With robotic butlers and virtual reality headsets seeping into the hotel technology marketplace, it is easy to think hospitality has entered into an alternate universe. Guests fastening on goggles to explore other lands from their guestrooms may be the future of in-room technology, but it is not all about the gizmos. More practical offerings, such as new and improved keyless-entry options from the likes of Hilton, Marriott, and Starwood, are the trends pushing the ever-evolving hotel technology to new heights.
The industry is focusing on ways it can place as much agency in guests’ hands as possible, giving them the power to control the entire hotel experience from the time they book to walking through the guestroom door. “Guests benefit from a quicker, universal way to access hotels, while hotels reduce their administrative workload, increase efficiencies for front desk staffing, and offer a new dimension of guest satisfaction,” explains T.J. Person, chief executive officer of OpenKey, a company that developed a mobile application for keyless entry.
The online travel agency scene has also changed significantly in the last 12 months, with Expedia swiftly acquiring Travelocity, Orbitz, and HomeAway. The restructuring of this growing presence in hospitality is forcing many hoteliers to consider their approach to technology and, more commonly, turn to third-party vendors to assist in crafting the most technologically advanced systems possible, according Patrick Bosworth, co-founder and CEO of Duetto Research. He says the rapid consolidation of technology companies is driving, and will continue to drive, trends as the new year begins.
“It puts pressure on the industry to have more sophisticated software and a global strategy to compete in this new marketplace,” explains Bosworth. “The level of personalization and the ability to put real-time content and pricing in the hands of consumers has really been the catalyst for the majority of disruption happening in our industry, and is putting pressure on technology.”
With so much change in a short span of time, Bosworth finds it difficult to predict what will be hot and what will fade into obscurity in 2016. “Next year will be the year we find out what sticks,” he says.