As the travel and tourism industry ramps back up, the expectations for modernized, comfortable, and - above all - safe hotel experiences will as well. In January 2021, only 30% of respondents to the Deloitte State of the Consumer Tracker survey said they planned to stay in a hotel within the next three months. By the end of July, that number was up to 55%. And then, according to HT's 2021 Customer Engagement Technology Study, published in fall 2021, 75% of survey respondents have travel plans in the next 12 months. The customers are returning, but are the hotels prepared?
Updated technology is an opportunity for hospitality organizations to show that they are modernizing and thinking about what the future of travel will bring. Hoteliers learned from the pandemic that keeping IT personnel and programs up to date is essential for hotels to thrive in our new world. Now, they are making IT a high-priority focus.
As hotels look ahead to 2022 and plan their modernization efforts, here are four key lessons to keep in mind.
- Mobile Technology is Not Just a Perk… it’s a Tool
Touchless technology is no longer a convenience, it is a safety precaution these days. Businesses across every industry are relying on mobile devices to replace menus, remotes and even credit cards -- anything that helps ensure less physical contact for both employees and customers.
Many hotels have started to use cell phones for keyless room entry, checking in and out, controlling the TV and ordering room service. Apps can help take the experience a step further by allowing guests to submit concierge requests, control the lighting and temperature of their rooms, and request housekeeping.
Having mobile devices or voice controls as an option not only improves the guest experience and lets them know that their hotel’s technology is up-to-par, but they will appreciate the extra effort for their safety and comfort.
- Technology Can Help Keep Things Clean
While touchless technology will continue to be a big part in keeping guests and employees safe, the hotel itself still needs to stay clean. Using technology as part of the cleaning process will help save hoteliers time and money in the long run.
The hotel provides confirmation of when your room was last cleaned is of moderate or extreme importance to 71% of guests when booking a hotel,according to HT's 2021 Customer Engagement Technology Study.
Another new development in the check-in process at hotels has been baggage sanitation. Apps are giving guests the opportunity to request their bags to be sanitized at arrival, then receiving a notification that the bags are ready for pickup. This is a small but meaningful way to communicate to guests that their safety is a priority.
Hotels can also use real-time monitoring and reporting for all their cleaning processes using Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled devices. From electrostatic disinfecting instruments and handheld, network-connected UV sanitizing lights to autonomous cleaning robots and hand sanitizer stations that alert staff when refills are needed, IoT-enabled devices will significantly assist in hotel cleanliness.
- Smart Technology is Smart for Business
Gone are the days where guests are content to watch pay-per-view and channel surf. It is now an expectation for hotels to have streaming services. Guests are expecting the same, if not better, experiences at a hotel than they have in their own homes. For example, smart TVs are a basic item in the everyday home these days, so they should be in the hotel industry as well. Guests can be greeted by a TV that addresses them by name and has their personal preferences saved for dinner recommendations or nearby activities.
Outside of TVs, what else should be smart? Hotel signage has become more than just a sign with an arrow -- it is now a digital experience. Digital signage allows the hotel to be flexible, informative, and free of tacky paper notices. For example, the signs for the pool, the business center or the gym can be ways to let guests know if the areas are clean, open, or occupied.
In individual hotel rooms, sensors are available to detect when guests leave and modulate lighting and temperature, saving money and energy. Drapes can gradually open, giving guests a gentle adjustment to morning light.
- Reliable Internet Is the Backbone of it All
With all the new technology features that are becoming increasingly necessary for hotels to implement, a reliable, fast internet connection will be essential to help maintain it all. After all, what’s the point in all the high-tech upgrades if the internet connection fueling them isn’t powerful enough?
For wide-area connectivity, hotels can consider implementing software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN) services. One of the benefits of SD-WAN is that firewalls and intrusion detection/prevention software are frequently built-in, providing an extra layer of security for guests and the hotel itself. IT teams are also able to manage and respond to any network changes in real-time.
Having high-quality internet connection isn’t just essential for hotel staff running their businesses - it’s critical for guests who are running their own. The expectation for adequate remote work conditions goes together with a reliable internet connection. Guests will require that they can go from the lobby to the elevator, to the vending machine and back to their rooms without so much as a skip in connection - especially on video calls.
While the world saw plenty of negatives during the pandemic, the hotel industry has taken the time to find the positives and improve their overall experiences for guests. Using a reliable internet backbone for connectivity, hotels have implemented mobile technology applications, smart technologies, as well as specific technology solutions to help keep their properties cleaner and safer
Implementing the internet services required for this much technological growth can be daunting, especially with a limited IT staff, but managed service providers can assist with installing and supporting networking solutions including SD-WAN, Ethernet Dedicated Internet, WiFi and advanced security solutions. Why use a managed service provider? They can accommodate networking solutions for large chains of businesses, which is common among hotels. As the holiday season approaches, and business travel picks back up, look for local managed service providers in your area to help you prepare for the incoming influx of guests.