Your independent hotel needs a Chief Innovation Officer

“Innovation” is a buzz word that is spun countless times in the daily media cycle.Untitled design(3)  Tech companies, such as Google, Apple and Facebook, usually generate the biggest and boldest headlines, but innovating for the future has become a priority across every industry, especially the travel sector.  Travel news outlet, Skift, recently published their annual Megatrends Defining Travel yearbook and the lead story outlines the role hotels are playing in driving innovation within the industry:

The global hospitality industry – comprised of the organized hotels sector, the vacation rentals sector, and the still-nascent sharing economy sector – is driving all innovation in travel now.

For the first time since online booking of travel became mainstream, hotels are being rewired and rethought from top to bottom, and every obvious part of hospitality is being turned over, questioned and retooled.

Obviously, this is great news for the travel industry as a whole.  As new technologies, techniques and systems emerge, enhanced learnings and opportunities will begin to spread throughout the sector.  However, when reading the article, it’s noticeable that the major brands and mid-sized chains are mentioned as the probable sources of this new wave of innovation.  While they generally have the resources needed to stimulate industry-shifting trends, this doesn’t mean that independents cannot join the party!

Innovation can come in many, many forms.  Just because you aren’t creating the new iPhone or launching the next Facebook doesn’t mean that your ideas cannot have a major impact on your business.  For hoteliers, we view innovation as the process of developing fresh and creative ideas that can be applied toward improving daily operations.  Of course, improving processes and influencing change is a major undertaking, so the key is devoting enough time, energy and effort toward cultivating ideas and bringing them to fruition.  This is where a “Chief Innovation Officer” or “Innovation Team” can pay huge dividends for small, independent hotels.

To clarify the role of a “CIO” or “Innovation Team,” you don’t have to hire a scientist or engineer to champion this new endeavor.  This individual or team mainly needs to be creative and willing to challenge conventional thinking.  It may be your operations manager, a front desk agent, a friend from outside the hotel or a collaborative effort from several individuals – whatever works best for your property.  Regardless of how the position is structured, it’s critical that this person or team has the drive to put forth a dedicated effort toward improving your hotel.

As an example project, every hotel has an opportunity to reduce their water usage, so this would be a great focus area for a CIO or Innovation Team.  From analyzing historical water usage to exploring new vendors and equipment, and revamping the hotel’s laundry program, this team would be responsible for completing the research and recommending feasible and implementable methods for reducing annual water usage.

On an industry-wide scale, a project like this is not likely to shift how hundreds of hotels think about water usage, but for an individual or small independent hotel group, significant cost and water consumption savings can definitely be achieved.  By challenging the way your hotel has traditionally operated, you and your CIO or Innovation Team can make a major difference in your daily operations and, most importantly, the guest experience.

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