How Technology is Affecting the Hotel Space in the 21st Century
Since time immemorial, technology has been responsible for reshaping society, sometimes for the bad, but usually for the good. From education to healthcare, technology in the 21st century has touched various sectors. Hospitality, too, hasn’t remained immune from its effects.
Despite their initial reticence, hoteliers all over the world have embraced technological offerings in an attempt to keep pace with the demands of their consumers. Here are some of the leading technologies that are fast become integral to the hotel experience.
Augmented Reality & Virtual Reality
A report by Adobe Digital Insights (ADI), which crunched over 321 million social engagements, found that at least eight of the largest hotels had tested some kind of virtual reality (VR) experience during the past six months. Most of these experiences were connected to the consumers’ mobile devices, allowing them to experience VR postcards, curated journeys, and hotel interiors and amenities, even before they set foot in the hotel.
On-site, these technologies remodify unused existing spaces into lively hubs of interaction for the guests, while adding to the establishment’s novelty factor.
Mobile & More Mobile
I’m sure you’re already tired of hearing about how the mobile has disrupted markets throughout the world, and will continue to do so in the future as well. The hospitality industry is no exception.
- There are 2.7 billion smartphone users in the world today, with users checking social media portals over 20 times a day via mobile.
- Mobile bookings in travel grew by 1700 per cent between 2011 and 2015, accounting for 18 per cent of online revenues.
- 40 per cent of travel sales have come from mobile in 2017, which is posited to reach 50 per cent by 2021.
- 88 per cent of leisure travelers will switch to a different app or website if yours isn’t meeting their needs
- More than 50 per cent of travelers don’t have a set destination in mind when planning a trip — and 60 per cent will search their next trip from a mobile device
- 1 in 3 boarding passes will be delivered via mobile by 2019
Mobile phones dominate almost all aspects of the guest’s life cycle, from the research phase to check-ins at hotels. Increasingly, mobile devices are also being remodified to become key-cards, since they’re more secure and personalized.
When augmented with apps, mobiles can be used as versatile and interactive devices. This can extend to non-invasive room service as well, turning smartphones into remotes to control television, temperature, and lighting. A lot of customer retention and services also take place over the mobile.
How successfully you integrate technology into your hotel offerings depends, to a large excellent, on how robust your Internet connection is. You can hardly expect guests to enjoy their stay, if there are snags in mobile connectivity.
Internet bandwidth is already a big issue in most hotels where guests now subconsciously expect Wi-Fi access that is speedy and unhampered. And, if conferences and other events are being held at your hotel, data needs of the population are bound to go up exponentially. To ensure that your guests aren’t hassled over this, make sure you don’t scrimp on your broadband plans.
Hotel Staff Technology
Happy staff equals happy guests. This age-old mantra holds true even today. However, a lot of hotels tend to focus almost obsessively on guest technology, while their staff is left to fumble with clunky, poorly designed systems.
Without the staff, there can be no hotel – it is simply a dead space, no matter how innovatively or beautifully designed. If we don’t equip the staff with the right kind of tools, we lose the opportunity to decentralize systems and streamline operations.
First empower your staff with the innovation – and then see the results in the guest experience. The value of this is realized when you combine different systems together seamlessly, when your software allows you to add new features to it without having to kill all the progress you have already made.
Chat Interfaces & Artificial Intelligence
Almost every hotel has a responsive website, or a listing on some app that enables near-instantaneous booking and customer service. Chat bots make this process extremely easy, and are closer to simulating human interaction, with a heightened response time when it comes to pulling references and information.
So far, the most popular use case for consumer-facing AI within travel is virtual assistants and chat bots, which are typically embedded in messaging platforms. The vision of dozens of hopeful startups (and established industry players) is to remove some of the friction in online travel planning and booking, allowing consumers to text with virtual travel agents rather than visiting dozens of different travel websites. While virtual assistants are not new in travel, ones that become smarter as they interact with users are on the rise.
Google emerged as the web platform for determining businesses success and visibility with its updated algorithms and business listings that were increasingly localized. We use Google all the time, mostly without even realizing. This makes the company uniquely suited to help hoteliers who can leverage this technology effectively for their venture. From SEO to optimized websites, from reviews and recommendations to increased transparency – manipulating the service for all its worth is what many are doing, causing a rising trend of reliance on the search engine’s capability by users.
Analytics has now become a highly necessary aspect of hotel front and back-end operations. There is literally no business process that cannot be streamlined if you monitor the flow of data keeping the right metrics in mind, and invest in an analytics software that crunches it into a highly usable form for you.
AI is also a prominent aspect of the analytics engine. EasyJet is using AI to better stock its planes with food and beverages prior to take-off. A smaller branch of AI, robotic process automation (RPA), applies principles of AI to help increase efficiencies of enterprise applications such as customer relationship management (CRM) and supply chain management.
IoT & Sensors
Lastly, we turn to IoT which is the most discussed and most infectious idea for hoteliers, taking things beyond the conventional customer experience. Hoteliers, airlines, and other travel companies are all utilizing connected sensors to improve operational efficiencies such as energy and water consumption.
Additionally, once enough sensors are in place, we combine their information flow with analytics and machine learning to what is being termed “Cognitive IoT.”
Cognitive IoT blurs the line between virtual and physical environments, creating spaces that learn and adapt to customer behaviour in real time. It may be a while until the travel industry reaches that level of sophistication in a more ubiquitous manner but the applications of this are already being implemented in the prototypical stage.
With IoT also comes the increased focus on cyber-security and cloud computing, which is also a redefinition of how work is done in and around hotel spaces, which were being envisaged as purely physical till date.
Ram Gupta, the author is a hotel management graduate from India and Germany; He is a certified Hotel Administrator from U.S. and MIH from U.K. He has over 40 years of sound experience in the Hospitality, real estate industry in India, Dubai, U.K, Europe and Japan and is well versed with all areas of business including acquisitions, mergers, joint ventures, diversification, strategic planning, development and operations. He has been associated with over two dozen luxury and boutique hotel projects and has launched two hotel chains in India. He is currently an independent hotel consultant and could be contacted at email@example.com. Website: www.bcgglobal.com