The guest landscape is changing, which means technologies in 2017 and beyond need to be flexible enough to meet the increasingly diverse types of guest requirements.
It's that time of year again where we all get bombarded with a myriad of articles that focus on emerging trends related to the hotel industry in the coming year. Some of these articles are fascinating, while some just reiterate what most of us already know. Mobile is important, ubiquitous in-room technology is a requirement, not a nice to have and yes, you may be able to unlock doors with mobile check in.
What are the primary examples of technologies that will impact the hotel industry in 2017?
Technology is an enabler. It helps us communicate more effectively; it helps us drive our businesses to greater heights, and hopefully it helps us create stronger and longer lasting relationships. Technology within the hotel industry has been rolling along at a feverish pace lately, and it appears that this trend will not be slowing down in 2017. However, are there any innovations being developed that deliver on their promises of a better hospitality industry? I believe this has yet to be seen. What we do know is that hotels are in the people business. Delivering the ultimate in hospitality and service has always been a primary objective. Now there is a different dynamic in play. Some guests do not want great service; they just want to get to their rooms to relax and turn on the big game at the end of a long day. Others want to be fawned over and catered to at every touchpoint. This diverse range of guest expectations creates an attractive environment for companies developing hotel technology in 2017 and beyond.
So, let's take a look at the hotel industry technologies that will have an impact on guest service, or not, in 2017.
5G Wireless Technology
It may not happen in 2017, and it looks more like 2018, however, when 5G hits the broader market, it will have an enormous effect on the hotel industry. In an article posted on CNET yesterday, DirectTV is now suing a 5G connection with AT&T to increase its bandwidth. 5G is 100 times faster than 4G. A hotel's wireless infrastructure may no longer be required where 5G is available. Fiber may even become redundant. Watch out for 5G and how it will revolutionize in-room entertainment, how property systems are connected, and the list goes on.
There is now an emphasis on ensuring that hotels and hotel companies are being energy conscious. This does not mean washing or not washing guest towels after every use; it is much larger than this. Eco-consciousness means giving the guest and hotel management control of things like room lighting, water consumption, and temperature. This could easily be facilitated by guests on their mobile devices – and incentivized with rewards given for being a "green guest". Hilton deployed LightStay, and the company is now gathering data from all its hotels to manage energy usage and performance. By doing so, it can set targets for its operators and bonus them for energy reduction.
Today, there is a large segment of the population that has a Facebook account as well as a Twitter handle, Instagram followers and so on. This social influence factor has spawned companies to developing hotel industry technology that "listens" to what consumers are talking about on these and other social channels. The data derived from querying this 'chatter' is massive. Imagine fully understanding your guest's needs and wants at a micro level – and also having macro level data about what is trending and what is popular to the broader guest audience? Though it might sound a little creepy at first, it is worth considering that if people are willing to share their life story online, the hotel industry should be able to leverage this data to deliver better service.
Loyalty vs. Loyalty Programs
Most hotel companies have some sort of loyalty or rewards program, as do the airlines, and car rental brands. Then there are all the rewards programs from retailers, credit cards, restaurants – well you get the idea. Our wallets and attention spans are just not big enough to keep track of all the rewards programs that are out there. Hotels need to look at new software technologies that help them increase loyalty in a more authentic way. Guests want to feel as if they are a part of something unique, and by delivering individual experiences and/or items based upon acquired data, rather than loyalty points, hotels will ensure that these guests become loyal advocates. Don't be afraid to think outside the box like Kimpton Hotel, who will still deliver a fish to keep your kids company upon request. This extraordinary experience creates loyal guests and breaks free from the constraints of a traditional loyalty program.
Technology needs to be an enabler to service. As stated earlier, the guest landscape is changing, which means technologies in 2017 and beyond need to be flexible enough to meet the increasingly diverse types of guest requirements. Long gone are the days where guest wants to walk up to a front desk and wait in line to check register for their room. Using mobile devices to empower staff to meet and greet the guests face-to-face in order to build that stronger relationship is not a nice to have, but a have to have in 2017. Conversely, the same technology that enables better relationships also needs to be able to let the guest circumnavigate the front desk or any people and go directly to their room. By offering technology that helps the hotel staff to drive relationships or to stand down is the next frontier and hopefully, front desks will disappear and no longer be a barrier between hotels and their guests.
I am sure that other technology trends should have made it on this list, but my guess is that you will find plenty of them in other articles and predictions in the coming days and weeks.
Jos has a 20+ year track record in hotel software technology. He began StayNTouch with the vision of re-inventing the hotel PMS technology; making it simple, mobile and transitioning the software to the cloud. Prior to StayNTouch, Jos spent 17 years at MICROS Systems Inc. (Now Oracle Hospitality), as a Senior Vice President in charge of global product development and strategy for the Lodging and eCommerce divisions. During his tenure, MICROS' hospitality products became the global market leader growing the company's revenues from less than $300 million to $1.1 billion. Jos was responsible for introducing a number of new products enabling MICROS to enter all hospitality segments from limited to full-service hotels. Connect with Jos on linkedin.com/in/josschaap.