Here’s a look at 2017’s hospitality technology trends, including those related to mobile and other digital and cloud technologies.
Many of the hospitality technology trends we expect to see in 2017 are related to mobile technology. In Zebra’s 2016 Hospitality Vision Study, the hospitality solutions company found hotels and resorts are turning to digital technology to personalize, enhance and enrich experiences for their guests.
Zebra’s study found a whopping 92 percent of the hotel guests surveyed carry a smartphone. Forty percent use hotel apps on their devices, while an additional 30 percent download them. About 70 percent of guests, according to Zebra, want to use technology to speed up check-in and other common tasks. The vast majority said they’re fine with sharing personal information such as age, gender and email in exchange for promotions and coupons tailored to them, or for priority service or loyalty points.
Much of this has to do with today’s many tech-savvy millennials, those born in the 1980s and 90s, who are predicted to spend $200 billion on travel in 2017 — far surpassing the baby boomers.
Hotels will continue to see increased demand for bandwidth, which continues to grow wildly as guests travel with more devices that do more advanced things. Not surprisingly, Zebra found that 77 percent of hotels surveyed worldwide plan to expand their Wi-Fi coverage in 2017.
Hospitality Technology Trends on the Rise
Beyond the mobility focus of today’s hospitality tech, more mobile property management systems will be seen. This means managers and other employees won’t be tied to the front desk or office but can walk around, inspect the property and interact with guests. This increased human presence will help balance the automated but personalized hotel guest services, such as guest recognition and remote check-in and -out, that are also increasing in adoption.
We can also expect to see wider use of the smartphones as door keys, which works through an app and Bluetooth, as well as smartphones that connect to the room phone so guests can control the television and sound system, request a wake-up call and order room service. Hilton and Marriott hotels already use technology that allows guests to open hotel room, spa or fitness room doors with their smartphones. At Chicago’s Virgin Hotel, guests control room temperature, lighting and television channels with their phones.
Increased use of technology that monitors sustainability goals is also taking off. The LightStay environmental and energy management system, for one, calculates and analyzes the environmental and societal impact of every Hilton Worldwide hotel. Six years in, LightStay has reduced the company’s energy consumption by 14.5 percent, water use by 14.1 percent and waste output by 27.6 percent. Smartphones can also help with energy conservation by allowing guests to control room lights, room temperature and water consumption.
Marriott aims to have location-based beacons in 500 hotels, which send messages to nearby Bluetooth-enabled smartphones. Beacons near hotel entrances help streamline the check-in process, and those by guest rooms let housekeeping know when guests are out. When near the beacons, guests with the hotel’s app receive promotional messages offering deals at restaurants, for instance, or the spa.
Marriott is a leader in virtual reality (VR) tech, recently taking its “teleporter” to eight cities where visitors enjoyed a virtual trip to a Hawaiian beach and a London skyscraper. The hotel company is also experimenting with VRoom Service, which allows guests to order VR headsets and view VR Postcards or experiences following travelers in foreign locales. Other possibilities for hotel VR use include a virtual concierge service or VR-equipped conference rooms where VR presentations can take place.
Transitions to applications in the cloud are taking time, because integrating cloud-based hospitality apps with systems already in use often requires re-engineering. And it has a cost, too — not only in staff training, but also in redesigning operational workflows.
Trends Impacting the Hotel Experience
These hospitality technology trends will help improve hotel analytics, enhance client services and geotarget mobile offers. But increased focus on mobile and other technology helps in other ways, too. Management will be able to monitor what guests like and dislike due to increased use of social media channels, for instance. This can provide valuable information that lets a hotel tailor offerings to what guests currently want.
And when guests arrive, hotels can use technology to make them feel special by delivering individual experiences, which creates loyalty. The guest also wins because technology can mean a quick and easy check-in, more control of the guest room and monitoring the length of the line down at the breakfast buffet. Guests may even be able to determine their room preferences, down to the contents of the mini-bar, before they arrive.