The hospitality industry is ripe for disruption. A combination of siloed legacy systems, data fragmentation, rising consumer expectations, and high total costs associated with current booking systems, means that the hospitality industry has been slow to transform digitally, until now.
The market landscape is also changing. Consolidations of major brands, for example, Marriott and Starwood, are disrupting the sector as merging allows brands to gain bargaining power and drive more direct bookings. We’re also seeing an increase in the independent market and alternative accommodation growing steadily.
However, no matter if you are a major international brand or an independent boutique, the challenges and needs remain the same. To keep up with these changes, the hotel industry needs to adopt seamless, more guest-centric experiences, and technology will play a major role in this success.
Here are some of my thoughts and those of industry leaders on which trends we think will have a significant impact on the sector.
The cloud will future-proof platforms with smart, flexible systems
The rise of personalization is a major trend faced by the entire travel industry. Consumers expect more personalized experiences, from the moment they begin searching for a booking, to checking out of a hotel room. However, a challenge for personalization in the hotel industry is siloed legacy systems, built on a closed architecture. With a majority of data being fragmented, the industry struggles with guest recognition and personalization as these systems lack a complete overview. This is where cloud technology has the ability to solve data fragmenting, and consolidate technologies together through an open platform. By unifying systems, hoteliers are able to understand the guest profile, and preferences across all touch points.
Technology should be used to foster an ‘information connection’
“While robot butlers may be the best way to receive your room service, these are no more than a gimmick. Using a luggage robot as an example, if you think about its application within a resort, from a terrain perspective it would be virtually impossible for the robot to follow its human leader. But in the future, these technologies will still be around, more impressive than the last. Hoteliers should instead be focusing on keeping service human, and how technology can assist humans within the industry. For example, if a light fixture is broken in a hotel room, they can alert the hotel staff through an app that triggers an automation flow and sends a repairman. Technology should be used to foster an ‘information connection,’ one that helps hoteliers and empowers staff to be more productive.” – Kenneth Law, VP of Global Sales, Banyan Tree.
However, Artificial Intelligence and Smart Rooms will become standard across hotels
“AI and smart rooms are a trend being adopted by many hotels to create more personable, memorable experience. Using AI, guests are able to use voice commands to order room service, control curtains, set alarms, or even ordering additional towels. If a guest says ‘I want to work,’ room lights will automatically adjust, the television will turn off, and the curtain will be drawn. Recently we saw the likes of Amazon interject into the hospitality space with a hotel-specific, Alexa for Hospitality. This means the technology will become more accessible and affordable for hoteliers and we could see AI and smart rooms become standard across the hospitality industry.” Leanne Harwood, Managing Director – Australasia & Japan, IHG.
Booking the perfect hotel room will become easier through 3D/VR/AR technology
“Before booking any hotel, consumers will tediously examine the room through the dozens of images provided by the hotel. However, a trend we’re expecting to see continually grow is the use of 3D, virtual reality and augmented reality to map the inside of hotel rooms. This will improve booking in the future, as consumers will be able to freely explore the space and the facilities in a hotel. Further in the future, we can expect to see travellers able to also explore the area surroundings of the hotel. Overall, these technologies enable more certainty with consumers, that they’re making the most informed decision.” – Alexis Batlle, Co-Founder and CEO, AVUXI .
Mobile usage will continue to increase by guests
“On a global scale, we’re seeing ever-expanding mobile usage by our guests. From searching for hotels to booking to checking-in, to browsing for nearby restaurants. Consumers are reliant on mobile when traveling. To accommodate this trend, hoteliers are focusing on ensuring seamless Wi-Fi network connections within hotel rooms and are beginning to develop dedicated hotel apps. Ensuring a seamless mobile experience will be critical in the future.” – Leanne Harwood, Managing Director – Australasia & Japan, IHG.