Hotels are exploring innovative technologies to better serve guests throughout their stay and help them remain top of mind with consumers. Chains, in particular, are making large-scale technology investments to enhance their own competitive advantage. With the promise of creating a more digital, efficient, and customized guest experience, hotels are testing or rolling out these technologies across properties in hopes of enhancing value for both hoteliers and guests. Below are 10 popular technology trends rising in hotels today.
1. Guest tracking and security
These systems track whereabouts of guests and provide real-time information, direction, roll call, and communication in the case of an emergency. These systems could help owners keep people safe and give travelers peace of mind during their stay.
2. Keyless technology
Room key technology is evolving to digital—near field and keyless entry is not limited to magnetic control of locks but allows guests or hoteliers to open a door via an app from any location. This technology allows guests to open doors for other guests, room service, deliveries, or others without having to leave their couch or bed. Digital keys also allow front desk staff to time doors to open upon a guest’s arrival and track who has accessed a room at what time, providing additional insights into a guest’s stay and habits. Hotel chains like Marriott, Hilton, and Wyndham are deploying this across their portfolios.
3. Next generation entertainment system (ES)
Given the proliferation of streaming TV, guests now want access to that content when traveling. Modern entertainment systems sync the room’s TV with a guest’s devices, remembering the connections later. That means a guest can access their Netflix, cable service, or pictures from their phone, tablet, or laptop automatically on the room’s TV screen. As consumers’ entertainment demands shift, hotels will need to support them. It is safe to assume that guests will become frustrated with the inability to watch their normal entertainment content when traveling. Changing consumer preferences at home will translate to entertainment demands during travel. Marriott and Hyatt are two big brands rolling out in-room streaming across properties.
4. BYOD telephony
With this technology, guests can use their own devices rather than the hotel phone to call airlines from the pool or text family members, for example. This is especially useful for international travelers who typically would pay international fees for phone service. Now, guests can connect to the hotel’s WiFi to communicate without tapping into their own roaming cellular service. More boutique luxury hotels have adopted this capability and while many chain hotels have not explicitly marketed BYOD Telephony capabilities, they have rolled out the ability for guests to use it to communicate with front desk or other hotel staff.
5. Digital room control
This smart room technology enables guests to customize their experience by controlling lights, temperature, entertainment, room service, requests, and other settings from a tablet or the guests’ own device. While this functionality may be seen as a gimmick to some, the greater value stems from pairing this hardware and software with smart room technology to store guests’ preferences and provide data for insights. Many hotels in popular leisure and resort destinations like Las Vegas are making this technology available to guests.
6. Automated lost and found return technology
Automating and digitizing lost and found can provide guests with peace of mind and make returning lost items easier for hotel staff. Guests can be notified automatically of items left in the room and items can be sent to guests’ home or pre-specified address. Automating this process is an opportunity for the hotel to create goodwill in the mind of the guest.
7. Beacon tracking and pushing notifications based on location & preferences
This technology tracks guests throughout a property and sends direct offers, activity updates, and recommendations to the guest customized to fit the time of day, location on property, and a guest’s preferences. For example, a guest leaving the gym may be offered a deal on a protein shake, or a guest sitting at the pool may be recommended a pina colada and notified of an upcoming music performance nearby. Hilton is one company on the forefront of rolling this out at locations including Hilton Waikiki and Hilton Dallas resorts. In the cruise ship industry, Carnival has found success using beacon tracking through bracelets rather than smart phones. Disney Resorts is another example of a company using bracelets to track guests and enable payment across the resort.
8. Digital menus
Digital menus represent an opportunity to streamline processes, to engage, and to provide information for guests. At hotels, there is the added ability to track guests’ orders digitally for future order recommendations across properties, saving their preferences on a profile. For example, a guest who orders local fare in one city may be recommended local fare in another.
9. Housekeeping tracking technology
These capabilities enable flexible check-in and check-out. The systems track cleaning staff, monitor room turnover progress, and notify front desk staff the moment a room is prepared for check-in. The systems analyze requested arrival and departure times and completion of cleaning to allow hotels to accept as many early check-in requests as possible.
10. Smart room and smart hotel technology
This technology enables all options and settings to be controlled, manipulated and stored for guests’ current and future stays. For example, a morning alarm can be set to a play specific song, turn on the T.V. to a certain channel, slowly brighten the lights, draw the shades, or even turn on the shower. Rooms can be automated to adjust the temperature based on guests’ locations and areas can be heated or cooled depending on the number of occupying guests. In addition to personalizing a guest experience and cutting energy costs, this technology can help make a building more environmentally friendly.
Not all technology innovations may be worth the investment. However, as guests become familiar and rely more on these kinds of technologies in their personal or work lives, hotels will also need to push their technological capabilities to keep up.
About the Author
Ben Price is a senior consultant, diversified, at FULD + COMPANY