Consumer behavior has changed dramatically in the last few years - Covid19 and global digitalization formed how people buy goods and services. Niche trends went global, new habits and expectations formed, while some old practices – like the breakfast buffet – virtually disappeared.
On the road to recovery, it is essential for organizations to focus on understanding consumers’ changing behaviors and reshaping customer experience. At the same time, they must also put effort into improving their operational agility and technological resilience.
Here are some of the technology trends hospitality operators should look out for in 2022:
1. Unified property management systems
Creating an outstanding, memorable guest experience starts by getting the basics right. There’s no point relying on newest voice recognition technology and the latest entertainment innovation if you can’t distinguish your repeat customers from newbies and have no visibility into your resource usage, or what services sell best to various client segments.
Unified software platforms unite the property management system (PMS) with all the other processes and functionalities you need to run your properties - from rooms to restaurant, spa center, and other amenities like the golf course or tennis court. With all guest and business information in a single system, you have a clear view you need to run operations efficiently. You can also understand your guests, including history and preferences, and offer them packages with personalized touches that you know they will like.
2. Integrate with third party booking engines
While booking engines and online travel agencies have been around for a while, many hotels and resorts are still missing out on big opportunities by not having technology to integrate third-party booking engines into their own system. In fact, most people are used to booking their stays through hotel booking engines because of its simplicity and convenience - where a guest can choose and filter hotels by price, rating, amenities - all in one place.
Until recently, hotels had to manually link to and manage multiple booking websites such as Booking.com, AirBnB – a complex and time-consuming task usually requiring a full-time person. But new developments are making it possible for hotels to expand their reach with less effort, by automatically linking their PMS with the most popular third-party booking engines. The best tools are optimized for higher conversion, providing a seamless booking process from the minute a guest views your listing on the third-party site all the way through to checking in with you. Taking advantage of the OTAs’ strong global presence and online visibility you can reach new customers, and get them flowing through your hotel doors. After that, it’s up to you to provide the kind of experience that inspires travelers to return, and to offer perks that will encourage them to book directly on your company website in the future.
3. Internet of things (IoT)
Objects and devices that can connect to the internet and to each other through it– commonly called IoT, “the internet of things” – have the potential to transform hotels, from simplifying property management and maintenance, to offering greater guest engagement.
By using IoT-enabled programs, hotel owners can now track and control every aspect of their entire property in a single dashboard. This kind of overview enables properties to be predictive with their maintenance (so the the lights or showers get fixed at the beginning of malfunctioning, but before they actually break and cannot be used). They can also better regulate energy consumption and support sustainability initiatives – for example, by turning the temperature down in the fitness room when it is closed.
IoT will also be increasingly used to enhance guest engagement, for example allowing guests to use their mobile devices as access keys not just for the room, but also for amenities such as SPA and the gym. IoT-powered beacon technology enables operators to send real-time notifications to guests’ smartphones, enhancing their stay and at the same time driving revenue.
24/7 service and convenience are now part of our basic expectations, and the hotel experience is no exception. Self service has lately became the mother of all service expectations - comparing the check in time between in-person reception and self check-in.
Self-service technology provides guests with the choice over which service model they prefer (high-touch or low-touch), while also freeing hotel staff up to better serve those guests who prefer hands-on engagement.
Some hotels are making self-service check-in/out even more seamless by using biometrics. Guests can register their fingerprints or facial features, for example, into the PMS and use their identity to automatically authenticate check-out and to access rooms and other facilities they’ve booked without the need for keys or cards. And when guests return, they can be immediately identified, and offered all their favorite services.
5. Guest room digitalization
Room amenities are becoming increasingly digital - yes, voice recognition is not for every hotel, but there are many low hanging fruits for every pocket. Nowadays, guests want to be able to adjust room temperature or book breakfast at the tap of a finger with minimum effort. Traditional booklets with information about hotel services are being replaced by in-room tablets, where guests can check breakfast hours, restaurant menu, spa services and area recommendations, but at the same time take some actionable steps - play music, control the room’s lights, curtains and heating, and even send requests to the desk or book food. Some hotels are decreasing contact even further, by moving the power to the guest’s device. Guests can connect their own mobile device to the room, and use it to check in, open their room, select entertainment services and even control room temperature, light or power.
Voice-activated controls, already popular in homes, are becoming increasingly common in top level hotels, too. These virtual assistants are not only smart and intuitive, also but are equipped with personalities to interact with guests. They will make adjusting room conditions, requesting services and setting reminders more engaging and convenient, with a high level experience.
Whether you believe this is more of a marketing stunt right now than a longer-term trend, these changes demonstrate that hotels are continuing to push the envelope on personalized service and technology. More traditional hoteliers have little choice but to embrace technological transformation head on if they want to continue impressing their guests, and set themselves up for future success. Digitalization is inevitable for all industries - and the sooner we adapt, the more flexible our business will become. Prioritizing long-term vision over quick wins and fixes always pays off.