The way that hotels provide services is without a doubt rapidly transforming both in light of advances in technology and as guests continue to expect more from their stay experiences. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the area of online connectivity as consumers become accustomed to the instant convenience and personalization advantages that the growing presence of IoT technology provides.
Smart hospitality solutions are in fact already gaining a significant foothold in hotel businesses around the world, with 53 percent of hoteliers indicating current plans to implement IoT technology and another 33 percent planning to do so over the next couple of years according to PwC. The worldwide smart hospitality market is also expected to grow from $6 billion in 2019 to more than $12 billion by 2025.
Central to such investments is the industry’s drive towards making guest experiences all the more enjoyable, streamlined and instantly tailorable. But what solutions are essential to meeting these goals today, and importantly where is IoT leading us with regards to what guests will expect in the future? In this third installment of our New World of Hospitality series, we take a look at what IoT-based solutions are being sought out by many of today’s guests, along with what abilities industry professionals may be able to one day leverage as they inch ever closer towards the ultimate smart hotel environment.
Creating Contactless Experiences Centered on IoT
Understanding the evolution of hotel services first must take into account the influence that the global pandemic is having on current guest needs and expectations. That 86 percent of guests would select one hotel over another if contactless services are available goes to show how crucial it is for hoteliers to adapt in order to preserve business revenues. Fortunately for industry professionals, guests continue to offer feedback on precisely what sort of contactless options they expect to see- with a heavy emphasis on mobile device IoT compatibility.
For example, 80 percent of guests now prefer to use a mobile app that allows them to check in or out and access hotel information without the need to come into direct physical contact with staff. The same research provided by technology provider, Criton, further revealed that 73 percent of guests desire the ability to download an app that grants access to their guestroom. Such findings should come as no surprise with smart devices now being a universally owned commodity and with the technology’s ability to perform an array of functions without requiring staff assistance or shared surface contact.
The benefits of contactless IoT-based services are continuing to expand into virtually all aspects of the hotel guest journey. Increasingly now common is the ability for guests to control in-room amenities such as thermostats or make requests for room service using their personal device. As guests continue to expect more offerings to provide touch-free service, hotels will no doubt work to expand such options to cover additional areas. QR codes for example, are likely to become even more frequently deployed for guests seeking to review a hotel dining menu, rent amenities such as beach umbrellas or to access details on a property’s cleanliness procedures.
Keeping Pace with Rising Convenience Expectations
Another advantage of IoT platforms that continues to be demonstrated as hotels look to deploy contactless services is the simultaneous benefit of enhancing guest convenience. According to a GlobalData survey, 60 percent of guests around the world are influenced by how digitally advanced or ‘smart’ a hotel’s services are; a figure that no doubt is influenced by the growing conveniences of smart technology in consumer homes.
From thermostats to televisions and coffee makers, more and more hotels are deploying smart solutions that can enhance a property’s reputation in offering a modern hotel environment. However, when selecting what IoT-based platforms to adopt, hoteliers must ensure that they first implement technology that guests consider essential to satisfaction. 65 percent of guests notably indicate a willingness to pay higher fees or will return to a hotel if such indispensable amenities are present.
Messaging software or in-room tablets are examples of IoT technology that can cater to the prioritized guest demand for enhanced service speed and convenience. 33 percent of all consumers and 52 percent of millennials consequently prefer to see all customer service requests handled through automated channels due to the ability to receive fast results at any time of the day. Such statistics are unsurprising given the millions of consumers that each day prefer to communicate using platforms such as WeChat or Facebook messenger. Within a hotel environment, messaging chatbots can provide a sense of familiarity while ensuring that requests for amenities or hotel information are always speedily handled. From a hotel operations perspective, chatbots also significantly free up employees to focus on other areas of the guest experience by automatically taking care of routine requests or commonly asked questions.
A hotel’s IoT deployment strategy should also analyze what smart solutions are gaining traction within consumer homes to see if guests expect the same functionalities to be present within the guestroom. With today’s consumers seeking greater control over their surroundings from the convenience of their personal device, smart technologies such as thermostats, lighting and window shades are experiencing skyrocketing demand. This circumstance is leading to a mirror effect within the hospitality industry as guests expect similar guestroom amenities to likewise offer ease of use and streamlined accessibility. Inevitably, there will come a time when guests will universally expect the ability to control in-room settings from the comfort of the guestroom bed; a demand that is surely set to grow even faster as guests seek to avoid any unnecessary contact with shared in-room surfaces.
From a hotel ROI standpoint, smart amenity guestroom technology can also lead to a drastic reduction in utility costs. Security access solutions that are integrated with a hotel’s energy management system can for example, detect when a room becomes either unoccupied or occupied and automatically adjust settings accordingly. Hoteliers that adopt such solutions to enhance guest experiences can therefore ultimately look forward to reducing energy expenses by as much as 20 percent.
The Future is Personalized
The growing presence of IoT in virtually all aspects of a hotel’s operations not only leads to greater efficiency and guest convenience. It also provides hoteliers with the ability to achieve one of the industry’s most elusive goals- understanding the precise needs and expectations of each guest. By implementing an integrated IoT infrastructure, properties can amass a wide array of data on unique preferences including ideal room temperature, favorite beverages and hobby interests. Before a guest arrives in their guestroom, hoteliers can now readily ensure that in-room amenity settings are automatically adjusted to preferred levels or that minibars are stocked with favored F&B items.
Using location-based technologies, hotels can even leverage such information to push promotions and details on available services that are of specific interest and which are based on a guest’s real-time proximity. Such tailorable experiences are already leading consumers to favor personalization abilities by as much as 78 percent.
Ultimately, the industry is fast approaching a watershed moment where IoT technology will allow hoteliers to create a perfect digital copy of their guests. This is further being spurred by ongoing advancements in the field of AI and machine-learning technology. One day soon and as hotels continue to add IoT systems that generate mass data, AI will play a crucial role in a hotel’s ability to analyze information in a timely manner and to apply it to current or future individual guest needs. AI technology innovators predict that every major hotel brand will eventually unveil their own guest-facing conversational AI that can instantly access and interpret guest data to present customized responses and recommendations. They will further be able to do so in a natural conversational manner and with their own unique personalities, ensuring that hotels can instantly detect and address what a guest needs while still maintaining personable and empathic interaction.
Getting Your Hotel Up-to-Speed for the IoT Revolution
Given the seemingly endless array of benefits that IoT technology can provide to hotels, it is understandable to see why hospitality executives are far ahead of many other vertical markets in working on active IoT projects. 94 percent of such organizations have notably reported a return on investment from such projects. As our industry increasingly continues to move towards interconnected environments, it is becoming more crucial for hoteliers to look at the big picture whenever attempting to implement any new service or upgrade. By seeking out the guidance of leading industry providers, hotel professionals can ensure that new solutions or features effortlessly integrate with existing operations or can adapt to future needs- providing guests of today and tomorrow with the seamless, personalized and responsive stay experience that they will expect more and more as technology continues to evolve.