Report: What Savvy Hotels Are Doing to Meet the Technological Demands of Guests
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A new report highlights the ever-increasing technological needs of travelers, and what hotel guests can expect traveling forward.
According to the PwC report, “Hospitality Directions; Spotlight on Connected Devices,” 75 percent of mobile users were using smartphones by the end of 2014.
As a result, savvy hoteliers are tapping into technological trends, allowing guests to use their mobile devices to select a specific room, request a check-in time, unlock their room doors, preset the temperature in their room, request extra amenities, check out hotel restaurant menus, purchase services from local retailers, order drinks poolside, book a spa treatment, reserve car service to the airport and check out, in no particular order.
Some trends are already gaining serious traction. In a survey of asset managers representing 3,500 hotels and resorts, two-thirds said mobile check-in would likely be the norm by 2017, the report stated.
Moving forward, more hotels are expected to focus on personalizing the experience better by tracking customer preferences based on what they do on their mobile device. If a hotel can anticipate a guest’s needs, that’s a huge advantage for hoteliers. And, with the emergence of beacon technology and other on-location tech, hotel staff can even track guests on property to ensure they are attended to quickly, as long as the guest grants permission via their phone.
“Technology is changing so quickly and is relevant to so many different aspects of our business,” said Marriott International, Inc. president and CEO Arne M. Sorenson, via the report. “Until very recently, once a guest came into our hotel, the only technology that was important was the television or entertainment system in the room and then how they used their own technology to communicate with others outside the hotel.
“Increasingly, it is how we use that technology to communicate with our guests when they’re in the hotel. How do we use the technology to service them … All of those things create a need for technology, which is much more significant than what we’ve had in the past. We want to give you an experience so that when you leave, you remember something about it.”
Technology is also important in the hospitality industry because it has the potential to better connect the guest with the hotel staff. That can lead to an increase in brand loyalty. And brand loyalty is something hoteliers are always striving to improve (along with the all-important "revenue per available room" or "RevPAR" metric, which can be influenced by loyalty).
In the future, more guests may start seeing hyper-specific notifications on their smartphones like the following, as per the report: “Your room, 569, is now ready for check-in. Per your preferences, it is set to 71 degrees, includes an extra blanket, and is near an elevator. A copy of (insert local newspaper here) will be delivered every morning during your stay.”
And if a guest even needs to check in at the front desk, agents working there are likely to have a complete profile of them handy, complete with their preferences and special requests.
Guests can also expect more in-room technology that allows them to browse and request amenities like tablets and TV menus, the report notes. An online “progress bar” may even display the average wait time for a specific request.
And, of course, there will be an opportunity to digitally rate the hotel and its service level.
Social media continues to be a major focus area in the hospitality industry as well, keeping hotels connected to travelers while also helping brands and properties promote.
The PwC report even has a name for tracking, monitoring, managing and responding to comments on social media: “Social listening.” The report calls social media an “unprecedented opportunity to engage with customers” and “a goldmine of data.”
Of course, the ability for brands and individual hotels to track travelers digitally brings up an entirely new discussion about invasion of privacy. Judging from the report, it does appear travelers are more open to giving access to personal information these days. A 2012 PwC report found that nearly 75 percent of consumers are willing to share some personal information if they get something valuable in return, such as personalized and localized information.
On the other hand, the “Cornell Hospitality Report” revealed in April 2015 that 20 percent of travelers will flat-out exit an app if asked for personal information such as employment or their location. Travelers appear to need a reasonable amount of assurance that it’s worth it in order to give the go-ahead to start building a comprehensive digital profile of them.
Brands stand to gain a lot if they pass the test, though.
The report said brands that provide a consistently exceptional hotel stay via technology “are not only able to remain relevant, they can also strengthen guest loyalty, motivate return visits, increase average daily rate, and drive incremental hotel revenue.”
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