Setting the Stage for the Technology-Infused Hotel Experience

By Randa Tukan Senior Vice Principal & Director of Interiors, HOK | January 28, 2018

Many hotels and hotel brands are creating smartphone apps to help guests manage their experiences while on the property. Yet according to the J.D. Power 2017 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index study, the use of mobile technology is not growing as quickly as expected. The percentage of guests using mobile apps to place online reservations rose by only 11 percent from 2014 (14 percent) to 2017 (25 percent). Only 19 percent of all guests downloaded the hotel brand's mobile app, and 70 percent of these people were reward members.

Does this slow rate of adoption signify a lack of brand loyalty? Or does it reflect the limited amount of app storage space available on mobile devices? After all, travel-related apps are competing for valuable space on our smartphones. Travelers are using all the apps required to continue conducting their business as usual while they are away in addition to those needed for their transportation, entertainment and financial services.. To stand out in this crowd, hotels need to create apps with features that are undeniably essential for enhancing the guest experience. This is no small feat, as apps, can easily become deemed irrelevant and risk deletion.

There is some debate in the hospitality industry around whether the front desk staff and concierge role could actually be replaced by apps. Many insist that hospitality intrinsically remains a service industry, and that maintaining the human connection will always be key to creating positive and meaningful guest experiences.

To make this determination about the future of mobile technology, we first must consider the entire spectrum of the guest experience. This experience can be divided into two specific categories: needs and wants.

The Needs

"Needs" are the more tactical requirements of the guest experience. These include actions like checking in, checking out, adjusting room temperature, wake-up calls, view, type of room, requesting a different pillow or gaining advance knowledge about local food options. Guests often try to emulate their daily in-home conveniences at the hotel.

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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.