Managing the Hotel Digital World

By Mark Ricketts President & Chief Operating Officer, McNeill Hotels | July 08, 2018

Today, a guest can make a reservation online, never speak with any of our hotel staff in advance of arriving; check in digitally; and ask for services through cell phone texts. It's further conceivable that our housekeeping, maintenance or front desk staff might never see this guest during her or his stay; and, then, he or she checks out in the same stealth mode as upon arrival. The only trail or record of this visit will be an electronic one.

Made possible by today's best technologies, are phantom guests really the future of hospitality? It's certainly not the fondest of thoughts for a true hotelier. 

We won't quite call it the Digital Divide, but we are finding that today's digital world presents a host of considerations with respect to guest interaction and privacy, as well as staff training and our own comfort level with many new and extremely powerful technologies. How do we graduate some of our older or less technically adept, but capable and valuable, staff into digital ways? Is there potential friction among those who are good at technology and others who are less so? How do we factor technology skills into the evaluation process? Is the latest technology always the greatest way to accomplish our objectives?

In this article we will consider how hospitality organizations need to use care in deploying new technologies as we endeavor to be efficient and profitable while serving guests to the best of our abilities, in a highly competitive and ambitious industry environment. In essence, the question is, how do we take advantage of everything that technology can offer us with without diminishing our own best human qualities?

The Advent of the Digital Era

While we inhabit a world of physical reality, including those vibrant but immovable objects we call hotels, and our economy still thankfully manufactures things, there is a reason ours has been called the Information Age.

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Mobile Technology: The Future is Now

Mobile Technology continues to advance at a relentless pace and the hotel industry continues to adapt. Hotel guests have shown a strong preference for mobile self-service - from checking-in/out at a hotel kiosk, to ordering room service, making dinner reservations, booking spa treatments, and managing laundry/dry cleaning services. And they also enjoy the convenience of paying for these services with smart phone mobile payments. In addition, some hotels have adopted a “concierge in your pocket” concept. Through a proprietary hotel app, guests can access useful information such as local entertainment venues, tourist attractions, event calendars, and medical facilities and services. In-room entertainment continues to be a key factor, as guests insist on the capacity to plug in their own mobile devices to customize their entertainment choices. Mobile technology also allows for greater marketing opportunities. For example, many hotels have adopted the use of “push notifications” - sending promotions, discounts and special event messages to guests based on their property location, purchase history, profiles, etc. Near field communication (NFC) technology is also being utilized to support applications such as opening room doors, earning loyalty points, renting a bike, accessing a rental car, and more. Finally, some hotels have adopted more futuristic technology. Robots are in use that have the ability to move between floors to deliver room service requests for all kinds of items - food, beverages, towels, toothbrushes, chargers and snacks. And infrared scanners are being used by housekeeping staff that can detect body heat within a room, alerting staff that the room is occupied and they should come back at a later time. The January Hotel Business Review will report on what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in this exciting mobile technology space.