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Simone Puorto discusses future tech for the hospitality industry

Simone Puorto discusses future tech for hospitality

The hospitality industry is always evolving, and staying ahead of trends is crucial for success. In this episode, we explore this dynamic field with Simone Porto, a leading voice in travel and hospitality, and a seasoned consultant, writer, and start-up founder. We uncover strategies and insights that can help businesses thrive in today's competitive market. Plus - he offers insights from his recently published book, which paints a visionary picture of the industry's future through interviews with thought leaders.

Our chat with Simone Porto covers key aspects of the hospitality industry, including the latest trends, the impact of technology on guest experiences, and the importance of sustainability. Simone shares valuable advice on adapting to changing consumer habits and the role of innovation in driving growth.

One major takeaway is the importance of personalisation. Simone emphasises that businesses need to understand their customers and tailor services to meet individual preferences, which enhances the guest experience and builds loyalty. He also highlights the critical role of data in business decisions. Using data analytics can give businesses a competitive edge by helping them anticipate market trends and customer needs more accurately.

Another key point is the need for flexibility and embracing change. With the hospitality landscape constantly shifting, the ability to adapt and innovate is essential for success.

Our conversation with Simone Porto offers valuable insights for anyone in the hospitality industry. From personalisation to data-driven strategies, these lessons are crucial for businesses looking to succeed in a competitive environment. Join us as we continue to explore the world of travel and technology.

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Programme Notes

This episode has been automatically transcribed by AI, please excuse any typos or grammatical errors

Ryan Haynes (00:00:22) - Hello and welcome back. Joining us today is Simone Porto, a friend of Travel Market Life, consultant, writer and startup founder. He's going to be talking about the top three technologies on the horizon for the hospitality sector, his frustrations with the technology market for hospitality and where hotels need to double down their efforts.

Ryan Haynes (00:00:52) - This is backed by Haynes MarComs, a B2B marketing communications PR consultancy specialising in the technology, travel, hospitality and property sectors.

Ryan Haynes (00:01:08) - Joining me now is Simone Puerto, consultant, writer and startup founder. He actually joined us previously. So a friend of the show on our Photographs and Memory series, where he talked fondly about Joy Division and Ian Curtis. Simone, thanks ever so much for coming and joining us today. Now, after that episode of Photographs and Memories. you actually had a dream come true.

Simone Puorto (00:01:32) - I did. and it was all because of the podcast, actually, because we talked about the, the, the Joy Division mural and the fact that it was repainted over and it was like a quote-unquote, scandal inside the music community. And, and I talked about that because I visited that mural just a couple of weeks before our podcast. And we published the podcast and, somehow, somebody got in touch with me and they wanted to do a charity show with Peter Hook, a historical Joy Division and New Order bass player. and it was all because they heard the podcast, listened to the podcast, and they told me, look, you want to do this? So basically we're doing this event and it will be, Peter Hook talking about, him and Curtis and then a concert where he will play, some Joy Division classics and everything will go to charity for, shout, UK. That is an SMS-based, service for, mental health and suicide prevention support. And I said yes, of course.

Simone Puorto (00:02:42) - So basically a couple of weeks ago, I was in Manchester and spent an evening with Peter Rock, and it was great. and it was all because of the podcast. So thank you so much because it was like an amazing snowball effect. And it was all because of photographs and memories, really.

Ryan Haynes (00:03:00) - That's absolutely fantastic. It's just incredible. Who listens to a podcast on hospitality technology? And then suddenly you say you are travelling to another country to follow up one of your, you know, as a fan of Joy Division, and, and what happened there. And that's incredible. And I believe you also visited Macclesfield whilst you were there.

Simone Puorto (00:03:21) - Yeah. Basically, whenever I go look, first of all, I love Manchester. You know, if you're a music fan, you have to love Manchester. Everybody has a story. It could be like the streets of the Stone Roses or Joy Division. And whenever I go, I try to get an extra day and I go to Macclesfield. And that is the birthplace of young Curtis, where young Curtis lived for an unfortunately short life.

Simone Puorto (00:03:44) - And, so I spent an extra day there, and it's great, you know, just visited the cemetery and, you know, the, the apartment where you used to live and, an amazing, pub called Proper Sound and going to do some extra marketing here because it was great. And they did. I just spent, probably four hours talking about music and the Manchester, the Manchester scene. So yeah, it was great. Always great.

