What Technology Do Your Guests Want and What Can They Do Without?

By Frank I. Wolfe CEO, Hospitality Financial & Technology Professionals | July 17, 2011

The integration of technology into our everyday routine is seamless - used in communication, design, decision-making, orientation and entertainment. With mobile smart devices in our hands, and media and information up in the cloud, there are limitless possibilities for access. This is a game-changing development for the hospitality industry, which opens a new avenue for delivering personal guest services efficiently and with ease in the guestroom.

One of the most frequent questions asked prior to this year's HITEC Conference was, "What cool guestroom technology is going to be shown this year?" Because so many companies use HITEC as their product launch location, I can never answer that question definitively. So, when I was asked to do this article, I decided to conduct a survey, not of what kinds of guestroom technology would be at HITEC but, what the industry thought should be in a guestroom. Following the survey results, I am also interjecting into the survey results some of my own research ideas and/or pictures of things that I would be included in my ideal guestroom.

The survey was conducted online over the dates of June 6 thru June 20, 2011. It was designed to spur discussion rather than to be a statistically significant instrument. HFTP, nor I, are endorsing any products, services, or systems mentioned. It was distributed to almost 3,000 members of the hospitality community. As of writing this article, about 15% of the audience had responded. Approximately 36% of the respondents spent 10 nights or less in a hotel guestroom per year; 37% spent 11 to 25 nights in a hotel guestroom; 17% spent 25 to 50 nights in a hotel guestroom and 10% spent more than 50 nights in a hotel guestroom per year.

I thought it would be interesting as a benchmark to ask about the number of technology items travelers are carrying with them on an average trip when they will stay in a guestroom. For me, the biggest surprise was that 2% of the respondents were still carrying pagers. The other results were that 90% carry laptops; 82% carry smart phones; 15% carry tablet computers; 15% carry media players; and 3% carry game systems. Based on this data, 15% of the respondents carry at least four gadgets that require charging. If you are offering double rooms, consider that a family might need as many as 16 electrical outlets not to mention the standard items that you provide the guests like the television, alarm clocks, lamps, etc.

The survey revealed some other data that was surprising to me. For example, 86% of the respondents still prefer to check into a hotel with Front Desk Personnel; 10% prefer a Self Service Kiosk; and less than 5% preferred either the smart phone or computer method. I would have expected the number of respondents who prefer to check in with the front desk to be high..but not this high. Based on the responses, the human element at check in is still overwhelmingly important to a majority of travelers and they are willing to forgo some of the advantages of recent technology advances to get the human touch. I predict that as smart phone technology becomes more integrated with the traveler the numbers who prefer this method will increase but it seems that the human element as the traveler's preference is going to be around for a very long time.
Another surprise was the small number of respondents who had a preference for a 3D television in their guestroom, less than 3%. HD was the winner at 79% and the balance of the respondents had no opinion.

As far as what the respondents ranked either "important or very important" to be available on the guest room television:

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Coming up in February 2019...

Social Media: Getting Personal

There Social media platforms have revolutionized the hotel industry. Popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Tumblr now account for 2.3 billion active users, and this phenomenon has forever transformed how businesses interact with consumers. Given that social media allows for two-way communication between businesses and consumers, the emphasis of any marketing strategy must be to positively and personally engage the customer, and there are innumerable ways to accomplish that goal. One popular strategy is to encourage hotel guests to create their own personal content - typically videos and photos -which can be shared via their personal social media networks, reaching a sizeable audience. In addition, geo-locational tags and brand hashtags can be embedded in such posts which allow them to be found via metadata searches, substantially enlarging their scope. Influencer marketing is another prevalent social media strategy. Some hotels are paying popular social media stars and bloggers to endorse their brand on social media platforms. These kinds of endorsements generally elicit a strong response because the influencers are perceived as being trustworthy by their followers, and because an influencer's followers are likely to share similar psychographic and demographic traits. Travel review sites have also become vitally important in reputation management. Travelers consistently use social media to express pleasure or frustration about their guest experiences, so it is essential that every review be attended to personally. Assuming the responsibility to address and correct customer service concerns quickly is a way to mitigate complaints and to build brand loyalty. Plus, whether reviews are favorable or unfavorable, they are a vital source of information to managers about a hotel's operational performance.  The February Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to effectively incorporate social media strategies into their businesses.