How Mobile Technology is Changing Hotel-Guest Communication and the Guest Experience

By Carlo Cisco Chief Executive Officer, Select Innovations, Inc. | January 27, 2019

The travel industry is not averse to change. The first major technology-driven wave in the age of the internet came about with the popularization of Online Travel Agencies (OTAs). Companies such as Priceline, Booking.com, and Expedia, whose ability to allow users to search, research, filter, and seamlessly book numerous options, quickly increased in popularity, becoming the dominant method for booking travel today.

Convenience, a strong user experience, and many options made these travel portals extremely useful, driving loyalty and changing consumer behavior for good. Based on recent booking data analysis from Hitwise initially published in Skift, OTAs now represent 69.44% of total vs. 30.56% booked directly with hotels. That share will only continue to increase. 

This has helped to create close to universal pricing-parity across the industry as OTAs are able to require the same prices or better than what the customers would receive booking directly with the property or brand. Despite new incentives to try to increase direct bookings, customers still prefer to use OTAs more than ever. 

Now those same customers are looking for technology to improve their experience beyond research and booking. They're also looking for it to extend past the internet as we used to know it, and right to their smartphones.

This incredibly picky, savvy, and connected generation of customers expects technology to help enhance the on-site and in-hotel experience in order to make services that may have previously been inconvenient, on-demand. This is particularly the case at certain hours, like when there is less staff late at night, or while they are away from the property. 

According to recent surveys conducted by Oracle Hospitality and Phocuswright and with findings published in Hotel Technology News, approximately 64% of US hotel guests think it is "very or extremely" important for hotels to invest in technology that enhances the guest experience. Additionally, the same report showed that 94% of business travelers and 80% of leisure travelers want to use their smartphones to request service and message staff. All of this highlights the importance and value to customers for real-time communication. 

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.