10 Ways Hospitality Technology is Changing the Booking Experience
How the industry and its destinations are capturing the attention of today’s traveler
What does travel look like today? For one, it’s never been more accessible, and travelers are taking advantage. As the world becomes more interconnected through technology and other factors of globalization, people are traveling with intent above just leisure.
“More than ever people want to travel with a greater sense of purpose,” says Deborah Calmeyer, CEO of Africa travel specialist Roar Africa.
An emphasis on finding unique and immersive experiences when visiting a destination has created the experience economy. Travel now extends beyond more than just simply sight-seeing, becoming an opportunity to gain a more complete connection with local surroundings and culture.
In meeting these growing trends, hotels and the hospitality industry as a whole are adapting the booking experience to better enable a changing consumer journey. Here are ten areas where technology is innovating the future of hospitality, today.
The way the world interacts has changed dramatically and information is more available than ever. With greater lines of communication also comes greater interactivity. In an industry where quality of service is based on the ability to better interact with their customers, hospitality businesses now have tools to take their customer engagement to the next level.
Online channels are now the primary method for business to reach their customers. Maintaining an online and social media presence adds to the customer service experience and a brand’s ability to build awareness. Between these platforms and a hospitality businesses’ website, customers expect to find a complete look at that business in an effort to best envision what their experience might be like.
Brining prospective customers as close to reality while envisioning their experience is being done right where today’s companies are being found online with immersive 3D reality capture. As described by Hotel Designs.net, photography using Matterport 3D bring navigable experiences of complete real-world environments to anyone, from anywhere, at any time.
With an emphasis on access to information, the complete, comprehensive nature of these 3D immersive experiences give customers the most accurate representation of what they’ll find in-person. This builds trust with customers and the addition of other details with Mattertags within that 3D view adds yet another layer of transparency, describing the options available to guests as they look to personalize their experience at those locations.
In search of a unique experience, today’s traveler aims to design every aspect of a trip. Of course, there are many others who will likely visit the same location but the ability to make the experience their own is key to its value.
The vision of smart hotels is not a new concept and there have already been strides made to allow guest to have direct control over many aspects of their stay. It’s now fairly standard to have the ability to adjust the AC or order room service. However, while things like more extensive menu choices continue to add a more personal touch, personalization now isn’t limited to just the services a guest has available.
Guests now increasingly have the ability to tailor different characteristics of their environment and surroundings. Personalizing elements like music and ambient light is further allowing guests to make the space they’re staying in their own.
3.) Digital Doors
Putting more power in the hands of guests for the purposes of flexibility are opening many doors... literally. As a part of the Hilton Hotels Innovation Gallery, the option for guests to unlock their rooms using their smartphone. These digital keys are already available at more than 2,500 of Hilton locations.
This is something that has quickly entered the vacation rental space and it makes sense for hotels to follow suit. Flexibility and accessibility both aid a traveler’s ability to tailor their trip to their schedule. Removing any constraints to that end is a step in the right direction and digital doors certainly fit the bill.
Taking it a step further, Hilton is also making available the option for is honors members to select their exact room, also from their phone. It’s yet another trend that adds convenience and accessibility to the customer journey and there are few convenient or accessible than adding functionality to mobile devices.
4.) Mobile, spontaneous service
Travel has always required some degree of planning and still does. At the same time, as the desire to travel and the flexibility to do so increases, it’s also taking on a more spontaneous nature.
It’s part of the desire for a more authentic experience. Letting natural situations guide a stay, as opposed to predetermined well known locations, is becoming more common. The Standard is appealing to this type of travel with its mobile booking app called One Night. Same-day bookings, features on a growing list of 125 highly curated hotels and even city guides detailing stories of local adventures are all found in that mobile experience.
With this increase in flexibility and accessibility is also the increased likelihood that travelers pay multiple visits to a location more often than in the past. Customer experiences that cater to these spur-of-the-moment customers with bookings and experiences to match also stand to benefit from that increasing spur-of-the-moment business.
5.) Technology and design
Certain technologies are already omnipresent in hospitality. Televisions, refrigerators, AC and the like have long been standard. Still, as those technologies advance, so too do their applications and the ability to design spaces based on their evolution.
Tablets can now control different aspects of a room’s functionality from music to changing a room’s temperature. This removes the need for thermostats and controllers which seems small but can make a big difference to the layout and functionality of a room.
Similarly, LG recently released the world’s first flexible LED TV that’s able to roll away, out of sight. As TVs increase in size they can come to dominate a space and the ability to be easily put away when not in use opens many possibilities in the design of a room and makes it feel more open to the guest.
6.) Event Spaces and Facilities Management
Improving technology isn’t limited to just guest rooms themselves. The way event spaces at hotels are being designed and marketed is benefiting in a similar, perhaps even more profound way
Walls are no longer limited by the size of an image display; displays are now limited by the size of the walls. Television, LED displays, projectors and other technologies have reached the point where no wall is too big for a full display.
For marketing conference rooms and event spaces designed for large amounts of people, this has obvious benefits. The proliferation of smaller displays and devices also offers widespread access for personal access to individuals in common areas.
There are a growing number of home devices already on the market. Virtual assistance might come from Siri, Alexa or whomever answers when speaking to your Google Home device. It’s only a matter of time before those familiar voices (or a version of them) are heard in hotel rooms.
Project Jetson at Aloft Hotels, a Starwood brand, has a virtual butler/assistant to offer voice activated guest room service. It’s accessible iPhone or an in-room iPad and already available at their Boston Seaport and Santa Clara locations. Many more are sure to not be far behind.
Accessing information, service and functionality of your room just with a simple verbal command saves time and further enables travelers to maximize their experience.
8.) Reviews and referrals
In addition to the emergence of the aforementioned experience culture is also the online review culture. Looking for that complete and comprehensive view of what your hospitality brand has to offer at each location, the search for many will begin with online review vetting.
Monitoring that status of reviews online not only helps to make improvements to customer service as well as address concerns on those sites directly. Tools like Review Minder (STAAH) helps measure the guest experience and improve online reputation.
It wasn’t long ago that hotel gyms consisted of a couple of treadmills and some towels. The increased frequency of traveling for a growing number of individuals and an emphasis on wellness has changed what you’ll find now.
Technology in the physical fitness realm has also made significant strides. Ultramodern hotel gyms might now feature stationary bikes that feature virtual classes or outright fitness classes.
It’s becoming the new normal and the digital experience is putting many wellness options, including fitness and expansive healthy food options, right at the fingertips of customers.
Environmental consciousness is a topic of interest within every industry. Businesses are seeking to make a difference and raise public perception of their corporate responsibility. When it comes to hospitality, the impact may be even greater as the areas most adversely affected by climate change tend to be in-line with some of the most common travel destinations.
With a direct business interest in promoting sustainability and preserving destinations around the world, hospitality brands are utilizing technology to protect their interests and build their brand as a leader in the space.
A cogeneration plant using eco-friendly natural gas is powering Hilton Hotels in Manhattan, cruise ships are powering their engines with bio-fuels to reduce sulfur emissions and hospitality buildings globally are installing efficient lighting.