How Technology Will Change the Guest Experience

By David Ashen Principal and Founder, dash design | October 08, 2017

For better or worse, technology has influenced the way we work, socialize and travel in significant ways and, certainly, will continue to do so well into the future. The guest experience is no exception to that influence and one I see as undergoing radical challenges in the next five years.

From mobile check-ins to app integrations, like Seamless.com food delivery, guests are beginning to attend to their needs in new ways. After all, if patrons check-in through an app, does that mean the venue’s on-site staffing will be affected, that is, reduced, forcing guests to find their rooms on their own? If guests order meals through an app, will the brand’s restaurant need to be reconfigured—or become no longer necessary? And what will that mean for hungry guests? What about the scale of a venue’s public spaces and lobbies? Will they be reduced? Or eliminated? Will it no longer be possible for guests to meet and mingle in a venue’s public spaces? Is it possible for venues to plan for flexibility to accommodate new technologies? And how will those inventions further affect the guest experience

Innovations happen by the minute. One day the iPod is the hottest device, and within a seeming moment, it’s become a relic. Apps pop up by the thousands, social media platforms regularly morph in new ways and hardware becomes outdated, for the most part, within a mere two years.

What does all this mean for the hotel brands, owners and guests? How can one predict what’s coming up in the next few years and the ways those interests will affect the industry or shape lifestyles? I’m no psychic, but there are indications of how the coming role of technology will affect the hotel environment and guest experience in the near future.

In general, hotels are divided into active spaces, meaning those that are front-facing to the guest, and passive locations, that is, those at back of house and behind the scenes where technologies that help optimize things such as building systems and hotel operations typically are housed. These areas and their associated equipment tend to form the ‘brain’ of a building, delivering the intangible aspects of the guest experience.

For instance, Marriott properties’ mobile check-in program allows guests to walk up to the location’s desk and get their key without any wait. Now hitting the market is the next step in mobile check-in, in the form of scannable codes that are sent to guests’ phones to provide access to their rooms without a key card. The hardware already is being installed as the standard in many properties and, no doubt, will be the standard across the board within the next five years.

Coming up in January 2018...

Mobile Technology: Relentless Innovation

Technology has become a crucial component in attracting and retaining hotel guests, and the need to enhance a guest’s technology experience is driving a relentless pace of innovation. To meet and exceed guest expectations, 54% of hotels will spend more on technology in 2018, and mobile solutions in particular will top the list of capital investments. Many hotels are integrating mobile booking, mobile keys, mobile payments and mobile check-in into their operations. Other hotels are emphasizing the in-room experience, boosting bandwidth and upgrading flat screen TVs to more easily interface with guest mobile devices. And though not yet mainstream, there are many exciting technology developments on the near horizon. The Internet of Things (loT) is taking form in some places, and can be found in guest room control systems, voice activation systems, and in wearable sensors that can be used for access and payment options. Virtual reality headsets are available at some hotels so guests can enjoy virtual trips to exotic locations or if off-property, preview conference facilities and guest rooms. How long will it be before a hotel employs a fleet of robots for room service, or utilizes a hologram as a concierge, or installs gesture-controlled walls that feature interactive digital displays? Some hotels are already using augmented reality for translation services, or interactive wall maps, or even virtual décor. This pace of innovation is challenging property owners and brands to stay on top of the latest technology trends while still addressing current projects. The January Hotel Business Review will explore what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in the mobile technology space.