With each year’s HITEC, hotel owners and operators make an annual journey to the industry’s largest technology conference in order to discover the latest innovations promising to deliver a more profitable and competitive business. For June 2022, however, HITEC Orlando represents an especially crucial opportunity for hotel businesses to make up for lost revenue as guests make their return to the industry following the darker days of the pandemic. According to a recent survey, more than 76 percent of consumers are in fact currently expressing negative feelings if they go too long without taking a vacation.
Yet while many potential guests may be reacting to a pent-up desire for travel, that does not mean they wish to encounter the same kind of hotel services once considered to be a universal staple across the industry. With many service offerings and experiences going contactless both within and outside of the hospitality sector, consumers have inevitably become accustomed to the various advantages that such technologies provide. Far from just reducing the likelihood of germ exposure, contactless-compatible offerings have also heightened guest expectations for more accessible and convenient experiences across the breadth of a hotel’s operations. For their part, hoteliers have recognized that investing in technology will be vital to keeping pace with today’s guest expectations and modern business needs, with 77 percent of industry professionals expected to increase technology investment over the next three years. However, and as each HITEC event demonstrates, hotels have more than enough solutions vying for their attentions and budgets. To eliminate some of the guesswork, read on to discover the technologies that are top of mind for hoteliers across the industry and why they will prove to be game-changing differentiators at this year’s HITEC event.
Taking the Guest Experience Mobile
This first entry should come as little surprise to most throughout the industry, but mobile-enabled experiences nonetheless deserve increased consideration as hotel guests expect to do more through the convenience of their personal device. Guest surveys continue to indicate that as much as 90 percent would prefer to interact with a mobile app than a human to manage various aspects of their hotel stay. Yet while it’s clear that hotels need to invest in a mobile-first strategy in order to conform with modern guest behaviors and preferences, what is less apparent is exactly what sort of mobile-enabled services are expected by today’s guests and therefore, worthy of a hotel’s investment.
Following its research into the latest guest trends, Hilton Hotels determined that consumers during the pandemic discovered efficiencies that they wish to see implemented across the travel sector, with digital check-in/out and room access notably being highlighted as a driving factor. While some guests may still seek to socially distance themselves from other travelers and staff, it’s the unmatched instant convenience of digital key solutions that is ultimately leading them to becoming viewed as an essential service in the minds of many guests. Consider the fact that the same process for checking in and receiving a key via mobile device doesn’t just reduce physical touchpoints, it also represents a significant saving of time for guests. No longer required to wait in line at the front desk after what typically is a long journey, guests are more than ever desiring the ability to bypass obstacles to achieving relaxation- a demand that is now being fully realized by digital key and check-in platforms. By featuring such a differentiating advantage, digital key technologies have risen to become seen as a mobile service offering the most value by as much as 61 percent of guests. Based on such high numbers, mobile keys should therefore be topping the list of personal device-enabled services for hoteliers seeking to run a modern and competitive business.
While digital key platforms may be among the most sought after mobile-first experiences by today’s guests, others are also now becoming essential to meeting expectations for enhanced convenience throughout the duration of a guest’s stay. For example, 58 percent of guests would like the ability to book onsite restaurant reservations via a mobile app, while another 48 percent would prefer using an app to book tours and other activities. For as many as 75 percent of guests, the preference to seek real-time help from hotel staff using personal devices versus doing so face-to-face demonstrates the value in investing in an effective messaging platform. Yet together, these statistics demonstrate something else- today’s guests want services that eliminate traditional pain points standing in the way of instantly enjoying their experience. By taking a close look at their own operations and identifying potential service roadblocks that can be alleviated using mobile technology, hoteliers can gain a better sense of what solution offerings are worth their time and investment.
