Hoteliers in 2018 are increasingly tapping into new technology to help them create unique guest experiences.
Technology changes in a heartbeat. In an already very competitive hospitality market, hotel operators look for cutting edge ways to both attract and retain hotel guests by enhancing their on-site experience with technology based amenities.
In addition to maximizing guest experiences, advances in technology both increase hotel revenue while decreasing other expenses, and as a result, the hospitality industry is investing in a number of technology based upgrades.
Here are some trends to watch for this year.
Imagine having a 24-hour concierge, which would eliminate the need for guests to pick up the phone or walk to a counter to speak with a knowledgeable employee. This type of technology allows a guest to request various services such as city dining reservations, in-room dining, additional pillows, housekeeping and other maintenance, driving directions, spa appointments, show tickets and Ubers to the hotel, all around the clock.
Some examples are: Caesars Entertainment, whose properties in Las Vegas use Ivy; Aloft, which uses a system called Intelity ICE; Yotel with the Yotelpad; and Hilton and Marriott, which incorporate this service into their hotel loyalty apps. These services are not just a great amenity for the guest, but are also for beneficial for the hotel as it frees up their employees so they can focus on other people-oriented responsibilities.
Hotels are improving their brand apps to offer better experiences with the check-in process, booking and collecting feedback from customers. Mobile check-in allow hotels to better determine room availability and optimize room revenue by offering early and even late check-outs for additional fees. Brands like Starwood and Hilton, among others, offer their guests the ability to use their mobile phones as keys to unlock their rooms.
Personalized experiences/smart rooms/Internet of Things
Hoteliers strive to deliver experiences that are personalized to each hotel guest, which includes using technology to offer more customized hotel stays, with the hope of promoting loyalty and encouraging future bookings. Hotels are always testing new technologies to anticipate guest needs.
Guests want the same comforts that they have in their homes so hotels are implementing smart home technology to make guests feel more comfortable.
Some hotels allow guests to use their loyalty apps to control the power, temperature settings and lighting in their rooms. Rooms are fitted with sensors to control temperature and lighting when the guest is inside the room or time-of-day controls, which in turn save hotels on energy costs.
Guests can create customer profiles, which outline their preferences for things like coffee, newspaper deliveries, temperature settings, toiletries, and in-room exercise (such as yoga mats). Several hotels are beta testing voice-activation systems, such as Amazon’s Echo.
In-room technology upgrades
One of the top requests from guests is that they want access to Wi-Fi and for it to work seamlessly with their smartphones, tablets, laptops and other devices. A number of hotels are investing in infrastructure to update their networks, coverage and bandwidth to be able to accommodate the ever-increasing number of devices that are connected to their networks.
Other in-room technology based upgrades which are highly sought out are smart televisions, access to Netflix, Hulu, Pandora and other web streaming services for on-demand entertainment, additional charging ports and wireless charting stations.
Many hotel guests spend a significant amount of time researching a hotel to get as much information as they can before booking. Hotels are shooting 360-degree videos of their guestrooms, ballrooms, gyms, pools, restaurants, lobby and bar areas and sharing those videos on their websites, so that prospective guests get to really experience what the hotel has to offer. Some of this footage is used to create virtual reality experiences.
Hotels are also experiencing with virtual reality headsets. Marriott launched an in-room virtual reality headset program allowing guests to take virtual trips to other locations. Guests can share their experiences with friends and families on a new virtual travel content platform called “VR Postcards.”
Once thought of as something that could only occur in the distant future, robots are taking off at hotels. One hotel in Japan, the Henn-na Hotel, is completely run by robots, the world’s first. Relay, the first U.S. autonomous hotel robot, delivers amenities and food to hotel rooms and interacts with guests. The robots are now able to identify poor Wi-Fi zones and food trays/carts and relay the information to the hotels’ IT and maintenance departments. The person behind the company that created Relay said hotels saw an increase in revenues due to the charges for each delivery. LG recently introduced the CLOi, a line of robots for commercial use. The CLOi serving robot will deliver meals and drinks to hotel guests, at all hours of the day and night, while the porter robot can deliver luggage to hotels rooms, handle payments and check-in and check-out services.
Karyl Argamasilla is of counsel at Miami-based law firm Bilzin Sumberg and a member of its Hospitality and Real Estate Practice Groups.
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