Ryan Haynes (00:04:10) - Amazing. It's lovely to see how travel and music can really collide in such a beautiful way. Now you are, you know, a big fan of technology for the hospitality industry, a proper futurist looking at ways in which technology can be deployed in the future and even in the here and now, talking about the here and now. you've just launched this new startup called Rainbow, is that right? Can you tell us about it?

Simone Puorto (00:04:35) - Yeah, that is correct. it is, basically it is a model, an AI model that, replies to Hotel Reviews, keeping the style and the brand, tone of voice of the properties.

Simone Puorto (00:04:50) - And, it was, very interesting. Right? because I started, thinking about this last year and it was, a full year of, prompt engineering, to make sure that we got the right tone every single time. And, on top of that, we worked with, you know, academics and specialists in linguistics to make sure that it's very even, inclusive when it replies, especially to languages where you have different levels of courtesy, for example, when compared to European languages, thinking about, you know, Korean or Japanese, for example. so it was, it was great and, very happy about that. And the funny thing I need to tell you, this is a little spoiler, but it all started with a conversation I had with a friend of mine, a tech engineer. So, like, imagine the stereotype of an engineer. Right? And that's that's my friend. And, so he came to the internet one night and, after a couple of bottles, he told me, and I'm quoting literally here, he said, look, I do have a very low conversion on Tinder.

Simone Puorto (00:05:57) - That translated to English means, look, I cannot get with get out with girls because I don't know how to talk to girls, basically. So we started writing a model.

Simone Puorto (00:06:11) - Just helping out with a conversation with girls on Tinder and we started, you know, training the model on love letters, love books, and interviews from Latin lovers from the 60s. And, but I was not very ethically open to making it public. So I said, yeah, but we can probably still use that. And what is something that people are not very always very good at, but that can make a huge difference. And that is where I started thinking about, you know, a lot of hotels, they just copy-paste replies to reviews and it's very frustrating. And on top of that, you know, replying to reviews, it does have an effect even in terms of search engine optimization. So I said probably we can use it for that. And it started like that.

Simone Puorto (00:06:58) - And now we are we're working on V2 and basically it's the system that will be able to write, advertisement campaigns, blog posts, social media posts. I just want to make my idea is that in a few months, this will be like an AI marketing manager, basically for hospitality.

Ryan Haynes (00:07:15) - Excellent. Wonderful. Well, good luck with that, Simone. You're actually here, though, as part of our technology episode, and to share your insights. And I'm really keen, to to for you to share with us what you feel are the top three technologies that are on the horizon for the hospitality sector.

Simone Puorto (00:07:34) - Well, the first one is, of course, what I call a false search. Okay. What we are seeing and, you know, this, this trend already started a few years ago, but now it's getting bigger and bigger. Is that, we're not searching for anything anymore? Right? And it's what I call the Netflix effect. if you go on Netflix, for example, or if you go on Spotify, it's very unlikely that you go and check every single show or every single movie.

Simone Puorto (00:08:00) - Right? It's more the algorithm that will show you, suggestions. And Netflix is great at doing this. for example, even changing the artwork of the show, based on your preference. So let's say you like Uma Thurman, for example, you've got Pulp Fiction, but with the cover with Uma Thurman on that. Right. And, there's a lot of literature about that and how this hugely increased the CTR. And, this is something we're seeing with travel as well, you know, so we're moving from travel brands obsessed with search engine optimization to travel brands that now need to understand how they can make sure they fit with this new search or post search paradigm. Right. And of course, everything started to speed up, last year with the introduction, with the commercial introduction of ChatGPT. but we're seeing this in Google, for example. You know, you probably heard about Google testing out, travel assistant, journeys directly into the search engine results page. Right. So it could be that in just a couple of years, when you try to search for, I don't know, a weekend in Paris, you have this beautiful journey created in the case of Google, by Gemini, by AI.

Simone Puorto (00:09:24) - Right. And this completely changes the way we do, market our properties and even the way we do market, you know, flights and everything that is, around travel, you know, even destination to a certain extent. And so I think this is super interesting, and I think that a lot of, a lot of the people working in the industry is, is not probably they did not understand that this is coming. And, this will completely change the way, guests and travellers book travel. And, you know, he will have a huge impact. and, of course, there's an opportunity there, because now you can you can squeeze into this, but we need to change the paradigm. So I would say that this post-search, thing is, is probably very interesting, almost at a philosophical level. Okay. Because of course, under that, there are many technologies that make this possible, you know, prediction, automation, AI and so forth. the second one is probably generative.

