Which Hotel Tech Trends Have Staying Power?
July 21, 2016 8:39am
by Steffan Berelowitz
Technology has progressed at an incredible rate in recent years, with mobile catapulting to the top and surpassing expert predictions. Tech has found a way to cross all industries, but in hospitality it has made a significant impact. As a result, technology has become essential in attracting and retaining guests, and in improving overall guest satisfaction.
There’s always a lot of buzz whenever a new technology emerges onto the market, and inevitably some hotels experiment with them. But which ones should the industry adopt, and which should they avoid? Here are our takes on the hottest tech trends that hotels should invest in—and which ones they should ignore.
The whole PokémonGo craze sweeping the world has got the travel industry talking—could virtual or augmented reality become the next big thing in travel? Marriott has already experimented with using Oculus Rift to provide guests with virtual tours of lush destinations like London and Hawaii. With their immersive teleportation booths, guests not only could visualize themselves in a new destination, but could also experience other sensory elements like heat, mist, and wind. Other hotels are also trying to use augmented reality to provide guests with enhanced property maps.
Our take: It’s a cool gimmick that’s great for attracting press, but for many hotels we don’t see it being worth the investment. Virtual or augmented reality takes significant development time, and at the end of the day, a stunning photo can do just as much to persuade lookers to bookers.
This new development by Facebook toes the line with virtual reality, yet is a completely different type of immersive experience. Just like the name indicates, the photos and videos in Facebook 360 offer a 360-degree experience. When viewing 360 content on a mobile phone, for example, viewers can simply move their device (or drag their finger around the screen) to see content at other angles. Move the device to the right or left to see what’s on the sides of the photo or video, or up and down to see what’s on the top or bottom. It’s like being right in the middle of the action.
Creating 360 photos is relatively easy; one only needs to upload a panoramic photo of at least 100 degrees to Facebook for the 360 feature to automatically kick in. But for hotels that want to go the Lufthansa route and create amazing 360 videos, special recording equipment is required to be able to simultaneously record at all angles.
Our take: Facebook 360 only works because of the increasing number of mobile users on the platform. It’s indicative of where mobile is going and the fact that it may become a primary device for most Internet users. The 360 platform evolved as a way to enhance that mobile experience and give brands a unique outlet for communicating with their customers. Other than the video production, Facebook 360 is free to use, interactive, and highly shareable. And because it requires no special app other than Facebook, brands don’t have to worry about adoption of the new technology.
Hilton and Starwood hotels are already testing this technology in select properties, and the idea is appealing for many tech-forward travelers. Being able to access your room with your cell phone would eliminate many lost keys and unintentional lockouts, as most people carry their phones everywhere. However, some critics are completely sold on the idea yet. Many cite security concerns and outfitting the lock for keyless entry is more complex than the traditional lock. Guests that use keyless entry are typically required to download an app to use the feature, and the app itself is often prone to malfunction.
Our take: For many of the branded hotels, this makes sense, as it can drive each brand’s app adoption (for many brands, keyless entry is done through the app). But for independent hotels, the technology isn’t unified, and many travelers don’t want to download an app just to open a door. And because the technology is prone to error, in many cases guests end up getting a traditional key card from the front desk anyway.
Conclusion: Hold, until the technology becomes more standardized.
This technology has been available for some time, but is now gaining widespread popularity. The process is relatively simple: guests receive an email a few days ahead of time asking if they want to do mobile check-in. The guests fill out their credit card information, and then they receive a QR code via email. The guest then scans the QR code in the front lobby of the hotel to automatically print their keycard. It’s an incredible convenience for hotels with large guest volume, especially those with a significant amount of business travelers.
Our take: Even if keyless entry isn’t possible for a hotel, mobile check-in and check-out should be. It makes this fast, easy, and convenient for guests, which will translate into overall increased guest satisfaction. Also, from a hotel management perspective, check-in is a prime opportunity to capture guest email addresses—a necessary element to improving your direct marketing strategy and competing with OTAs.
Beacons, which are tied to your mobile phone’s geolocation abilities, are already being used by hotel brands such as The James Hotels and Marriott. The technology pinpoints your location down to the very area of the hotel that you’re currently staying in, and can give you timely offers based on where you are. By the pool bar? The phone buzzes and offers up a 2-for-1 drink special. Walking past the spa? Receive another notification for 20% off spa services. The technology can also be used to offer up further information about hotel amenities as well as nearby attractions.
Our take: We find that this type of technology feels rather invasive for most people, as it relies heavily on mobile push notifications—and not too many travelers want their phones buzzing every time they pass by the hotel bar. The battery life required to run these types of apps is also draining. For most independent brands, the small percentage of people that would use such technology would not justify the costs for of building such an app.
While the novelty of in-room tablets might be wearing off, its effectiveness as a tool for guest service and engagement is not. Tablets can be programmed to allow guests to control smart devices in the room (such as smart TVs, sound systems, or lighting), explore the surrounding area and attractions, as well as order room service. Hotels that use this technology report an increase in average spending for guests and an increase in guest satisfaction.
Our take: In-room tablets not only can enhance the guest experience significantly, but can also offer operational benefits for hotel management. By moving guest service requests to a tablet, you can better track guest requests and preferences, which help to build a better guest profile and help with retention marketing. This is a technology option that doesn’t require too much complex installation, and will work well not just with younger guests but older guests as well.
It wasn’t that long ago when in-room television and pay-per-view movies was the hot new technology that hotels were offering. Things have certainly changed a lot since then, but the concept behind it has not: technology is only there to serve as a means to an end—to delight guests. Whatever technology you choose to invest in must enhance the guest experience and not just be exist for the sake of it. That is ultimately the difference between technology that becomes a mainstay and technology that goes the way of the fad.
Tags: steffan berelowitz,
Steffan is the VP of Digital Platforms at Travel Tripper. A pioneer in all things web and mobile, Steffan has spent more than 20 years in online services and technology. He loves traveling, the planet Earth, and his amazing wife and son. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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