There’s no question that hospitality is a dynamic industry. Innovations are changing how hoteliers approach their properties, oftentimes in unexpected ways. From recyclable sheets to top-notch noise control, new technologies are causing hoteliers to rethink the basics and look outside the box for solutions to issues that were previously thought to be just a part of the industry, reaping rewards on both the financial and guest satisfaction fronts.
Even small hotels and budget brands meet demand.
Donna Cobb, executive director of strategic partnerships and influencer marketing at Comcast Business, says WiFi and, with it, the bandwidth to power guests’ multiple devices—not just in their rooms, but throughout the property—is no longer an “amenity”—it’s a requirement, even for small boutiques and budget franchises. She discussed this reality, along with steps that even individual hotels can take to meet what she describes as “the minimum connectivity requirement.”
Cobb recalls that as few as five years ago, the focus of hotel technology was more on saving costs, improving the employee experience, and otherwise streamlining back-of-the-house operations. While those aspects are no less important now, she maintains, customer-facing technologies are now essential components of the guest experience.
Technology is stopping noise in hotels.
Noise complaints are some of the most prominent and consistent grievances in the hotel industry. Guests worry about noisy neighbors, loud children, and sounds from outside that cannot be stopped or asked to be quiet. Stopping these outside noises from coming into a hotel can be demanding and problematic, but increasingly advanced soundproofing and acoustic technologies can provide a solution.
Randy Brown, founder and president of Soundproof Windows, Inc., unknowingly moved next to one of the noisiest freeways in the country in the 90s. The sound became unbearable, and Brown describes, “once you decide that it bothers you, it can’t not bother you.” So, Brown researched ways to create his own soundproof windows, a venture that ended in success. A family member suggested putting the final result on the market, and Soundproof Windows was born.
Technology is changing hotel linens.
Richard Ferrell, founder and president of Pürlin, LLC, wasn’t especially tuned into water issues when he lived in Florida. It wasn’t until the longtime hotelier was in California during a severe drought that he became aware of the critical need to conserve this natural resource. “Because I felt the need to do something for the environment, I sold the company I built to my partners to use my hospitality industry experience to do something good for the planet,” he recounts. Ferrell describes how and why he created his Pürlin Laundry-Free Linens, which enable businesses with communal laundry—primarily healthcare and hospitality—to provide guests and patients with safe, clean, unused linens while also protecting the environment.
While gathering research on the challenge of water conservation, Ferrell recalls attending a National Geographic conference. “I was struck by a slide showing a queen-sized bedsheet. The question beneath it was, ‘How many gallons of water does it take to make one queen size bed sheet?’ And the answer was a whopping 2,800 gallons.”
An app connects qualified professionals with on-demand hospitality gigs.
The Holiday Inn San Jose-Silicon Valley can seat up to 1,000 guests for a formal dinner in its 14,000-square-foot banquet facility. Plenty goes into accommodating such an expansive event, and one of the more critical elements is a fully staffed and experienced team. However, as the property’s director of food and beverage, Ruben Perfetto, explains, it doesn’t make sense for the hotel to hire a cohort of employees for affairs of that size, as they occur fairly infrequently. At the same time, finding reliable staff for a single event is far from easy, particularly in the Bay Area, which has some of the state’s lowest unemployment rates.
“Sometimes you hire people, but they don’t show up or they find something better. We don’t know the reason and always need somebody right away,” Perfetto says. To secure help on-demand, the property began using a staffing app for gig workers and hospitality businesses called Instawork. Over the past year, Perfetto says the app has helped the hotel cover various positions—dishwashers, busers, banquet servers, and “house men” who assist with event set-up and clean-up.
AI is changing how front desk and reservations staff work.
According to April Weatherly, director of telephony optimization and analytics for RLH Corporation, implementing the company’s BluIP artificial intelligence (AI) phone system required planning and commitment. However, as she told LODGING, once the time and technologies were right, RLH Corporation went all in with the right partner, Armen Martirosyan, co-founder and CEO of BluIP.
Weatherly says the by using the BluIP AI technology, a virtual agent can be on the job 24/7 to field phone calls to the central reservation office using its database of automatic responses—which is continually updated—to answer the kind of simple questions that can tie up phone lines and on-site front desk agents unnecessarily.
Technology is expediting group meeting planning.
Patricia Davis, senior vice president, marketing and communications, Davidson Hotels & Resorts, observes the impact of technologies on virtually all aspects of the travel industry—including meeting planning. She notes that this is particularly the case when it comes to group travel, where technology touches nearly everything—“from the way that meeting planners research and identify meeting venues to the way they pay the final bill and everything else in between.”
Davis describes how technology initially eases the proposal preparation process with venues. “For starters, with so much content readily available to planners online, it’s much easier for planners to narrow down possible venues from their desktops allowing for a more streamlined RFP process.”