The dramatic decline in travel in 2020, and continuing into 2021, is hard on the hospitality industry. Yet hotels that embrace digital disruption are gaining competitive advantage. This article explores hotel smart technology and its role in reducing costs, increasing revenues and improving guest satisfaction.
Hotel owners and managers must leverage any available advantage to ride out the current crisis. In a November national survey of 2,200 adults, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) learned:
- Only 3 in 10 (32%) respondents have taken an overnight vacation or leisure trip since March
- Just 24% were likely to travel for spring break
- 44% said their next hotel stay for vacation or leisure travel wouldn’t be until 2022
- Business travel is down too with only 8% of Americans saying they had taken an overnight business trip since March
Hoteliers can utilize intelligent environments to improve brand reputation, reduce costs, and increase revenue. Transforming hotels into Intelligent environments can benefit:
- Guest experience
- Energy efficiency
- Online reputation
- Employee engagement
Especially now, with COVID-19 disruptions, hotels need to do all that they can to provide peace of mind and prioritize wellbeing. Smart technology can help.
Automated hotel check-in was already in the works. Now though it can make a big difference in customer comfort level. With a hotel app handling online booking, managing check in/check out, providing a remote key, and giving the guest access to room and concierge services, the guest can dramatically curtail face-to-face interactions.
Booking online is also becoming a norm. In fact, 48% of smartphone users are comfortable booking and planning their travel using only a mobile device, according to a Google survey.
But guests would welcome even more. An Oracle Hospitality report found “35% of guests said they would prefer the ability to schedule room cleaning and 26% said they would like to receive a smartphone notification to show if their room was being cleaned.”
The hotel industry is exploring many options. Voice control and virtual assistants are also changing the guest experience. At the Wynn Hotel & Resort in Las Vegas, guests can talk to the in-room Amazon Alexa to control lighting, temperature, draperies, and TV in their rooms.
Volara is another Alexa-esque guest-room solution. The software integrates with popular hotel business work order management systems. Guests make requests directly and are notified automatically when their request is met. The same smart technology product also integrates with in-room entertainment to let guests use voice control instead of having to handle shared hotel room remote controls.
Yotel, a New York City hotel, has a robot stowing and storing luggage for guests who don’t want to tour town with their bags before checkin or after checkout. “It also allows our staff to focus on the guest and focus on their needs instead of just the simple task of storing a piece of luggage,” said Yotel New York’s general manager, Claes Landberg,in an interview with CNBC.
Smart energy management systems can monitor and react to guest occupancy. Plus, the data provided by hotel room control systems, can be analyzed by powerful machine learning algorithms to predict needs based on weather patterns and guest energy consumption trends year round.
Additionally, smart lighting systems can improve energy consumption. At the Chatwal Hotel in New York, retrofitting 1,300 lamps to smart lighting in hallways, common areas and rooms reduced lighting energy consumption by 90 percent.
Offering guests access to voice control and virtual assistant-operated automation solutions can also support the hotel’s sustainability goals. The hotel manager can configure the HVAC to consider weather and guest occupancy to reduce the risk of air conditioners left on all day in an empty room.
Providing guests with hotel app scheduling of cleaning services can also cut down on the habitual cleans that require energy and water consumption as well as costly human labor.
Gaining the ability to monitor, track, and predict usage doesn’t only benefit sustainability. It can also support predictive maintenance. Analyzing asset trends, the hotel owner can identify areas of waste or determine when something can be maintained preventatively to avoid costly long-term downtime.
A leaky toilet — just one — can cost as much as $840 each year. Not to mention the potential damage costs if the leak remains undetected. Yet low-cost water sensors connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) can gauge water consumption anomalies and send alerts to maintenance.
With smart technology in the guest rooms, its easy for the customer or cleaning staff to indicate repair needs. They can be sent directly into the hotel control system to keep both guests and staff current on the status of that service call.
Transforming the hotel into an intelligent space also supports improved targeting. Marketing can use the customer data to personalize appeals and offer customized onsite experiences.
Integrating customer relationship management (CRM) tools with the hotel app can lead to specific offers based on when the guest checks in, where, and why. Someone coming in for a conference, for instance, could be sent a daily meeting itinerary and offered a coffee shop discount. Meanwhile, the family visitor, could instead be sent the activity guide for the hotel and a coupon for free slush drinks by the pool.
Offering guests an intelligent space can also benefit online reputation. As Fingent observed, “Technology has shifted the balance of power toward guests, and hotels have no option but to work harder to match customer expectations.”
How does smart technology help? The software available today with machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence can make it easier to monitor what people are saying about a brand online. A hotel setting up an alert for its location’s social media handles could react quickly to a dissatisfied customer, making things better before they even leave the hotel.
In addition, smart technology solutions are going to appeal most to the digital natives. These are the people who are savvy on social media and ready to share their opinions on online directories. So, by offering the latest intelligent environment to guests, you’re more likely to get glowing online reviews.
Among the many benefits of smart technology, count employee engagement. Automation capabilities can take away repetitive tasks from your human resources. With guest room automation, your customer service-oriented individuals can work on relationship building instead of getting caught up in record management and routine tasks.
Those guests who don’t want to deal with robots and the different types of smart technology can benefit from improved access to hotel staff. Freed from the small, time-consuming tasks that hotel automation handles, staff have more time to ensure operations run more smoothly. The technology also streamlines customer interactions and leaves your people having to deal with fewer disgruntled guests.
Of course, in considering the advantages and disadvantages of automation in hotels, data privacy needs to be a top priority. Guests are only going to embrace the intelligent environment if they are confident any data shared is secure. Further, the human connection is still going to help to set a hotel apart. That robot shucking suitcases behind a pane of glass will look cool, but guests are still going to appreciate courtesy and excellent customer service.
Nevertheless, hotel owners and management can enjoy many benefits from intelligent environments. Smart technology will also improve guest experience and brand reputation. The travelers of the future expect more from their hotels. Hotel smart technology is a step in the right direction.