Asense of normalcy has returned to the hospitality industry in Europe. Travel is surging despite high plane-ticket prices and hotel rates – a result of pent-up demand coming out of the pandemic that has been coined ‘revenge travel’. As a result of the pandemic, there are several ways in which the hospitality world has not returned to normal:

­■ Talent: Working from home is hard to do if you work for a hotel or club. Additionally, staff loyalty was greatly impacted when hotels were closed and staff were laid-off during the pandemic. Staff discovered other sources of income and left the industry for other opportunities. The promise of travelling the world no longer held sway in the recruitment conversation. The same can be said when it comes to hotel technology staff. In the hunt for technology talent in this highly competitive space, how can the hospitality industry compete with large tech firms who are providing access to new/advanced technology, robust skill development and certifications, higher wages and the ability to work remotely? How do we balance the human stack with the tech stack?

­■ Self-sovereign identity (SSI): The pandemic was the tipping point for the world to embrace a mobile-first, self-service mindset – albeit reading menus and ordering via QR-codes isn’t exactly a great experience. Nonetheless, these experiences further embedded the guest’s mobile-first, self-control expectations across nearly all service classes and experiences. The ability to manage one’s own digital identity and to control which information is provided to websites, booking engines and other online and travel services has led to a dramatic impact on prearrival and in-house guest experience expectations across the globe. What have industry suppliers done to prepare for these technological changes, and what should the hotels be doing now? ­

■ Cybersecurity: The good news is that the hospitality industry has finally embraced the shift to cloud computing and SaaS services, which bring robust and professionalised technology architectures and security with these services. However, two critical areas remain: what are the new threats and risks facing the industry in both cloud and on-premises technology; and what tools and tactics should hospitality technology leaders employ to raise boardroom awareness and change the historical mindset of under-funding technology and security?

■ AI: Is the rise of AI a threat or an opportunity for the hospitality industry? Beyond the delivery of AI-powered chatbots, which until now have had a less-than-stellar history for improving the guest experience, where and what will be the other impacts of AI on the industry and suppliers? Imagine in the near future, using AI to shop and book an entire travel itinerary just by providing dates, desired experience attributes and a budget. How will OTAs respond? Is this a disintermediation opportunity, or a significant threat for brands?

These are just some of the important topics affecting the industry today. Until now, the Europe hospitality technology thought-leadership community has remained siloed and silent. Conversations in the hospitality technology space have been mostly led by North America, while missing the voices of European brands and experts. In a strategic effort to drive new discussions among EU hospitality technology leaders, HFTP has designed a symposium called Digital Horizons 360, with the inaugural event, sponsored by Fourteen IP, taking place February 20–21, 2024, at the Palau de Congressos de Palma in Palma de Mallorca, Spain.

How Web3 can reshape online reviews

Online reviews play a pivotal role in the decisionmaking journey of a traveller. However, studies suggest that approximately 30–40% of online reviews might be fake or not genuine. In addition, the online reviews ecosystem is significantly centralised. According to Review Pro, 83% of hotel reviews are concentrated on just three platforms:, Google and TripAdvisor. This concentration poses the potential risk of data manipulation and control. The credibility of these reviews often comes under scrutiny, particularly on platforms such as Google or TripAdvisor, where proof of attendance is not required for writing a review. Another potential risk is centralised data is at a higher risk of being compromised or manipulated by insiders or outsiders. This vulnerability could affect the integrity of reviews. For example, by targeting one company, hackers can access, alter or delete large amounts of these reviews. Moreover, review websites could manipulate those data to increase the overall review score of the listed business to artificially boost sales.

Web3 refers to a new version of the Internet, one that is decentralised and built on blockchain technology. This new version of the Internet is made based on three leading technologies: blockchain, digital tokens and smart contracts. A blockchain is a decentralised, digitally distributed database or ledger that is present throughout a computer network and makes transaction recording easier. As new data are added to the network, a new block is made and added indefinitely to the chain. After that, the modification is reflected on all blockchain nodes. This indicates that there isn’t a single point of failure or control over the system. If online review systems use this technology, the risk of data tampering could be eliminated, externally and internally. The risk could be eliminated internally since the review system is decentralised and operates automatically, and externally because blockchain technology is highly secured.

But how can reviews exist in a blockchain? The answer is through digital tokens. These are valuable objects that are solely stored in digital form on the blockchain. They can include cryptocurrencies, nonfungible tokens (NFTs) or tokenised versions of assets, including real things like art or tickets to concerts. Imagine receiving a digital token each time you sleep at a hotel, eat at a restaurant or even visit a destination. These digital tokens can provide proof of your experience and can be linked to a review, enhancing credibility, traceability and transparency. Future guests will be able to trace the source of the review and assess its legitimacy, all under the security of blockchain technology.

How can there be incentives to write such reviews? This is where smart contracts come into the scene. Smart contracts are simply software programs stored on a blockchain that run automatically when specified conditions are met, like terms agreed between a buyer and a seller. Once a smart contract is created on the blockchain, it cannot be changed. Smart contracts can enable reviewers to earn tokens or rewards for the amount and quality of their feedback. A simple upvote or downvote system could reward reviews that users found the most helpful. This can gamify the process and incentivise guests to increase both the quantity and the quality of the reviews. Several blockchainbased projects and start-ups, such as Triend and Leeway Hertz, are experimenting with tokenising reviews to minimise fake comments and increase trust in online platforms.

Leveraging the decentralised nature of blockchain enables the establishment of an impartial and fair review system, bolstering consumer relationships and fostering confidence. While implementing Web3 technologies requires time, financial investment and a learning curve for businesses and consumers, the hospitality industry must refrain from replicating past mistakes and should actively engage in experimenting with such transformative technologies.