How new technologies will reshape the hotel experience
Some 87 percent of global travelers use mobile devices while on the move. Millennials spend nearly 50 percent of their time watching movies and TV shows on devices other than a television, primarily laptops, followed by smartphones and tablets.
Bottom line: Technologies are shaping the guest experience at hotels because tech devices are deeply embedded in travelers’ lives. Little wonder that a report from a research firm Local Measures focused on this topic for a new report about current and future technologies that will continue to shape and reshape the guest experience at hotels around the world. Technologies range from artificial intelligence, messaging apps and automated bots, to social listening and voice-controlled technology. Too many technologies to deal with this space (though you can download the full report by clicking here), so we will focus on a couple of ways that technology is asserting itself in the lodging environment; namely, the check-in process and location services.
The report deals with informal, self-service and futuristic check-in. Why the emphasis on check-in? The report stresses that, when you consider everything that’s involved in the check-in process — the greeting, a financial transaction, ID verification, orientation, information exchange — it is likely the guest experience of this touchpoint could be improved if not completely redesigned. For example, much of what happens during a check-in could actually take place before the guests arrive, simplifying what is required when a guest enters the hotel, weary from travel.
Informal check-in is when a hotel chain has a reception staff circulate in the lobby rather than stand behind a desk. The staff invites newly arriving guests to sit in the lobby and enjoy a complimentary drink. A staff member sits with them and completes the check-in process on a tablet. After a potentially long period of travel and waiting in lines, guests can take immediate
relief by sitting down and taking in their environment. One benefit to this style is that it allows the staff member to gauge how the guest is feeling and opens the door for more informal conversation, translating into knowledge about the hotel’s guests.
Self-service check-in is offered by many hotels by making online check-in available. This begins with an email that is sent out a day or two prior to arrival. Guests who have checked in online simply need to pick up their key once they arrive. At certain hotels, the check-in process can be carried out through the guest’s mobile phone. Once the guest has registered their phone through the app, they receive a push notification prompting them to opt-in for keyless entry. When the room is ready, they receive another notification to view the room number and unlock the door. While this process certainly isn’t for everyone, business travelers and tech-savvy guests might appreciate the efficiency and seamlessness.
Futuristic check-in. At Japan’s Henn-na Hotel, robots that look like dinosaurs stand behind check-in desks and ask guests to enter information through a touch panel before directing the guest’s gaze toward a facial recognition tower that enables keyless entry. Softbank’s “Pepper” is the first humanoid robot capable of recognizing human emotions and adapting its behavior to the mood. At Oakland Airport (the closest major airport to The Rose Hotel), Pepper soothes frazzled travelers, helps lost kids find their way, and offers updates on flights. This robotic technology still needs refining and, at this stage, is best presented as an alternative experience and backed up by the presence of human service staff members.
The report’s authors also say they are “passionate” about location services that offer new insights about hotel guests and visitors. Location services act as a finger on the pulse of what is happening on the ground in real-time, transforming the way hotels understand and engage with visitors at their physical venues in the digital realm.
Location services use GPS and communication beacons. GPS is one of the most fundamental features of smartphones and is what provides the contextual information related to activity performed on a mobile device. While GPS works well in pinpointing locations across broad geographical areas, it cannot adequately inform hoteliers about a guest’s micro location — such as where they are within your hotel. By knowing the micro-location of people on premises hotels can:
>> Identify guests versus staff in different areas of the hotel.
>> Send personalized notifications to guests depending on where they are, such as providing information about art for guests looking at an exhibit in the hotel, or informing them of dinner
specials when they are near a restaurant.
>> Incentivize guests at key moments, such as offering a discount on a spa service or two-for-one drinks at the bar.
>> Provide analytics. Help staff understand the way your guests are utilizing the space, such as the average amount of time spent at breakfast, length of time spent waiting to check-in, and other facilities they have visited during their stay.
When it comes to The Rose Hotel, we embrace technology but are acutely aware that there is a big contrast between the warmth and personal service provided by human beings and the impersonal service provided by robots. Some hotels might see robots as a path to staff reduction. That would not be the case at The Rose, where personal service and human contact is essential to what the boutique hotel experience is all about. That is not to say robotics wouldn’t someday come into play in some capacity at The Rose, but it will never be at the cost of personalized service.
Though we are not using robots or tracking our guests’ movements through location services, we are using the more basic and widely available technology of email at the end of each of these blog posts to request your feedback on this and other issues regarding your hotel experience. Just click here and share your thoughts.