Leveraging the Power of Automation
Hotel businesses are continuing to suffer from worker shortages that are jeopardizing the otherwise seamless flow of operations and risking a lapse in guest service quality. Yet while there’s no anticipated timeframe for when or even if workers might return to the industry, hoteliers are increasingly turning to the advantages of operations automation as an effective solution. With departments such as housekeeping and F&B facing much of the fallout of staff members resigning, task and workflow management platforms have become almost essential to preventing daily responsibilities or guest requests from being overlooked. Bypassing inefficient manual task tracking processes, these solutions can leverage each employee’s own personal device to open up a direct line of constant communication with other team members and managers. Whenever a new task is created, managers can instantly assign it to employees out on the floor and monitor progress in real-time, sidestepping the time-consuming need for employees to go back and forth to back office areas and instead focus on the task at hand. This not only results in faster completion times and heightened guest service, but also reduces the growing risk of staff experiencing burnout that leads even more employees to hand-in their resignation.
With the daily multitude of guest requests now increasingly capable of overwhelming overstretched employees, more hoteliers are also turning to automated guest communication. Leveraging artificial intelligence and machine-learning technology, such platforms are credited with providing guests with timely responses to routine requests for information- from offering details on available onsite activities to finding out what the soup of the day is at the onsite restaurant. The advantages of these capabilities cannot be understated for either staff or for guests themselves, who more and more expect hotels to be able to provide instant service regardless of worker shortages. For employees, the support of an automated guest communication platform means that they can sidestep commonly asked, yet still time-consuming queries that pull their attention away from responsibilities also vital to the guest experience. With these factors in mind, it’s little wonder that such platforms have peaked the interest of hoteliers who are searching for the ideal balance of ensuring exceptional guest service while preventing the daily workload of staff members from getting out of hand.
Finding Enhanced Efficiency and Security in the Cloud
Hotel systems and services have long been tied to onsite servers and other IT hardware which represents a substantial cost for each hotelier. Not only leading to increased occurrences of maintenance by a hotel’s staff, on-premise solutions also inevitably result in substantial upgrade costs each time a new functionality is desired or required. With hotel businesses only just entering a recovery phase in recent months but expected to keep pace with current guest experience expectations, hoteliers are in need of an alternative approach to their technology stack that doesn’t break the bank whenever an update to infrastructure becomes necessary.
Cloud-based systems have steadily increased in number and adoption rates as a result of their unique ability to address this industry challenge. Bypassing the need for onsite servers and maintenance, cloud solutions have been credited with cutting IT expenses in half while opening the door to effortless system scalability. Using a cloud-based access management system as an example and with just an automatic software update, hoteliers can maintain heightened protection against newly discovered security vulnerabilities without necessitating a cost-prohibitive overhaul of existing operations.
With hotel environments increasingly becoming interconnected in order to boost efficiency, lower costs and provide guests with more seamless experiences, cloud technology is also highly sought by hoteliers for its ability to facilitate third-party integrations. With cloud-based access management, for example, all that’s needed is the designing of an API in order to create an integration with a property’s energy management system- the benefits of which can include lowering in-room amenity settings when a guestroom becomes unoccupied or creating a personalized environment with lighting and temperature according to individual guest preferences.
Further demonstrating the unique scalable advantages of the technology are cloud-based staff safety devices. While solutions are increasingly becoming mandated that require hoteliers to have the ability to pinpoint the precise whereabouts of an endangered employee, more advanced platforms also provide opportunities to extend the benefits of location-based technologies to other hotel business needs. This can include using the same infrastructure to locate hotel assets such as equipment or guest rentals in real-time, ensuring ready availability, reducing expenses from loss or theft and saving staff from needlessly searching for items. Other use case scenarios also include updating a staff safety device’s network to monitor the condition and performance of motorized equipment, push promo-messaging to guest devices based on their real-time location and more. As more hoteliers become required to search for a staff safety platform, the nearly limitless opportunities that cloud-based solutions offer should be on the mind of any hotelier seeking an ROI and ability to further enhance operations as well as the quality of service for their guests.