Interview with Lara Fantoni, coordinator of HOSPITALITY

Hi Lara, we last saw each other at BTO in February 2020. After that, we have experienced months that were, to say the least, complex, full of uncertainties, of changes, of digital acceleration and now, a time of great hopes. How can we describe the scenario we are facing today?

The pandemic has made the tourism supply chain very complex; before March 2020 it was difficult even to imagine what we would be experiencing very soon: this applies to everyone, but for those who work in hospitality it was truly a break with the past. In the first months of Covid, the digital dimension, which for years has been fundamental in the hospitality industry (at BTO we have been talking about it since 2008!), seemed to be the only viable way to keep the sector together and yet still give a sense of existing to a sector that was directly involved. While movements of tourists came to a complete halt, we invested in training, remote customer relations, lectures and webinars to predict the future.

Then, during the come-back, it emerged that the union with digital is even more fundamental for the hospitality industry: digital keys and online check-in; menu with QR-codes; contactless payments, AR/VR applications; the use of IoT technologies to improve and shape the customer experience with efficiency and personalization. All this has highlighted, albeit in a disruptive way, the paradox between digital “comfort” and personal contact which is at the base of every tourist experience, a central theme also during the last edition.

Today digital is, above all, a factor making change and development possible in order to strive for a frictionless world; it is a tool for generating innovative ways of seeing things provided that it respects the irreplaceable nature of direct, real, authentic contact.

In your working group, what are you dealing with specifically? What are the main themes and objectives of the “HOSPITALITY” topic?

At HOSPITALITY, thanks to the availability and collaboration of all the members of the Advisory Board of this sector, we have tried to bring out the current issues, building up a program devoted to professionals in the hospitality sector: creation of demand, optimization of processes, revenue management, marketing, advanced training courses, recruiting.

Can you give us any advance information or tell us any bits of news? What has changed, if anything has changed, in preparing a scientific program within this scenario?

It is difficult to summarize in a few lines: there will be some important international statements regarding the evolution of hospitality both in the hotel industry and in the non-hotel sector; speeches about the continuous growth of human resources and digital experiences for recruiting; experiences in optimizing operational and financial controlling processes; considerations concerning tools and strategies for managing electronic payments; insights into the evolution of revenue management, especially in the creation of demand and in the study of how purchasing behaviour has changed; analysis of new survival strategies triggered by the pandemic period, which has given a shock after years of boredom in terms of marketing; and then a discussion on advanced training courses in the sector, an analysis of the experiences of aid from institutions to operators, an overview of the technologies by means of which tourist accommodation has adapted to social distancing.

This is my first experience on the BTO Advisory Board and so I can’t make any comparisons with the past! I can say that I have personally experienced the great willingness to collaborate on the part of all members of the Board, coordinators of the other topics, scientific committee, a fundamental aspect in a collective bit of work such as that of BTO.

How will the “Frictionless” theme fit into the Topic devoted to HOSPITALITY?

Looking for the right balance between technology and human touch: both absolutely necessary, the first as an enabling factor, the second as an integral part of the proposals, both for the individual operator and for the destination.

Why will it be important to attend BTO this year and, in particular, the HOSPITALITY day on November 30th? What will the public get out of it to take back home?

The program was created by professionals for professionals and offers the public a roundup of both successful and less successful experiences, adopting an analytical approach and providing constructive criticism, with insights into management processes, techniques and new tools to better carry out the professions related to hospitality.