Technology Transforming Hotels
By Yani Deros, CIRQ+ CEO / Founder
The pace of change in today’s world is increasingly being transformed by technology at an unprecedented rate.
Today, the world revolves around each person and their mobile devices connected to more and more social networks and influencers than ever before impacting nearly every aspect of our lives — from instant communication, working on the road, ingesting news, learning, shopping to limitless channels of entertainment. But that wasn’t the case two decades ago. In fact, in 1998, around 41% of Americans were online, compared to 90% today.
And who would have guessed 20 years ago that your telephone, computer, stereo, camera, video camera, clock, calculator, maps, TV, and more would fit in the palm of your hands? Today, smartphones are ubiquitous to people’s lives and lifestyles.
It’s just a matter of time before autonomous self-driving cars go from science fiction to our day-to-day reality.
That’s not to say that technology has disrupted all sectors. The hotel industry which prided itself on being early adopters has lagged behind other sectors in adopting technology to meet customer demands in this rapidly evolving world.
If you removed the flat screen TV and keyless door locks, today’s hotel room does not look substantially different from how they presented themselves two decades ago. The room has either two full beds or one king bed. Nightstands with one dimensional or silo’d technology solutions such as alarm clock, phone, thermostat and a cumbersome property printed folio of services and advertisements. And to support our need to be connected, you still can’t find enough plugs for charging your mobile devices when you want them at your fingertips.
We still wait in line to check-in at the front desk; go to a room that is almost always too hot, too cold or causes the obligatory hunt for wall switches or tiny buttons on lamps that makes you feel like a prize should drop out of a shade once you figure out how to turn it on. We try to use our mobile devices with hidden or limited plugs often placed behind a nightstand or mattress. There is often slow Wi-Fi and we still call the concierge to book an excursion or order room service from a limited menu.
But all that is changing. Hotels are recognizing that they must modernize their guest rooms by embracing the “right” technology that will stand up to time and deliver a guest-centric experience if they are to remain relevant in the highly competitive hospitality sector and with more choices available in the new “sharing economy” of Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway.
Advancements in voice controls and artificial intelligence (AI) such as Alexa and Google Home, will go a long way to build unique customer experiences but some issues and concerns are challenging, even with early adopters. That means mastering the balance between using technology to understand and respond to customer needs for convenience — from ensuring the minibar is stocked with a guest’s favorite drink, to adjusting a guest’s hotel room lighting and room temperature to their comfort level prior to check-in – all while maintaining a personal touch that makes guests want to return to the hotel/brand again.
Here are some of the advances being developed and launched now or in the near future:
Remote check-in, check-out and bill pay
When you book your room, imagine being able to select your room, set your preferences (location in the hotel, view, number or size of beds). You can check into the hotel in advance and once on site, scan your barcoded authentication sent via your smartphone, pick up a keycard from a dispenser, or eventually walk straight to your room without waiting in line at the front desk and open the door with your smartphone.
Front desk managers and concierge service will still be available to check guests in and answer questions for those who prefer it, but they will be able to do this much faster to build a better guest relationship and make their experience as personable and frictionless as possible.
Concierge service at your fingertips
Calling the front desk to ask for a Wi-Fi password will be replaced by auto-connect. Ordering from a limited room service menu will be replaced with integrated food-tech platforms like GrubHub or Door Dash for properties that don’t have an onsite restaurant. Tour-planning and transportation-booking will happen through a platform in the room that also offers local city guides, maps, and special discounts.
Tech-savvy customer service professionals
The hotel staff will be required to be just as tech-savvy of their guests. That’s because technology cannot meaningfully enhance guest experience alone. It must also sync with the front and back-end of operations. In the future, guest interaction with products and appliances within the room will be converted into data for analysis. This will allow staff to resolve customer service issues, alert housekeeping promptly, train staff, and make quality control easier and more cost-effective in a budget-sensitive environment.
Sustainability and Future-proofing
Let’s face it; we impact the environment with every trip and stay at a hotel. Properties are one of the biggest consumers of energy and natural resources (water included) on a grid and the shadow of their carbon footprint stretches beyond the horizons that surround them. Likewise, many new technology solutions purchased and installed into the hotels will be obsolete in a matter of a few years and provide very little ROI based on the investment. They acquire and integrate in ways that have never been considered before like multi-dimensional technology solutions (multi-task) and solutions that are future-proofed, meaning they will keep pace with the ever increasing demands of the savvy travelers and the rapidly evolving technology landscape.
Catering to your preferences each time you visit
A great hotel experience will become an extension to your next stay in another city. With AI, hotel staff will understand your likes and dislikes and personalize your visit to your preferences. The moment you walk into your room, the temperature will be set to your comfort level. Rather than clicking through hundreds of channels to find your favorite TV program, it will be there the moment you turn on the TV. You will have access to your favorite shows on Netflix, and a Bluetooth speaker to connect your smartphone to and play your favorite playlists.
IOT for people, places, and things
Monitoring the room environments and assets that go into a vast network of hotels can be a nightmare. Most technology solutions today are one-dimensional and do not offer these types of communication and controls. The impending wave of IoT will rapidly be infused into guest rooms and across the properties. Whether it’s HVAC, televisions, Wi-Fi, electrical connections, etc. – all need to be actively monitored, updated, or replaced as time goes on. Being able to deliver Future-proofed solutions will be crucial to success in the space. (IoT) will be able to do this with seamlessly integrated sensors placed within the area or devices that help manage the space, energy costs, and stay for the guest.
Management will be alerted if something is not working correctly, enabling engineering to correct the problem before it ends up as a negative review online. This technology will significantly reduce energy costs at the hotel by connecting the electrical supply of rooms to the property management system so that lights and televisions are turned off and HVAC is set to a minimal level when the room is unoccupied.
Technology is transforming hotels globally as they strive to deliver a better holistic stay for guests while streamlining operations and expenses performing more than one task. They will investigate the options and make sure that solutions can be updated with ease to deliver an ROI that can be driven to the bottom line. And, apply solutions that offer future-proofing in a sustainable and meaningful way for the property and environment. Ultimately technology should result in a unique and memorable experience that can be shared with others to influence loyalty for return visits or influence others to stay at the hotel/brand in the future.
In the end, the goal is to improve property management, reduce energy consumption, and lower operating costs, all critical to a hotel’s bottom line.