There’s little doubt that technology has played a massive role in the growth of almost every segment within hospitality. As software-enabled management began to replace the traditional pen-and-paper approach, hotels began to witness improved efficiency. A few years later, the onset of the cloud computing platform had revolutionized the industry – independent hoteliers could now access the same enterprise-level tools that were once only within the reach of the largest hotel chains. And things haven’t been the same ever since!
Today, we live in a digital era surrounded by intelligent devices capable of even making decisions for us – and we’ve now become conditioned to expect this level of convenience everywhere we go, especially in a hotel.
True to its name, the hospitality industry always strives to fulfil guest preferences and a number of larger properties have been toying with the idea of a streamlined guest cycle – one where guests slide from one stage to the next with little to no interruption. And this year, a number of hotels have begun to implement these systems.
Let’s take a look at how this will affect each stage of the existing guest-cycle:
The first stage of the guest cycle, it is during pre-arrival that guests select the hotel and make their reservation. Millennials – who are on their way to becoming the dominant spending majority – use mobiles for almost everything and making reservations is no exception. With so much of the guest cycle dependent on this stage, hotels cannot afford to ignore these trends. A number of them – large as well as independent – have been adopting mobile apps to boost direct bookings, while some like Hilton are taking it a step further with their HHonors program. The app allows guests to select the room of their choice and a number of other extras, such as an additional bed, a day prior to arrival.
Traditionally, the arrival stage involved the guest waiting in line at the front desk to interact with the front desk agent – they would then present identification and collect their key before heading for their room. It’s not an ideal scenario for jetlagged travelers looking to grab a shower and some sleep after a long journey. A number of hotels are trying to reinvent the process by taking the front desk out of the equation altogether! Hilton’s Honors program also includes a ‘Digital Key’ – an electronic key sent straight to the guest’s phone once their room has been prepped for occupancy. This enables the guest to enter the hotel and walk straight to his room, without having to wait in line at the front-desk. The app displays a map of the property’s layout, allowing the guest to make his way to his room.
After checking-in at the hotel, guests would rely on the room service and concierge to make any requests. Lights and air-conditioning/heating units would need to be turned on and adjusted manually. It doesn’t sound like much but guests today love attention to detail and with demands growing so rapidly, in-room technology might just be the way to win them over. What’s more, 2016 will witness the IoT enter a more mainstream, executional phase as IPv6 deployment continues to escalate. This means that it won’t be long before hotels can employ a multitude of connected to enhance the quality of the stay like never before. Guests will be able to utilize an in-room iPad to control the lighting, temperature, television, and almost any electronic device inside. Room service and concierge would also be available on the tablet. The experience doesn’t end in there – as a guest locks his door, beacons within the room will instruct any unnecessary electronic devices to turn off, such as the lights and television. Simultaneously, the lobby lighting is turned on while the elevator is summoned – all without the guest touching a single button!
Even while walking around the property, beacons located at POS terminals – such as a gift shop – will monitor guest movement and alert them with personalized deals and special offers via push notifications as they stroll past the store.
The final stage of the guest cycle, this is where guests are billed and all the accounting aspects of the guest cycle are completed. Room keys are returned, and the hotel collects feedback from the guest by handing over a feedback form. But with apps running the show, there will be no keys to be returned and feedback can be filled in online. Time spent interacting with different employees within the hotel is minimized, the emphasis is placed on the guest experience instead.
It’s only a matter of time before the existing guest cycle becomes redundant – guests will soon run out of patience and hotels that fail to oblige will no longer be able to compete. But these are exciting times for the industry!