Simone Puorto (00:10:24) - Advertisement. That's another super interesting thing. We're seeing this more on social media, Meta or TikTok. But Google, for example, is, testing now in the US only for now? a conversational advertisement, meaning that today, if you're a small hotel, for example, and you want to launch a campaign, you need to go through a web agency, right, or an advertisement agency. And, you know, for a lot of these hotels, having this middleman is this is super expensive and it's not sustainable. Now, what you can do is basically you can talk directly with, an LM model. So basically you talk to Gemini's like like you talk to GPT and say, look, I want to make sure that I do have this campaign because I'm launching, I don't know, a New Year's Eve special offer for my hotel. make sure that you can do that and the system will write the copy and, start building and it will basically, completely, empower even small properties or micro properties to have an amazing advertisement, and visibility to they cannot have now because of the costs involved.

Simone Puorto (00:11:34) - but if you think about it, that's super scary for a lot of people working in the industry because this will completely change, you know, advertisement. Companies as we know them now could basically disappear if that becomes the standard. Right? but, all the tests we did, we're testing this for a couple of clients in the US. We got way better CTR, we got way better conversion. And on top of that, the time we spent on the campaign just doing, you know, boring, repetitive tasks is, is, is close to zero because the system will do everything. and the third one is more, hardware, if you will, and is for the first. I think we're looking at a new era of devices. You know, if you think about it, since the introduction of the iPhone, nothing really changed. Okay. To a level that now there's no real innovation in phones anymore. Right? And, since 2018, we know that traffic on the web is mainly mobile-first, for some, industries, mobile only, but it's been always a mobile-centric world.

Simone Puorto (00:12:43) - Right now we're seeing a lot of new devices, and I think a lot of these devices will fade, but I think it's they're opening the street for a new era of devices. And, you may look at, I will tell you three names that I think it's worth taking a look at. And one, of course, is, the vision provided by Apple. they're clunky, they're big, they're heavy, but they are something new. In terms of devices, the second one are smart glasses meter. For example, I was reading Meta. Now it is implementing even AI into into meta glasses. The cool thing about it is that they are beautiful you know, because the Ray-Ban, they're not horrible Google glasses from 2014. The third one is rabbit R1. so I don't know if you heard about this device. they're starting to ship them now. I saw an unboxing. Super interesting device, totally AI-based, with no OS, no apps. And this is really changing the way we interact with the web because for the first time, the web is changing, but also the devices we're using are changing.

Simone Puorto (00:13:49) - So I would say that to get it down, to a short answer is both search generative advertisement and transitional devices.

Ryan Haynes (00:13:58) - Really interesting. Now, particularly as you point out, this whole idea of hardware and how that's going to innovate. And, when you, when you, when you also look at how, you know, emotionally led booking and buying now, is so much driven, as you say, by guest preferences or consumer preferences. And it was a conversation I was having at the ETF as well about that influence that, you know, that that actually, you know, being more sentimental, being more emotionally charged in your marketing is going to drive much more return than generic standard imagery. and descriptions and certainly can see that around the corner. But as you say, hoteliers have so little time. We need the platforms. We need technology for them to be able to do it now. I mean, the hospitality technology, has been sort of moving at leaps and bounds over the last 15 years.

Ryan Haynes (00:14:49) - but there is still a little bit of hold back from particularly maybe the larger hotelier brands, but also difficulty for the independent brands to find that investment, to really, employ some of these new technologies that have come out. What do you feel, though, are the frustrations that you have with the hospitality technology market?

Simone Puorto (00:15:09) - Well, it's always the same. It's the fact that. I think a lot of these properties, would love to innovate. They cannot do it because in order to do that, they need to get to their data to the root of their data. The problem with the root of their data is that usually, they are in a billion different software that act as data silos. So that's the problem, you know, and I think we will have this conversation more and more now that, pretty much every single industry is trying to integrate some level of AI. You know, generative AI mainly thinks about, you know, or TripAdvisor or OpenTable integrating, open AI into their booking journeys right now.

Simone Puorto (00:15:57) - If you want to do it with hospitality, you need to integrate your PMS first thing. And this is where the problems start, because a lot of these PMS, you know, they've been built in a pre-cloud era pre API era. So it's very it's very difficult to to a point where if you really want to innovate, you don't even have to look at future technologies. The first thing you need to look at is I need to change my basic tech stack because otherwise, I will not be able to do anything. And on top of that, I always say, look, you don't know where the market is going now. It's getting always harder to predict where the market is going and at what speed the market is changing. Right. So you don't know what you will need in five years. You could predict this, in, in maybe in the 90s. You cannot do it now. So just make sure that, if you want to innovate and if you want to be perceived as an innovation, an innovative industry that we are not, we need to make sure that the basic technology and the technology where the data are, is as open as possible.

