HITEC Speaker John Picard Talks: A New Vision for the Hospitality Space

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June 19, 2020
Partnership Section


The sustainable technology expert will deliver a keynote presentation at HITEC® San Antonio this coming October. 

Getting back to the business of travel will require big thinking and bold action. Innovation will be the catalyst for change in the hospitality industry. Solutions will propel it forward. Technology will be the key to restoring trust and confidence in travel once again. Few understand all of this better than John Picard. A true disrupter and design innovator, it is Picard’s job to go out into the world, to discover, explore and see what is around the corner — to stress-test the latest ideas and inventions, figure out what works, what does not — and what is going to change the world.

In the recent months since the world of travel and hospitality has turned topsy turvy, Picard has drawn from his vast knowledge of technology solutions to help the industry strategize a healthy and safe return to travel. Here he shares some of the ideas generated from his discussion with travel industry professionals.

How can hotels begin to address risks in the post Covid-19 environment??
The first step before making any major changes is to properly frame and understand the problems. Here is an opportunity to learn how to innovate, risks and all. The key to taking informed risks is to use data analysis to predict your hotel’s future, without wholly relying on opinion alone.

What are some of the technologies that will play a key role in building traveler trust?
Through my work, I am aware of developing, environmental technology. I then in turn take a holistic approach to these disparate solutions and apply them to solve for unique situations. Recently working with the travel industry, specifically airports and hotels, I have identified the following as potential technologies to help operations keep their spaces healthy:

• First something very new: real time sensors — similar to smoke detectors — that sense the presence of Covid-19 on people and in buildings.

• Simple electrolyzed water solutions using safe chemicals as part of the sanitation process.

• Ultraviolet (UV) light for sanitizing high touch surfaces; as well as affordable, safe-for-people UV lamps for continuous sanitization.

• Geospatial sensors installed in ceiling lights can be used to pick up body heat and phone signatures, and in turn to create a heat map to help control physical distancing in large indoor spaces.

• Smart floor solutions detect people movement and distancing, helpful for staff to understand where the highest touch areas are, as well as detecting where a cleaning has been done (both sets of data can be recorded on the same network).

• Smart materials will help prevent virus spread. Examples include anti-microbial paints and floor surfaces, and anti-virus and bacteria resistant fabrics and soft goods. 

Of the solution trends coming out of this current period, which are temporary (close to the impact of the pandemic) and which are here for the long-term?
I think health in hospitality for the sake of guests and employees is here for the long term, which presents a big opportunity. The reactive fear and super cleaning will be the norm for six more months and then settle in as a new standard.

Other opportunities here to stay are changes to the business center, which will become a video production and presentation center in the new virtual work world. Competing with in-person and small conferences is a new dimension of work in 3D and 4D presence, offering a great new revenue stream for hotels. Finally the spa experience will evolve its focus to more health and wellness, almost at a medical level. Guest immunity and wellness will be big at first in reaction to Covid-19 and then run long term as a new wave standard.

What are alternate business models that hotels can adopt as they holdout for higher occupancy?
Health, health, health — this is the dawn of traveler immunity. A property could partner with health providers to build a strong, health experience on property, which would serve employees as well.

Another idea is to convert rooms to high performance office and communication spaces. This would be something like WeWork, but done right with high connectivity and room service of course. As I mentioned previously hotels could build the next generation business center with holographic video travel and global meeting platforms. Or expand on video entertainment platforms for games and live sports, hosting a multiport screening room.

What would it take for hospitality professionals to effectively implement these ideas into real-use solutions?
It would take a bold shift in how the industry sees themselves and the potential ahead. There would have to be creative agents and brilliant designers to execute on such a bold vision. It would take redefining the revenue plan. There may even be a shift in the business model from a daily rate to hourly or annual membership. I would advance a membership platform offering transportation, health, food, entertainment and super business center access.

A hotel would also host services such as a genius bar or idea production studio onsite. This online media machine as a new guest service platform, available anywhere, will transition from work from home to work from anywhere in the world. That is why we will travel and that is what we can host for the world. Let the cloud unlock the freedom and power of our guest, the key for the industry is to own that cloud. That is where the money is and what brings hospitality back and beyond our wildest dreams of success, a new vision. What every human needs, seeks and cherishes. What if I’m half right?





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