The expectations of hotel guests have changed, with some accelerated by the global pandemic. It’s no longer enough for a hotel to have an idyllic location and offer great services. Today, travelers expect a seamless and connected guest journey that includes the digital, emotional and sensory spheres. Also, they want these experiences to be available when and where they need them. To achieve this, hotels will need to continue to invest in technology and hoteliers need to adapt their modus operandi to deliver on their guests’ ever-changing expectations.
As an organization driven by data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) with the vision to digitally transform hospitality, we are constantly exploring and assessing the impact of emerging technologies on hotels. Our latest research affirms that hotels can deliver an enhanced and hyper-personalized guest experience if they digitize smartly. The tech to do so is available and enables hoteliers to analyze and predict their guests’ needs to deliver a more personalized experience, to influence their purchasing behavior to generate more revenue, and to save valuable time by making their hotel services more seamless. In this article we highlight six technology trends that can drive digital transformation in hotels, if executed correctly.
1. Conversational experiences
Conversational experiences are big and human-machine interfaces built on natural voice or typed conversations – including WhatsApp, WeChat, Siri, Alexa and Messenger- are rapidly becoming the norm for customer service. With automated and assisted conversations, many hotel guest queries can be handled or at least flagged by a bot without much staff involvement.
Essentially, hotels need to be accessible on the platforms their guests use. These omnichannel conversations with the option of automatic translations, are basic capabilities of conversational experiences available today for hotels to take advantage of, quite frankly it’s an easy win. In the future we will see more advanced options, such as sentiment detection, emotive conversations and human-bot co-operations, take center stage in customer service.
2. Anytime commerce
Transactional options should be available and offered at every touchpoint in the hotel guest journey. Hoteliers have the opportunity of going beyond selling rooms to curating guest experiences by creating marketplaces and digital storefronts for other businesses. Think of the hotel room as a potential art gallery where the guest can point his/her phone at the artwork on the wall, get information about the artist and buy the painting on the spot.
By creating a retail collection of curated items, hotels can expand their service catalogue and create additional revenue streams plus differentiate their guest experience even further. Currently, basic features of this trend include inventory management, pricing, promotions and fulfillment, however, the future of anytime commerce holds mixed reality experiences, virtual trials and personal shopping as services ideally suited for the travel and hospitality sector.
As an industry that thrives on human interaction and personalized experiences, it may sound counterintuitive to list this this as a trend. However, with the increase in the number of touchpoints in a hotel guest journey and the rise of first-time and global travelers, hoteliers will need to rely heavily on technology to improve their personalization capabilities, from pre-arrival to post-departure, with the ability to scale.
Advanced features such as facial recognition, seamless casting and automated guest room controls already exist. Going forward, we expect permission-based apps such as wearable synchronization and digital-physical bridging to become mainstream, also in hospitality. Imagine a guest returning to their room after a work-out to find a suitable wind-down program playing on the TV or the room temperature adjusting to his/her preferences and/or body temperature.
4. Digital identity & payments
Automated identity verification through biometrics already allows for a seamless guest experience in connection with hotel check-in and check-out today, and hotels that have deployed this technology see a positive impact on their revenues, guest satisfaction and operational efficiency while being able to adhere to stringent official regulations. Future features will include facial recognition to enable pre- and post-paid digital wallets for guest transactions anywhere and anytime throughout their stay.
5. Mixed reality
The intersection of physical and digital worlds can create immersive guest experiences. We already know some of these in the form of virtual reality, augmented reality and navigation. Looking ahead, we see digital avatars and immersive worlds become part of the hotel booking process, allowing a potential guest to digitally walk through the hotel, see the real-time view from the room they are interested in, and hear the waves crashing from their balcony. Multi-sensory experiences can further enhance this experience. Think of the ability to promote specific hotel services or amenities by orchestrating sounds, sights and scents to give guests a preview of the experiences on offer.
6. Autonomous vehicles
Yes, we are talking robots. The current technology of self-guided pods is advanced enough to deploy in know spaces, and service bots delivering food and services are already in place in certain areas of hospitality including hotel lobbies. With advanced intelligence, these autonomous vehicles can progress from transport vehicles to handling housekeeping, luggage service, aerial travel and much more.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hudini's CTO Vibin Balakrishnan is a tech entrepreneur with more than 20 years of experience in retail, real estate and hospitality. He works at the intersection of technology, data and experiences to create new business opportunities. Vibin is the co-founder of Shopalyst Inc., a digital marketing and intelligence platform for FMCG brands to execute and measure their digital activity across channels. More recently he has been helping large organizations navigate their digital transformation journey.