Check-in to the Future

By Erin Hoover Vice President of Design, Westin Hotels & Resorts and Sheraton Hotels & Resorts | June 02, 2013

As we enter the second decade of the 21st century, let's consider a few milestones in hotel history that are influencing the sweeping changes now occurring in all areas of the hotel experience, especially in the lobby.

With the recent and continued enhancements in technology, hotels are increasingly able to personalize the guest experience through the design of the lobby space.

  • 1958 - Sheraton launches "Reservatron," the hotel industry's first automatic electronic reservations system.
  • 1978 - Deregulation of airline industry leads to airline loyalty programs, hotels initially are partners with airlines, but soon launch their own loyalty programs for guests.
  • 1983 – Ving introduces the electronic key card – in the same year, Westin is the first hotel brand where guests can make a reservation and check out with a major credit card.
  • 1985 - Sheraton is the first international hotel chain to operate a hotel in the People's Republic of China.
  • 1994 – Promus and Hyatt Hotels are the first to launch sites on the Internet.

The magnetic strip and the Internet are just two of the factors that are changing the physical space of the hotel lobby and the check in experience. We've all seen the shift as the massive check in counter dating from the 19th century shrinks to become pods, and in some cases, pods have become kiosks. What does this mean for the guest experience of the lobby and check in? There are several macro trends that will drive what happens to the lobby and check in from both an experiential and a spatial point of view:

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Technology

The ability to create a database started back in the 1950s with the introduction of automated reservation systems. Hotels suddenly had more information about their guests, which allowed them to start to personalize and target services, based upon guest preferences. Now, through social media, the transfer of basic information has become a dialogue. Hotels have even more opportunities to further differentiate themselves by personalizing experiences that used to be one size fits all, like check in. But more about that later…

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Coming up in June 2019...

Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.