In the past five years, major technological advancements have revolutionized the hospitality industry. Most hotels adapted to these changes quite easily, especially for an inherently brick-and-mortar industry. Still, one advancement intimidated many – cloud-based technology. Some industry pioneers were quick to explore the unfamiliar digital landscapes, and in recent years more have migrated from traditional on-premise technology systems to more adaptable, mobile-accessible cloud-based systems.
In fact, the 2018 Lodging Technology Study published by Hospitality Technology found the majority of hotel systems will be in the cloud by 2019.
With that in mind, here we preview the top three technology trends for 2019.
Micro-Integration of Software Solutions
With rapid technological advancement come growing pains — more specifically system integration challenges. Whether hotels choose to overhaul their entire IT infrastructure or take an à la carte approach, upgrades are inevitable. Also, some new platforms will require integration into an existing property management system (PMS), and the streamlining of this process is mission critical.
This prioritization of integration is evidenced in a recent study, published by Fuel Travel, StayNTouch and Flip.to, which surveyed hundreds of hoteliers and vendors about technology needs. The study found that, from both the hotelier and supplier perspective, integration was the most important issue facing the industry.
Furthermore, the hotel technology space is growing rapidly and software services are becoming increasingly targeted. At one time the modus operandi was to try to be all things to everyone—forcing into creation a flimsy full-service platform, lacking in depth and functionality, from a single concept. Now, developers are embracing specialization, which enables a higher level of software sophistication. Consequently, hotels now have a myriad of distinctive microservices from which to choose.
Enter micro-integration. Micro-integration facilitates seamless integration of third-party vendors into a hotel’s existing PMS through application programming interfaces (API). Collaborations between vendors are endeavored to the benefit of both companies’ customer bases. PMS solutions can seek the newest guest-facing services—like artificial intelligence (AI)—to enhance existing platforms.
This development is timely as hotels look to increase technology spending. The above-mentioned Hotel Technology Study also found that 43.5 percent of hotels want to increase AI spending in the next two years. From the hotel perspective, micro-integration enables hoteliers to create a specially designed suite of services, mixing and matching what works best for their properties. With micro-integration, hotels can have limitless customization while maintaining the simplicity of one integrated platform.
The Frictionless Guest Stay
Improving the guest experience will always be a top priority in the hospitality industry. Cloud-based solutions are making it easier than ever for hoteliers to invest in cost-effective innovations to elevate their guest experience. That’s why 2019 will see more technologies focused on making a guest’s stay as simple and seamless as possible.
With vast advances in interconnectivity in progress, expect to see dozens of new ways for guests to interact with brands online. From booking to check-out, mobile apps will serve as a personal concierge, guiding guests through their stay with minimal effort and maximized enjoyment.
No more waiting in line to check-in – with mobile apps, guests will be able to go straight to their rooms upon arrival with the help of mobile room keys. Once there, guests will be able to sync their devices to in-room TVs to access streaming services and more. Want a snack while catching up on Netflix’s latest release? Guests can do that on their phones as well, either through texting or a dedicated concierge app.
While hoteliers contemplate testing guest-facing services like texting, tablets and AI, another 2019 trend will focus on the other side of the hotel experience: the staff. While hotel technology advancements have primarily been designed for management or guests, it’s about time technology catches up with what hoteliers have always known: a happy staff makes for a happy guest.
A heightened emphasis on staff security will be realized through beacon geolocators. Many are familiar with GPS, which works via cell tower triangulation and provides a two-dimensional location — for example, when sitting in a car at an intersection, a person has two coordinates because elevation is irrelevant. Since hotels don’t have their own towers, some are installing beacons that provide geolocations, which additionally pinpoints elevation, or which floor someone is on.
With the installation of panic buttons, employees can signal if they are in danger and their exact location will be known so that assistance comes without delay. This technology will soon be applicable to guests as well, resulting in their needs being met faster than ever before.
The new year will see a surge in investment in technology that makes hotel employees’ jobs easier and more efficient. Whether it's replacing a static binder at the front desk with an electronic log book or noisy radios with efficient app-driven mobile devices, cloud-based software solutions eliminate unnecessary tasks and frustrations associated with micromanagement. Take housekeeping for example: software tools can provide a user-friendly timeline of when rooms are ready for cleaning. Employees aren't rushed and they aren’t being constantly asked for updates.
By investing in software solutions designed with staff in mind, hotels will improve the employee experience, and in turn, management and guests will also see benefits.
As we move into the future of hospitality, the normalization of cloud-based solutions will dictate the industry’s technology priorities. The three technology trends outlined above are the next phase of that forward progress.