Not so long ago many innovations which are now quite common in the hospitality industry might have seemed like the stuff of science fiction: Searching for a hotel in real time on the internet, looking at high-resolution video of potential places, reading reviews by real guests, then comparing prices and making a rock solid booking… What would have been a dream only twenty years ago is now the norm. But that’s only the start of where hotel technology is taking all accommodations. It’s time to get up to speed with where it is now, and where it’s going.
The importance of technological improvements in hotels
Believe it or not, there was a time when telephones, fax machines, or even vacuum cleaners were innovations in hotel technology. They were quickly adopted by the hospitality industry however, along with many other innovations over the years. Why? Because hotel technology enhances the guest experience, and helps hotels operate more efficiently and with increased profitability. In recent years the expansion of technology in hotels has been dramatic, with previously undreamt of possibilities becoming commonplace. We are all part of the digital society now, and this includes searching for and booking rooms, payment options, and the ability to have direct feedback between hotels and guests.
Hotels have generally always been alert to new technologies, but now smart hoteliers really need to know what’s on offer, and what is upcoming. Introducing technological improvements to your hotel really is a no-brainer, because we live in a technological world, where guests are increasingly tech-savvy, and you can be sure that competitors are constantly trying to find the edge. A large part of becoming competitive and staying competitive comes in the form of hotel technologies.
Let’s take a look at some trends, including the advent of robots in the hospitality business!
Hotel technology trends you should be aware of
Some technology trends are already well established, especially post-pandemic, while others are just starting to gain traction. What’s for sure is that the pace of adoption is set to increase, and innovative hoteliers will benefit from the enhanced services they are able to offer guests.
Hotel Automation for a better operation
Automation now permeates many aspects of the hospitality market - so much so that we hardly even notice the changes that have taken place in less than twenty years. Now guests search for potential hotels, reading reviews and watching videos, and can book a room directly, or through OTA platforms. When they do this, many automatic interactions occur: from registration, to personal and payment details, and the sending of a confirmation email. The beauty of newer systems is that these responses, while being automatic, can have the feel of truly personalised interactions with the hotel. This new era of personalisation is one of the most exciting trends in the contemporary hotel market.
Online check in and out
Online check in is showing a steady move away from fixed check in (and check out) times which can be inconvenient for both guests and hotel staff. Guests who are on the move need to be able to contact their hotel through their smartphone, and advise of arrival or departure times. This is better for guests, and for hotels, so that staff are deployed to do other activities, rather than waiting on guests. Almost everything that could once be done by front desk staff can be achieved with mobile technology, and self check in is becoming an essential for hotels of all sizes.
Touchless technology for increased guest experience
Contactless or touchless technology gained a huge boost from the demands imposed by the worldwide pandemic, and is now a permanent feature of the hospitality market. Mobile-enabled touchless check in has grown by over 60% in the last three years. Mobile apps like SabeeApp’s GuestAdvisor allow guests to check in, order extra services, and be in touch with hotel staff using custom apps, making for a smoother and more seamless experience.
Smoothly functioning Property Management Systems allow guests to register all their details before check in, with the guest’s data then being automatically transferred to the PMS. This also allows guests to alert the hotel to dietary or other preferences and enables notes to be added for any special requests. As a result, when the guest arrives, staff are free to ‘meet and greet’ rather than simply processing paperwork.
Contactless payment for a smoother booking process
Contactless payment is a similarly important tech-trend that is now expected by guests. They can pay with contactless methods in almost every other walk of life, so why not in the hospitality sector? Using a mobile phone or wearables to pay is increasingly common, and all extras generated during a guest’s stay can be seamlessly and automatically added to the final tally. No more painstakingly going through restaurant and bar receipts during the check out process!
Biometric benefits for hotel and guests
Biometrics can play an important part in these touchless systems, where the identity of a guest can be confirmed by fingerprints, eye scanning, or facial recognition. As well as enabling payment systems, biometrics can also allow keyless access to rooms and other areas within hotels. The trend of accessing rooms keylessly is rising rapidly as it has benefits for both guests and hotels.
Energy-saving hotel solutions for a greener future
Energy-saving appliances are also an important part of the technology offering of hotels, because not every improvement has to be solely digital or mobile app-based! Methods of cost saving including re-equipping rooms with energy efficient lighting, and smart room sensors to control lighting and heating can lead to significant cost saving. Lighting can be as high as 40% of a hotel’s total energy costs, so it is clearly worth applying improved technology in this area, along with more efficient water usage and better climate control in rooms. What’s more, guests tend to appreciate hotels which show - and share - a commitment to greater awareness of energy conservation.
Allowing guests to enter the hotel through Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality is already here for large hotels and chains. Just as in the past only big organisations could afford promotional videos, now every hotel is able to post images. A step on from the widespread use of video is that VR is rapidly becoming more available. VR allows guests to enter into a digital environment in which they can ‘pre-experience’ a hotel, from their own home. They can ‘walk around’ a hotel, with 360° views of main areas helping to secure the booking. It’s easier on staff too, because guests already know what to expect, and where key features of the hotel can be found.
Check out a SabeeApp client hotel with the help of a virtual tour!
