The futurologist John Naisbitt introduced the concept of high tech and high touch in his 1982 bestseller «Megatrends». He maintained that in a world of technology, people long for personal, human contact. Thirty-five years later, high tech and high touch have indeed become key concepts in the hospitality industry.

Most technological and scientific innovations in hospitality are introduced from outside; they are not developed by the industry itself. In view of the prevailing mind-set that matches basic services with basic needs (such as sleep, food and entertainment), this does not come as a surprise. Hospitality needs larger capacities to adopt innovations and create new opportunities. In successful industries, competitive advantages stem from R&D. Only if hotel chains build up their own R&D divisions, will they be able to insource innovation and progress.

The main challenge of hospitality managers in the future is to improve guest experience. Guest experience involves perceptions and emotions, and guests may ­react in many different ways. People may or may not make the kind of experience that hotel operators aim for. Technology, for instance a robot at reception, may trigger positive emotions in one guest and negative ones in another. In order to meet a guest’s expectations, hospitality companies will have to fine-tune and tailor their services and provide the right mix of high tech and high touch in a more heterogenic market.