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The history of technology is littered with fancy terminology and buzzwords. But while innovations like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and voice activation may receive a lot of hype, they can also deliver a fundamental shift in the environments in which we live, work and rest.
Both guests and hoteliers are watching the “home technology” space to identify what new gadgets and platforms might work in hotels as well. Hoteliers know that the right technology can give their property a leg up on the competition in their market as well as improve their operating margins.
Travelers today already use technology to book hotel rooms, and many hotels offer tech-forward amenities such as branded mobile apps that provide hotel guest keyless entry to their rooms, but that’s still just the tip of the iceberg.
EMBRACING TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE
At HITEC Houston, keynote speaker Mike Walsh, CEO of Tomorrow, a global consultancy on designing companies for the 21st century, discussed the ways in which hospitality will change going forward.
“We often find it difficult to really accept just how much of the future has already arrived in our daily lives,” Walsh said. “Machine learning, artificial intelligence, algorithms—it’s always like that magical pixie dust that you can sprinkle over vendor brochures, a bit like mobile, social media and big data were a few years ago.”
According to Walsh, there are three major shifts the hospitality industry should think about:
- GUEST EXPECTATIONS – “In the future, your guests will not be satisfied with you merely giving them what they ask for or request; they’re going to expect that you can predict and anticipate their needs before they articulate them,”
- ENGAGEMENT – “The second big shift is the way we interface with technology. Kids have grown up speaking to technology and have already changed their behaviors as a result of these speakers. Five-year-olds have developed this commanding Alexa voice. It’s changing their base expectations of how they get information”
- IOT – “Hospitality needs to think about how this changes the way we interact with the world—and the Internet of Things (IoT) is a huge factor. “
THE NEXT EVOLUTIONARY STEP
With travelers becoming increasingly tech-savvy, hotels that don’t embrace technology to deliver innovative guest experiences to may be setting themselves up for failure in the long run. That being said, keeping abreast of the latest technology, and developing cutting-edge solutions is a big challenge for hotels.
One step hoteliers can take is partnering with tech companies that already serve travelers and can assist in creating a memorable guest experience. Startups providing travel and event-related services can offer hotels an opportunity to incorporate new technologies into their offering without investing in developing or administering a site-based service. That’s an affordable way to get a competitive edge.
CREATING COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE
So far we’ve discussed why it’s now more important than ever for hotels to start thinking seriously about integrating technology into their establishments and as part of their guest’s experience. Now let’s dive into how hotels can benefit by diving into 3 types of technologies that hoteliers can leverage easily and cost-efficiently.
Branded Mobile Apps
Hotel brands are using mobile apps successfully for engaging guests before, during, and after their stay. They provide an easy to use platform for creating a personalized experience, especially when integrated with a property’s existing loyalty program. Mobile apps have already become a part of our everyday lives, so there’s a very short learning curve for most hotel guests. Mobile app technology can also be beneficial in gaining insight and data into guest satisfaction, which can be used to optimize the quality or types of services offered.
Mobile Check-In and Check-Out
Providing mobile check-in and out is an example of anticipating what today’s self-service driven travelers want. Giving your guests the freedom to bypass the front desk can not only enhance the guest experience, but it also frees up valuable staff time, allowing them to invest more time providing a more welcoming guest experience. By offering mobile check-in, hoteliers can also incentivize guests to download a property’s mobile app, which creates further upsell and engagement opportunities.
Mobile Key / Keyless Entry
Major brands such as Hilton and Marriott, have already implemented keyless entry into their hotels, and more hotels are following this natural evolution of guest entry. In fact, OpenKey recently announced that hotels throughout China, such as the MiniMax Premier Hotel Shanghai Hongqiao, Yunnan Mekong King Lang Hotel, Foshan Ceramik Hotel, Beijing ZMAX Hotel, and Shanghai Ruby Hotel have all integrated their Universal BLE Upgrade Module which adds mobile keyless entry capability to any hotel guestroom lock while maintaining the plastic keycard functionality.
Implementing mobile key technology provides guests with the convenience of reducing time at the front desk and prevents guests from ever losing or forgetting their room key. From the hotel’s perspective, mobile key technology can save hotels money on the production of additional plastic keys, while increasing staff efficiency.
Staying ahead of the competition and remaining relevant within the rapidly changing hotel industry is crucial to creating competitive advantage. By implementing the right technologies hoteliers can now distinguish themselves from competitors, predict guest needs in advance and cater to today’s tech-savvy travelers.