Running a hotel is far from an easy feat. The long list of daily responsibilities, combined with the need to ensure a hotel’s services and facilities are always up to date, means a good hotelier always has one eye on their establishment, and one eye on the industry as a whole.
Making the most of technological advances is a crucial part of this, and is entirely necessary if a hotel is to stay current. An entire industry is now thriving on the business of improving our hotels with the help of tech. Innovative products are being designed to streamline managerial processes, better entice potential guests, and make the day to day running of our hotels smoother and more efficient.
However, looking at the long term, are these glossy tech products just passing fads, or are they offering genuine and important changes that will irreversibly change the hotel business for the better?
One such change that has become extremely popular among hotel owners and managers is the introduction of cloud-based management software. This kind of technology has grown in popularity over the last decade, and it’s not difficult to understand why. By enabling remote access and the instant sharing of information and data, the right cloud-based management system can make processes immeasurably more efficient for managers and staff, and therefore far improves the hotel experience for guests.
Not only this, but clever new management software can automate a number of menial tasks, freeing up staff time so they can address the needs of paying guests, and ensure they receive the highest level of customer service throughout their stay. There’s little doubting that cloud-based management systems are the way to go for hotels, and that they’ll be around for some time as they constantly improve their tech to meet hotels’ evolving needs.
Another tech product taking the hotel trade by storm is the personal hotel app. While many hotels don’t have apps of their own, instead working through aggregators such as Booking.com or Trivago, larger hotel chains and some boutique hotels have introduced bespoke mobile apps through which guests can book rooms, discover deals, and browse the range of rooms and services on offer.
For some hotels, the effort and expense involved in creating a custom app is simply not worth it; but for many it can be justified as it presents an interesting new approach to hotel operations. The main argument in favour of hotel-specific apps is its convenience for the consumer, allowing them to make or change bookings, access information quickly, ask questions and make requests with ease from their phone or tablet. A bespoke app also means no services are required from ‘middle-man’ companies, allowing hotels themselves to maximise revenue and benefits.
Whether creating a custom hotel app or working with a larger industry player, there’s no doubting that mobile convenience and the increased accessibility it allows is a key tech element that hotels need to pay attention to. Hotels of all sizes have to make the customer experience as easy as they can, before, during and after their stays; and as speed and accessibility become ever more important in our daily lives, hotels need to put themselves in people’s hands or risk being left out entirely.
Another piece of tech being embraced by a number of hotels is ‘chatbot’ technology, similar to (and in places including) Google’s ‘Echo’ and Amazon’s Alexa. In the hotel setting, these Artificial Intelligence-powered ‘chatbots’ can be used to ask questions and make requests, or to increase the comfort and convenience of the guest’s experience — for example, by changing room temperatures, turning lights on and off, and controlling TV and speaker systems.
This sort of technology is steadily becoming a firm fixture in many of our day-to-day lives, and it’s only logical to expect to see more of it in our hotels. However, if the tech only goes as far as enabling guests to control small elements in their rooms, is it really worth the investment? Beyond looking flash, what is a voice-controlled light switch changing, fundamentally? It will be exciting to see where AI can go, hopefully having a more deep-rooted impact on the guest experience that stretches beyond making TV remotes and volume controls redundant.
Finally, hotel rewards programmes are no new entry but are always adapting to the changing demands of consumers (much like hotels themselves). While they are of course relevant when it comes to securing returning customers, are rewards schemes helpful when it comes to acquiring new guests?
There is a balance to be found when designing a rewards scheme — if you give too little then it’ll be entirely ineffective; but give too much, and you’re working against your own best interests. But with more competition in the market than ever, last minute deals undercutting prices, and incredibly effective marketing tools at many hotels’ disposal, introducing a simple yet worthwhile rewards programme and making use of the tech available online and on social media, could help you pip your competitors to the post.
While it’s important not to jump on every trend that seems to be making waves, it’s even more important that hoteliers remain open-minded with regard to the kinds of things that could boost their hotel’s revenue and reputation. Above all, hotel managers need to be hyper-aware of the changing nature of the market, research new products as they become available, and consider the processes their hotel could improve before making any rash purchases. Hotel tech could change your hotel for the better; but if not applied at the right time in the right place, could also change it for the worse.
By Simon Botto, CEO of DayBreakHotels