Hotel technology is a long game, and it seems many of the hottest hotel innovations may finally be at an adoption tipping point. So, what’s next?
For hospitality professionals, this is surely the question dominating the final stretch of 2019. Hotel services have been revolutionized over the last few years, trying to catch up with the changes in guest journeys and behaviors. Hoteliers are always the hunt for technology that can help to streamline their processes and bring them closer to guests while optimizing operations, productivity and revenue. For many hotels investing in the latest innovations and advanced platforms, those demands have been answered, and it’s only the beginning.
No longer reliant on antiquated legacy systems, hoteliers around the globe are redefining their offering to establish new standards of service, ‘wow’ guests, and inspire long-term loyalty. From chatbots to AI, smart rooms, Internet of Things (IoT), increased mobile functionality, and intuitive management optimization platforms, what stretches before us is a tech-oriented hospitality landscape, centered around the provision of exceptional guest service.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at the technologies and emerging trends positioned for wide-spread adoption as we head into 2020, and those which promise to further transform the hotel experience for everyone involved.
1. Chatbots, Assistants & AI
Convenience and automation go hand in hand, so the rise of AI-powered platforms and services comes as no surprise. Chatbots equipped to service guests’ needs and answer questions throughout the entire traveler journey are not only providing guests with uninterrupted service pathways but also help to reduce operational stress. Hotel staff is empowered to focus on those touch-points of the guest experience which matter most, while AI-powered devices help to streamline multiple tasks at once (managing inventory, basic guest requests, gathering guest data, and more). As guest expectations continue to pave the path to a more convenient, gratifying, and personalized guest experience both online and offline, the use of this technology will become integral.
Beyond chatbot technology, we’re also witnessing the rapid inception of in-room AI-powered assistants, and, taking it even further, some hotels are exploring the use of AI-powered robots. In fact, Hilton Hotels introduced Connie, the first-ever concierge robot in 2016, and now Henn-na Hotel in Japan operates as the world’s first hotel entirely staffed by robots. Although robot-powered hotels are still a novel concept at this point, and many guests still prefer a more traditional hospitality experience, we cannot deny the continued push for a frictionless experience. Ultimately, guests prefer hotels which can easily anticipate their needs, offer personalized service and recommendations, and provide the comforts of home within a luxury environment.
2. Mobile EverythingWe live in a mobile world. As consumers, our experience with brands is largely determined within the mobile environment. For hotel guests, the same rules apply. Let’s consider the following statistics:
- 85% of international tourists have a mobile device with them whilst traveling
- 76% of travelers say their smartphone is the most important travel companion
- 74% of guests would use the hotel app if their favorite hotel had one
- 70% of last-minute hotel bookings are made on mobile devices
- Hotel app and other hotel technology influence the booking decisions of 70% of travelers
- 88% of guests want a mobile app which allows for a personalized experience
Although traditionally, hotel staff may have expressed certain apprehension towards the implementation of new technology, many new-age platforms offer a transformative, user-friendly experience. Unlike legacy platforms of the past, which demanded hours of training and often created more work for employees, modern mobile platforms are often built with the employee in mind. Tapping into the power of a more flexible work environment, employees can utilize a hand help device to have uninterrupted access to guest information, manage tasks and reporting, communicate with other departments, and so much more. Leveraging mobile technology on both sides of the hospitality service arrangement is a critical step in the right direction.3. Smart Rooms
Hoteliers, the era of the smart room is officially upon us. Smart hotel rooms harness the power of IoT to offer guests the level of comfort and convenience they are likely used to at home. This can include everything from built-in streaming services to keyless entry, smart mirrors, digital amenities like lighting and temperature control, voice-activated assistants, and more.
Ideally, guests can exhibit complete autonomy over their in-room experience, by way of their mobile device, a tablet, or with voice-activated prompts. As you might imagine, this continues to push the envelope on personalized service, and we can’t wait to see how this continues to transform the hospitality experience.4. Self-Service
When we delve into the specifics of modern guest needs, we reveal a rather simple takeaway: guests want what they want, and they want it quickly. 24/7 convenience provided through the means of data-backed insights and handheld technology is no longer novel; it’s deeply ingrained into the way we live. Guests, as a result, demonstrate a desire for increased control over their experience. When it comes to service style, they want options, and one of those options is self-service.
Self-service technology offers a dual benefit to the hotels which employ it. Not only are guests provided with the choice of which service model they prefer (high-touch or low-touch), hotel staff are also empowered to better serve those guests who prefer a hands-on interaction. This also helps to streamline operations, expediting certain touch-points that were often notorious for creating delays, such as front desk lines and inquiry delays.5. Tech-Powered Improvement of Hotel Processes
The trends we’ve listed here all have one primary thing in common: with the help of technological updates, they improve traditional aspects of the hospitality experience. This, in itself, is an important shift as hotels around the globe seek out technology-powered improvements in hotel processes. Gone are the days of broken, manual processes that aggravate guests and hotel employees in equal measure.
In many cases, this continued technological revolution leads hoteliers in the direction of mobile management platforms. Eager to transform the efficiencies of various departments across a property, hotels are investing in cloud-based, mobile software applications that help their employees better manage their tasks, communicate and submit reporting in real-time, and attend to guest needs in a timely manner. These applications are often fully customizable and offer easy integration with a hotel’s existing operational infrastructure. Leveraging the power of an agile, centralized system, a management application allows staff to automate the handling of guest requests, maintenance jobs, housekeeping duties, and so much more. The front desk staff, housekeepers, maintenance workers, sales staff are all able to establish new standards of efficiency, benefiting from the convenience of mobile, staff-centric technology that truly transforms hotel processes. Moreover, by assembling a “stack” of modern management applications that complement a hotel’s existing PMS, hoteliers are able to closely manage service quality and, in turn, inspire guest loyalty.
The current hospitality landscape presents challenges and opportunities, giving traditional hoteliers little choice but to embrace technological transformation head on to maximize guest loyalty, grow revenue, and to support future growth. Ultimately, understanding the needs of guests, and the way in which those expectations are subject to change based on emerging trends will allow hoteliers to remain agile and, in a position to succeed well into 2020 and beyond.
What innovative hospitality technology trends are you most excited about for 2020?