Simone Puorto (00:16:58) - This is really the main problem. So I think it's not only a question of we don't want to innovate, we're slow with dinosaurs. To a certain extent, it's true. But I think it's more technology that we do have in our hotels now. It kind of sucks.

Ryan Haynes (00:17:13) - Well thank you. Nothing like the truth there, Simone. So where do you feel hotels need to double down their efforts, especially over the next year or two?

Simone Puorto (00:17:21) - They need to make sure that, first of all, they need to make sure that infrastructure-wise, they're ready for the change. And the second thing is that they need to understand that this is what Kurzweil used to say that, in a beautiful way, way better than I can. we tend to look at the future from a linear perspective. So we, we think, okay, we got VHS now that we got Laserdisc, and then we got DVD. You know, it's always linear, but technology is not like that. Technology is always exponential. And we reached a point where, we're getting like in this curve that is growing like like like like a bomb, right.

Simone Puorto (00:18:03) - Curtis, we talk about an explosion of technology. So it's always hard for us to understand, and it will be always harder to understand and probably to a certain we will get to a moment where it will be impossible for us to predict what is going to happen. And so just make sure that if like just a few years ago, you could make marketing plans for the next five years, probably you now need to make marketing Plex for the next six months. That's it. Be ready to change your mind. Don't fall in love with ideas. Just be as fluid as possible. So keep your technology lean open as much as possible, and be ready to change your mind as soon as you can.

Ryan Haynes (00:18:43) - It's great advice, testimony, and certainly the conversations I've been having with hoteliers of all shapes and sizes, they've really been spending the last couple of years looking at their infrastructure, and it's really refreshing to hear that and to hear the maturity of those conversations now, because they're not actually so scared because they can see the benefits.

Ryan Haynes (00:19:02) - It's just obviously there's such a plethora of choice offenders that that's a difficulty, isn't it, for the industry overall. now some exciting news. you have just published a book.

Simone Puorto (00:19:16) - Yeah. it just came out last week. it's, I've been working on this. This is my second book. and I've been working on the book for probably three years. So it's been three years of research, three years of interviews and a conversation I had with amazing people like yourself. And, I think it's probably the best thing I've written. it's not just because of what I did, right? but because of all the amazing contributions that I have. I do really have some amazing people in this book. you know, probably a lot of people in the hospitality world will be familiar with Terry Jones, you know, founder of Travelocity and Kayak. and then I have, Louis Rosenberg, the first person to be able to work on a functioning AR augmented reality system. And, and then I got, Zoltan Istvan, you know, it's, it's running for president in the US with the Transhumanist Party.

Simone Puorto (00:20:16) - Some amazing person. Really. So it's, I think there's like an amazing group of people that gave some kind of vision of what the future could be. It's a, it's a it's a book about travel, hospitality. And the future is more like, really some vision book. and, so I don't think it's a manual. You will not learn too much.

Simone Puorto (00:20:40) - But I try to understand where all of this is going, and that's basically what we did now in this 15 minutes. Basically, it's just okay, we know how to do stuff now and we all know how to do like a Facebook campaign, an Instagram campaign or a Google campaign. But what will be the landscape in five years? And that is the question that I'm trying to answer and I hope I did.

Ryan Haynes (00:21:05) - Wonderful. Well, I look forward to seeing it. And that's going to be available on Amazon, isn't it?

Simone Puorto (00:21:09) - It's on Amazon. yeah. And basically wherever you can buy your books Italian version first.

Simone Puorto (00:21:15) - we're working I'm working on reviewing the final edits on the English version. so I hope this will be, out, in a couple of months to the maximum.

Ryan Haynes (00:21:26) - Well, we'll have a couple of links on the description to the podcast. So those of you who are listening can check out Simon's book and hopefully get hold of the English version as soon as it comes out. Simone, what a pleasure it's been, to have you here back on the show, on travel market life and get all those contributions and insights. And it was I just want to say it was wonderful to see you at ITB in March as well, to see you in person. We don't get enough of that. but thanks for your contributions and the hard work you do for the hospitality industry, because it's you really do feel that momentum coming and you can you can see the passion you've got in every article panel discussion and presentation that you deliver. So kudos to you.

Simone Puorto (00:22:07) - thank you so much, Ryan. Thank you so much for this.

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