotels asking for the help of employees and guests to name facilities by publishing the request on social media and also having employees interact with guests at certain touchpoints during their stay. More and more hotels are adding apps to interact with hotel guests and employees anywhere and anytime.

Exciting projects for exciting people

Open innovation is, therefore, a very good option to innovate in any hotel and to promote the advancement of the hotel industry. Harnessing the full force of open innovation also requires attracting innovative employees. Management must decide what type of innovation it wants to introduce, when and at what pace, as well as what types of synergies will be created within the organisation. All these factors mean the company must identify which employees are best suited to work in teams to these ends. Innovative companies attract innovative employees and vice versa. This is something seen frequently at Les Roches, where there is an employee-employer match within the innovation ecosystem that works on its own. Innovation demands transformative people who collaborate, share, and have the ability to integrate knowledge and experience.

“The open innovation model invites companies to develop innovation strategy through cooperation with external organisations and professionals, including […] hotels’ customers.”

Innovative employees are not just those with great ideas, but those who dare to experiment, apply their experience and transfer it to others. The future of the hotel industry needs professionals who are reliable, independent, capable of handling uncertainty, as well as open to pivoting and readjusting if the project requires it. Innovation is knocking at the door.