A recent hospitality report discovered that 64% of U.S hotel guests believe it is “extremely important for hotels to continue investing in technology to enhance guest experience.” Like most industries, customer expectations are growing. When we head to a hotel now, whether at home or while travelling, we expect something extra. When was the last time you felt impressed by the minibar or the toiletries on offer? These things are old hat.
And so hotels are looking towards technology to find The Next Big Thing that will get customers booking up in advance. Giving guests something to shout about is also incredibly important. What will really make that guest head to Tripadvisor to leave their latest review? Word of mouth is where the power is at. Creating new, exciting and technology-led experiences definitely helps to bring the buzz.
In this guide we look at four digital trends set to transform hotels in the already-here future.
Back in 2006 we had 2 billion devices. By 2020 we’ve all heard the estimation that the number of connected devices will reach 200 billion. In other words, 26 “smart devices” for every human on Earth. This is something that hotels can use to their advantage.
Some hotel rooms today use an iPad or tablet as a controller to link up many of the other smart “things” throughout the room. Apps have been developed that can control curtains and turn on or off air conditioning. TVs can be controlled without the need for remotes and in many, the user’s own smartphone becomes the remote. This reduces cost for the hotel as remotes can’t be lost or damaged, and increases the feeling of control for the customer.
Motion sensor technology can then adjust room temperature and turn on and off lights when the room is unoccupied, saving electricity and reducing costs for the hotel. These apps also allow guests to control the room temperature from their smartphone, meaning while they are out and about they can warm up or cool down the room before they return.
Then you have enhanced check-in procedures which help combat the worst part of any hotel experience, as I’m sure many will agree. Upon arrival, guests can be informed of an app that allows them to review room charges from their smartphone and can complete check-out, avoiding queues at the front desk. This allows the hotel to focus on the guests that are checking-in, or guests with queries, therefore alleviating long queues.
Then you have smart connected TV screens that join the network. In the hotel reception, these can be used for tailored, more advanced communications. From welcoming guests by name to displaying check-in information, health and safety advice, travel info and more. All make for a much more dynamic display than static advertising or news feeds alone.
Then in the rooms you have connected screens that are more personalized to their audience. Upon arrival, the TVs in the room can display a welcome message. Take this one step further and you can use playlists and schedules to give guests key information about the hotel that applies solely to them. Perhaps you create four different versions then set the room to play a specific version based on what you know about the guests arriving. For example if they have children, they may want to know breakfast hours and any attractions in the area. If they’re travelling for business perhaps they want the WiFi code, details of your conference room or information on local taxis.
There are forecasts of a growth in hotel robots. If these predictions become reality, “Maidbots” could be the future of housekeeping. These types of innovations are becoming popular, due to lowering technology costs, which at the same time allows hotels to lower operating costs and overall become more efficient. In 2015, the Henn na Hotel in Japan opened its doors and is the world’s first hotel that is staffed by robots.
Room cleanliness is a major factor that can influence a customer's experience. With these “Maidbots”, guests could have the ability to schedule their room cleaning - no more maids knocking on your door when you’re fresh out of the shower - at the time when it’s most convenient for them. Hotel guests can also receive notifications to their smartphone, informing them of when their room is being cleaned and once it’s complete.
Robots can also be available to assist guests 24/7, whether this is bringing water bottles, pillows or various toiletries to hotel guests upon request. As a generation of people who are more attuned to talking to a screen than a real person, would hotel robots make us feel even more at home?
An uprising in the use of drone technology is set to transform hotels. “Visuals are the new language of the digital era” and by creating a video using a drone you allow guests a 360-degree view of the rooms and other areas of the hotel more easily. Rather than just looking at an image, guests can gain a much more in-depth experience looking through every inch of your hotel.
Hotels can provide the target market with innovative video content, previewing exclusive content of the destination. These videos can also be played on screens around the hotel and on TV screens in the guest’s rooms helping them to see all of the available features.
Travel videos are highly popular on social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube. Successful videos can go viral and reach millions of views across a wide range of social mediums. This is a great way to promote the hotel and appeal to viewers that may not have considered staying with you before.
Lastly, drones create a much faster delivery economy. With the use of drone-delivery hotels could provide a concierge service to guests that can deliver items in as little as four hours. From forgotten items, to technology needed for last minute meetings and even clothes and toys for children, guests will rarely need to leave their hotels again.
As well as “real world” digital transformation, there is also a lot happening online. Back in the day, you’d make your booking through a travel agent. Then came intermediary sites such as Expedia and TripAdvisor. Now, any middleman, digital or otherwise, is gone. Bookings can be made online directly to the hotel or through the homeowner (think Airbnb and Trivago), through a smartphone or other personal device. These sites have a constantly evolving pricing structure so the properties offered are in line with demand. This type of digitization also appeals to a different audience. People are beginning to travel at a younger age and make decisions about where to go and where to stay that are cost-effective and allow further exploration.
These hotel-to-consumer supply chains allow for a much more personalized experience. On Airbnb as an example, when a guest wants to find out more about a room, stay length or hotel, all they have to do is ask. The answer then comes from the person living in it and what could be more in-depth than that?
What trends do you see changing and evolving the future hotel experience? Let us know, we’d love to hear.