Today’s travel outlook is positive, with occupancy rates and room revenue projected to approach 2019 levels this year, according to the 2022 State of the Hotel Industry report from the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA). While the outlook is positive, travel readiness fluctuates with each COVID-19 variant, and the same is true for consumer confidence.
Although some hoteliers were hoping to push their technology investments into the future, most are realizing that if they are to compete when travel fully resumes, they need a new playbook with technology at the core. Hotels need a strategy that lays out a clear, step-by-step plan for achieving consistent success.
A technology playbook that leverages a hotel’s standard operating procedures but adds a step-by-step plan detailing system implementation is now required. It should be filled with strategies that meet the demands of today’s travelers and anticipate the next wave of demands in the future. But before a hotel’s 2022 technology playbook can be written, operators must first understand what their guests expect and create loyal fans of the property or brand.
Throughout the pandemic, businesses have found that consumers want more. To better understand specific technologies high on new traveler wish lists, the 2021 Customer Engagement Study by Hospitality Technology found that most travelers want a hotel that provides WiFi and the ability to stream their personal content on the hotel’s televisions, as well as in-room voice-technology devices.
Armed with this intel, hoteliers can design a more complete technology game plan with wireless connectivity, personal guest content, and contactless engagement as key pillars.
The Hotel Network
WiFi is a highly requested amenity from guests. But to support new traveler demands for higher bandwidth for personal content streaming and video calls, combined with the simultaneous usage from IoT and WiFi-enabled devices installed on the property, hoteliers must upgrade to the latest broadband requirements. That starts with ensuring a hotel’s network infrastructure is updated and future-proofed.
The need to provide wireless coverage throughout the hotel may drive the requirement to install wireless wall plates in guestrooms and the back-of-house. To ensure a high-quality experience for guests and staff, hoteliers can partner with providers to help make the upgrade process easier and more affordable.
In-Room Entertainment and Contactless Connectivity
In addition to fast internet connectivity and easy authentication, a network infrastructure should support guests’ demands for personal content streaming via casting to smart TVs. Casting enables guests to automatically pair their personal devices to the in-room TV when they connect to the hotel WiFi and then cast their preferred shows and other content from Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, and thousands of other popular apps. It also eliminates the need to touch the remote, forgetting passwords, and security concerns of logging into public devices. Videos take up a lot of bandwidth, so having the right infrastructure in place ensures quality viewing doesn’t cause a lag for others.
In-Room Voice Assistants
COVID is requiring adjustments in how guests engage with associates. Rather than communicating face-to-face or via in-room phones, hoteliers can have voice assistants. In-room devices allow guests to request service items, get answers to common questions about the hotel, and book appointments for services or experiences. When including multiple capabilities, such as alarm clocks, telephones, tablets, and smart speakers, and integrated with in-room controls, hotel workflows, and smart technologies, voice assistants can help the return on technology investment. As a bonus, voice assistants are also unburdening stretched-thin associates, using AI to eliminate visits and calls to the front desk.
Technology playbooks will vary by brand and property. Those that will make a difference can be ones containing the above components at a minimum. Additional smart technologies that can help create winning experiences for guests include mobile keys, check-in kiosks, hotel apps, employee safety buttons, and contactless room service. Whether added independently or combined, a technology strategy built on a solid WiFi network will result in heightened satisfaction and a positive ROI.
About the Author
Tammy Parker Estes is chief product officer at Nomadix.