Technology is more present than ever before, particularly when you look at the experiences now available to hotels. While some of the recent trends are just starting to take off and are more fun than functional, there are several new technologies that were developed with a specific goal in mind – to make life easier for hoteliers and guests.
The prevalence of mobile apps is the first trend that we see catching fire and continuing to grow well into 2017 and beyond. Hotel giants like Marriott and Hilton have had robust mobile apps for a few years now and are the norm for brand-loyal travelers. Independent and boutique hotels, however, have been at a disadvantage when it comes to absorbing the sheer cost that is associated with developing a fully functional mobile app experience. This initial disadvantage has prevented most independent properties from even considering a mobile app presence without fully researching alternatives that now exist.
With the evolution of technology has come the evolution of companies that offer mobile app solutions for hotels. And, while some independent owners still do not see the value in having a dedicated mobile app, the numbers speak for themself. Though a majority of travel bookings do still come from desktop, a dedicated mobile app offers much more opportunity than just enticing mobile bookings. According to Fuel’s most recent Leisure Travel study, 52.2% of travelers would use a mobile app to purchase additional services during their stay. Additionally, 55.6% of travelers would check-in using a mobile app if they could. These two stats alone demonstrate value when it comes to driving additional revenue and increasing RevPAR and improving overall operational efficiency. We strongly anticipate mobile apps to continue to flourish and for more independent and boutique properties to jump on the bandwagon.
The mobile app discussion leads us to our second technology trend for 2017 – the growth of keyless room access. Starwood was the first major player in this market with the rollout of the SPG Keyless in fall 2014. Since then, this technology has already been adopted by other hotel groups like Hilton and Marriott and is being tested at Hyatt and InterContinental Hotels. OpenKey remains the market leader for keyless entry technology and is continuing to push the value of their product. Though the initial implementation can be costly, switching to a keyless entry program will save money in the long run and improve operational efficiencies.
Our third technology prediction speaks for properties that either do not see the value in a dedicated mobile app or who simply do not have the money to enter the market – messaging apps. Communicating with guests via text or email was once seen as a nuisance and was not a best practice. However, times have changed and direct communication via instant messaging is the norm and many guests would prefer to make requests or discuss issues this way. Services like Zingle and Checkmate offer sleek messaging capabilities that make customer communication effortless. There are also more robust messaging platforms, like Alice, that can connect and improve communication between guests and between multiple departments like concierge, housekeeping, and maintenance. Communication is often cited as the No. 1 issue within an organization. Not only are messaging apps helping hotels streamline operations, they are also helping to prevent and address guest issues, helping boost the overall guest experience, which can also lead to higher reviews and higher ADR. Messaging apps are all the rage this year and we continue this trend to continue well into the future.
Our fourth trend dives deeper into what happens when the guest actually gets into the hotel room. In-room technology has become more of a focus as hotels have begun revamping the in-room experience. Gone are the days of huge, boxy TVs and oversized binders with hotel and local information. The hotel room is evolving and many properties now boast standard amenities like smart TVs, free high-speed Wi-Fi, docking and charging stations for devices, and sophisticated lighting and climate control features. Furthermore, many hotels are going a step further and are offering complimentary devices and virtual concierge services through companies like Crave that double as a replacement for stuffy binders that no one looks at anyway. Keep in mind that many of these technologies are considered standard at many mid-tier to high-end hotels. More progressive properties are also continuing to push the envelope with high-end features like floor sensor lights, Bluetooth furniture, facial recognition software for room access, inductive charging stations, and even projector TVs for bathrooms. We anticipate for more brands to up the ante when it comes to standard in-room features and for more properties to add unexpected features to surprise and delight guests.
Of course, we can’t talk technology without mentioning virtual reality. 2016 saw huge advances in the technology readily available to consumers to experience VR. From a travel perspective, virtual reality poses an interesting opportunity. On the one hand, many travel players (including Expedia) have vocalized concern when it comes to VR replacing travel experiences. On the other hand, virtual reality could play an important role in marketing both destinations and individual hotel properties. When used properly, virtual reality could be a handy tool to showcase amazing experiences and amenities. And, though few brands have successfully forayed into VR, there are some brands that are doing it right. Using virtual reality to showcase events, attractions, and amenities and to share stories will offer a unique perspective and truly immerse potential travelers in a way that has never been possible. There is no doubt that VR will continue to evolve and become more and more available to consumers and marketers alike. Check out these examples from YouVisit.com for inspiration.