The hospitality industry is adopting technology at breakneck speed.
Just a few years ago, hotels all had the same in-person check-in processes, offered the same 18 cable channels, and generally delivered guests the same basic experience. But that has changed dramatically in recent years, with technology enabling greater customization and options than ever before.
Today, guests expects hotels to offer personalized interactions while also maximizing convenience. Those trends have led hotels to implement everything from loyalty programs utilizing QR codes to robots that can deliver rooms service. It provides hotels like yours an opportunity to stand out.
So what emerging technology trends should you be on the watch for as a hotel manager, and how can they help your business today? When we say emerging, we’re talking about technologies that may be available today in some limited fashion but are a few years from full implementation at most hotels.
Based on our research, these four technologies have the most potential for any hotel in the coming years.
1. Artificial intelligence
We are nowhere near artificial intelligence being able to take over your hotel and let you sip piña coladas while relaxing in a hammock. But then again, this article is about emerging technologies. And this is definitely one to keep an eye on.
Now is not too early to start developing your own AI strategy, as some hotels are using the technology right now.
Take Hilton Worldwide, for example, which unveiled an AI-based concierge that they dubbed “Connie” in 2016. The robot uses the power of IBM’s supercomputer Watson, and it is able to help guests with tourist attractions, dining recommendations, and hotel features.
Connie, via Hilton Worldwide
“Currently stationed near reception at the Hilton McLean in Virginia, Connie is learning to interact with guests and respond to their questions in a friendly and informative manner,” Hilton says. “The more guests interact with Connie, the more it learns, adapts, and improves its recommendations.”
You probably can’t afford that kind of technology just yet. But as hotel chains start to use it more frequently, the cost will come down, and these AI options will be available to independent and boutique hotels in the coming years.
Take action: If you can’t afford a Watson-enabled robot, check out artificial intelligence software. This software can do a variety of things from building custom content calendars for promoting your hotel to helping craft a business strategy for the future.
While AI is probably out of reach to everyone except the big chains for now, automation is a bit more accessible. For example, chatbots through mobile apps can allow customers to unlock their rooms, change the room temperature, and even use their phones as a remote control for the television.
And your guests definitely want it. A recent study by Zebra Technologies found that 66% of guests have a better experience when associates use the latest technology, and 68% want to use their smartphone to speed up check-in.
You can use automation to your advantage to create a real “wow” experience for your guest. Create an app specifically for your hotel so that once your guest books, you can direct them to download the app and immediately do things such as check out your rooms, explore nightlife in the area, or make special requests to your staff.
Once your guest arrives, the technology exists to allow them to immediately pair their phone with all the amenities in the room, enabling them to turn their phone into a remote for the TV or to make a room service request without having to get on that clunky, dusty landline.
The bottom line is that customers want an integrated, seamless experience when they walk into your hotel. And now that you have the tools to do it, the ball is in your court to act.
Take action: Experiment with creating an app for your hotel that could automate some of your interactions with guests. There are plenty of software options out there that will create apps for you, such as App Institute or OnCell.
3. Data insights
The world is awash in data and that’s a great thing for hotel managers like you. The Zebra Technologies study found that 49% of hotels and resorts are looking for ways to turn data collected from guests into enhanced in-stay experiences.
If you aren’t collecting data, now is the time to start. Start recording information such as how your guests are booking, what the most common requests are (especially ones that you haven’t been able to fulfill), or even what the most commonly ordered beer is from room service.
And don’t just collect data on your customers, use it to monitor staff as well.
You may find that maintenance is spending 40% of their time working on something that really isn’t that important to you while a few overhead lights that make the lobby brighter remain out for weeks. Or perhaps by recording housekeeping’s water usage you discover a clever way to save money by altering how they clean rooms.
Take action: Start experimenting with data. Have your staff compile guest information in a spreadsheet: demographics, reason for the stay, booking channel, past booking history, what amenities they used, whether they used social media such as Facebook or Yelp to interact, and anything else you’re curious about. Let that data build up for a few months and then set aside some time to really go through it to understand your customer base better.
4. Hotel management software features
Hotel management software can do some awesome things these days that will make your life a lot easier. For example, did you know that Cloudbeds offers a “rate checker” feature that checks the room rates of other properties and shows them to your guest right in the booking engine? Or that Base7Booking offers a booking engine that will track your guests’ behavior for you?
Good hotel management software can mean the difference between pulling your hair out and feeling in control every second of the day.
Take action: Take an hour or so out of your schedule and browse through Capterra’s directory of hotel management software options. Really explore the features and compare them to what your current software offers. Then check out the user reviews for a few interesting options. It may be time to streamline your hotel with new software.
What technologies do you think will rock the hospitality world?
Everyone has their own opinion on what the future holds in hospitality. As a hotel manager, you’ve probably noticed some trends yourself, and we want to hear about it. Let us know in the comments below what technologies you’re most closely watching in the coming years.