After three long years, travel is finally back—and the hospitality industry needs to prepare for the evolving expectations of both business and leisure travelers. With conference season in full swing and summer kicking off with record-breaking travel rates, along with staffing shortages, many hotels around the country are scrambling to accommodate the return of traveler volume to pre-pandemic levels. Adding to the challenge, today’s guests are bringing new preferences and expectations for their accommodations. The good news: by investing in a fiber-to-the-edge network and new technology solutions, hotels can easily meet these demands and prepare for unknown future needs for many years to come.
It’s only been a few years, but the expectations of travelers have grown dramatically, especially when it comes to connectivity. Habits changed during 2020, as workers gained new freedom to work from anywhere. Now, with COVID management under control, the surge in travel has come to include significant numbers of people engaging in working vacations. In addition to hosting conferences and conventions, hotels are finding the need to cater to guests who spend a portion of their stay working out of their rooms. At the same time, expectations for entertainment have also risen dramatically, with guests demanding smooth access to streaming platforms and the bandwidth to power the host of devices they’ve brought along.
However, the greatest challenge facing the hospitality industry is one of labor. During the lockdowns of 2020, 70 percent of hotel staff in the United States were furloughed or laid off, and many of these workers found employment in other industries. Now that travel numbers have returned, 87 percent of hotels don’t have enough staff to manage guest needs properly, according to a recent survey by the American Hotel & Lodging Association.
To adapt, hotels are embracing new technologies backed by a fiber-to-the-edge network to overcome their staffing shortages, power guest amenities, and drive greater operational efficiency. Here are some ways that a fiber backed network is transforming the hospitality experience—and how to ensure you have the connectivity to meet the new expectations of travelers.
The years leading up to the pandemic saw the emergence of apps and kiosks to facilitate the check-in and guest service experience, and now these technologies have become table stakes. People have come to expect instantaneous and convenient experiences, and a well-designed mobile application can provide this while reducing the burden on staff.
There are a number of hospitality apps available today that streamline a guest’s entire stay. Apps with contactless check-in enable visitors to arrive and go straight to their room—without the need to visit the front desk and pick up a key. Guests can receive a link to download the app after completing their booking, giving them the opportunity to enter a range of information on their preferences, as well. The app then serves as a room key and can also function as an in-room control for lighting, air conditioning, and entertainment systems. In addition, some apps allow for text-based communications with staff, and can even provide travelers with concierge-like local recommendations.
Alternatively, or in tandem to apps, hotels can utilize a variety of self-service kiosks to help aid in the check-in and check-out process. Using a touch-screen kiosk, guests can generate room keys and purchase upgrades at the time of their arrival, reducing the strain on front desk staff during peak hours. At check-out, guests can use the systems to settle their bills and opt into loyalty programs, extending the engagement beyond their stay.
Some hotels have even begun to employ robots that can help with check-in and check-out, monitor security, and perform cleaning and sanitization tasks. As artificial intelligence and language processing technologies improve, more sophisticated robots that can respond naturally to a host of guest requests are poised to play a larger role in the hospitality sector in the coming years.
Groundwork for the Future
To unlock these enhancements and provide the robust connectivity that today’s travelers demand, hotels must prioritize upgrading their network infrastructure. In particular, a modern network built on fiber optic cabling can deliver the performance needed today and for evolving guest needs well into the future.
In my experience as a Corning FTTE expert, I can tell you that fiber optic networks offer many advantages over legacy networks, which often utilize copper and category cables. They provide much higher bandwidth, which is growing increasingly important to accommodate remote workers and families who travel with multiple internet-connected devices. With a fiber-to-the-room architecture, hotels can extend connectivity to every room, providing ample coverage for in-room Wi-Fi, IPTV systems, and connected room devices like thermostats and lighting.
Fiber also presents numerous cost benefits over legacy network infrastructures. Their future-proof capacity eliminates the need for expensive and disruptive upgrades over time, and they require far less equipment to install, operate, and maintain. This translates to reduced capital and operational expenses, as well as energy savings from the vastly reduced need for equipment cooling. And, since they take up less space, there’s availability for revenue generation in the form of additional rooms or amenities.
In this challenging time for the hospitality industry, hotels that embrace the latest technologies stand to gain a competitive advantage and earn greater loyalty from customers. Among these forward-looking enterprises, those that opt to modernize their connectivity with fiber optic infrastructure will be best positioned to handle today’s demands and whatever emerges down the road.