Added value, added features with Augmented Reality
Augmented Reality is used to enhance the guest experience once they are in-stay, with a range of options available on tablets or through smartphones to show local points of interest, or upcoming events. AR can automatically flag special offers such as fitness sessions, or daily restaurant menus. AR will increasingly make the guest journey within a hotel interactive, and the technology is set to trickle down from major hotel chains to smaller operators.
Hotel Robots - bringing the future to hotels
Robots are not - as yet - to be found on the front desk of hotels, but there is an increasing trend for them to be used in housekeeping activities such as cleaning, sanitising and vacuuming, especially in large communal areas and corridors. Robot delivery of guest meals is also rising. Robots are very good at doing repetitive tasks with maximum efficiency - and as many people now use robot vacuum cleaners in their homes, expect to see increased use in the hospitality industry too.
Chatbots for smoother guest communication
Chatbots are already ubiquitous in banking, leisure and commerce and are widely accepted by consumers in delivering quickly on ‘Frequently Asked Questions’. It’s so much more efficient for both the user and the company to get a quick and accurate answer to a simple question, than to wait for ages in a call centre queue for a human operator. Most chatbots are now sophisticated enough to automatically hand on to a human operator if they can’t answer customer queries, and some are able to communicate in a language of the user’s choosing. While not yet commonplace in the hotel industry, it is set to become an increasing trend, assisting guests with enquiries and bookings 24/7. A good example of a chatbot specific to the hotel industry comes from SabeeApp partner Bonomi, which fully integrates a number of tools including a booking engine, customised messaging, and social media connections, in one easy to engage with package.
Voice Communication enquiries are on the increase
Voice Communication is intimately connected with Chatbot use and is increasing in the hospitality sector. Potential guests want to get answers right now, and are less interested in waiting for a time when hotel staff are available to answer the phone. Using Siri and Alexa (and many other voice-responding devices) means that it’s not even necessary to type in questions - such as for booking availability - and that answers can be received in natural sounding language. Being hands-free is another big advantage of voice-activated systems, allowing users to query hotels while on the go, and voice-activation can form part of a suite of biometric ID and access apps.
AI is becoming the great enabler
Artificial Intelligence underpins most of these other technologies, and will become more and more essential to hotels, even though few guests will perceive that they are interacting with AI. As well as enabling chatbots, VR, AR, and voice communication, Artificial Intelligence will also increasingly be used to make greater sense of guest data and trends to help personalise guest journeys and offer ever-more tailored packages. Knowing your customer has always been key to success in the hospitality sector, and use of AI will further enhance this.
ChatGPT provides personalisation
ChatGPT is similarly a method rather than an end in itself, but it’s the one that has grabbed all the headlines since the start of 2023. Put this ‘Large Language Model’ in essentially the same bag as Artificial Intelligence, in that it enables increasingly ‘natural’ feeling interactions with guests. ChatGPT (and other similar LLMs) succeed in feeling natural by predicting the most likely course of a conversation, pretty much as humans do. They are not pre-programmed with standard answers, as earlier chatbots were. When we converse we feel that we are being heard and valued, and that’s a vital quality that all smart hoteliers should be fostering with their guests. Will ChatGPT and its like start to become ever-more human? The chances are that the answer is ‘Yes’, so get up to speed on the possibilities right now!
It’s all in the Cloud
When automation began to be used in hotels, it was in the form of large hardware installations, cluttering up back office space and providing limited and specific functions. Any changes to the system would require expensive engineering maintenance and probably delays in implementation. This has all changed with the advent of ‘cloud based computing’ where programs and data are stored remotely and can therefore be shared and updated automatically with great ease. Software companies manage their products ‘in the cloud’ with the result that hotels always have the latest and best features available across all of their services. Cloud computing provides reliability, security and safety to an unprecedented degree and is being adopted by businesses of all types and sizes in every sector. Hotels gain the advantage of immediate software updates and best practice methods, while even reclaiming some black office space! In the digital world that we live in, cloud computing is the backbone for almost every service that we use and access, and the hospitality industry is rapidly catching up with this.
Smart guests, smart hotels
Smart technology is intertwined in all of our lives, and is essential to any modern hotel. Guests expect an increasingly personalised experience, which can be greatly assisted by smart hotel technology. Technology adoption speeds interaction with guests and eases all of the traditional pinch points on the guest journey. Efficiency and the increased freedom of staff to be customer facing helps build and reinforce the reputation of the hotel, which in turn boosts repeat bookings, and profitability.
Let SabeeApp help you navigate hotel technology
Some of the hospitality technology we’ve talked about here is already with hotels of various sizes, while perhaps for others the idea of using ChatGPT, robot butlers or Virtual Reality may seem a little far out. Our response is, ‘Just you wait…’ But don’t wait too long! We are SabeeApp, the hotel software company with over ten year’s experience of cloud based solutions for the hospitality industry, with an all-in-one hotel management system that leads the field in features and benefits for modern hoteliers. We are present at every touchpoint of the guest journey, and welcome the opportunity to talk tech with you, in straightforward language, rooted in our deep knowledge of hotels. You can arrange a free consultation and we’ll help you navigate your way through the latest technology trends in hotels.