Think about the experience of booking, and staying at, a hotel 10-15 years ago. You may have called to make a reservation. When you got to your room, you may have paid extra for dial-up internet access, but more than likely you were off to your destination after dropping off your stuff. You made sure to keep your room key – a physical card – tucked safely in your wallet to ensure you could get back into the room.
Now? You almost certainly booked your hotel online. When you got to your room you went straight for the WiFi password to get your laptop connected to do some important work. And forget the key – you gained entry to the room using an app on your phone.
Thanks to emerging technologies, the hospitality experience is completely different than it was a decade ago. Let’s take a look at some critical ways in which new technology is shaping the hospitality industry, and how hotels can react and adapt to those changes.
Improved internet speed and connectivity
Your guests have come to expect your internet speed to be fast and connectivity to be consistent. This is a must for any hotel housing business travelers.
It’s also important for your staff as well. They’ll need to have consistent internet access to pull up guest records, access your company intranet, or perform any other number of hotel-related functions that require them to be online.
The solution? Ensure your hotel’s signal and routers are of the highest quality. Perform a speed test on your systems to make sure they’re running as effectively as possible. If there’s an issue with either your signal or your router, you’ll need to get it fixed as soon as possible.
Digital hotel keys
For as long as most can remember, card keys been the standard operating procedure in most hotels. Most travelers would be hard pressed to remember the last time they entered a hotel room with a traditional key.
The next step in the evolution of the hotel room key is the smartphone application. Some hotels now offer the ability to enter your room via an app on your smartphone through what’s called a “digital key.” These work through a simple process:
- First, the guests download the sponsored app of whichever hotel they happen to be staying at that supports this program
- Prior to check-in, the guest receives a notification that the “key” has been activated
- Once the guest arrives in the room they’re able to open their door by clicking through on the app
While this option provides a convenient experience for guests, the process does introduce questions as well. Cybersecurity is a growing concern as our society becomes more digital, and the hospitality industry isn’t free from those concerns. What if a user’s app is hacked and someone who is not them is able to gain entry? Or what if a user accidentally destroys, disables, or otherwise loses their phone?
Certainly, these types of issues will arise as more and more technology goes digital. But due to the popularity of smartphone apps, it seems unlikely that the mild risks associated with the use of digital keys will stop them from becoming more prevalent.
Your hotel’s website serves as its online business card. Your guests will use it to book a room with you or find other general information on your facility.
More booking is done online than ever, meaning a hotel’s website quality is of the utmost importance. That means a hotel website needs to have several critical components including:
- A full listing of all amenities
- High-resolution images of the building and its amenities
- Information on any restaurants or bars within the premises
- Lightning fast load speeds to ensure you don’t use anyone waiting on the page to load
- The ability for potential guests to book a room with as few clicks as possible
Building and maintaining a high-quality website for a hotel isn’t a luxury anymore, it’s now a necessity.
Social media presence as a marketing tool
Like your website, your hotel’s social media presence can also play an incredibly important role in how you’re perceived in your community and by travelers searching for you online.
Social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and even LinkedIn provide you with the opportunity to showcase your hotel’s perks. It shows potential guests the value of staying with you. Each network is different, so a hotel using each different channel to promote themselves would have different goals for each one. Some potential examples of how a hotel might use each would include:
- Instagram is a visual app, so it would make sense to post stunning images of your hotel with location-based hashtags to show off your facilities. You can use those same location-based hashtags to display photos of attractions from the city your hotel is in, using every advantage available to you to draw guests.
- Facebook is favored by older users more recently. Using Facebook ads to highlight your hotel would be a good way to target this demographic.
- LinkedIn caters towards busy professionals, so this would be a good platform to highlight your hotel’s strength as a location for business travelers.
Tapping into these social networks is also a way to showcase your hotel as a staple of your community. When guests are traveling to a specific location, they want to stay somewhere that feels authentic and interwoven into the area’s fabric. Social networks are great for this – hotels can make their home city a part of their online branding strategy by promoting location-based content on their channels.
Social media use has increased exponentially in the last decade and only looks to continue growing in the coming years. It isn’t just smart business to promote your hotel using social media, it’s essential to your survival.
WiFi is now a commonly accepted feature at most hotels, to the point where hotels that do not offer it are judged fairly harshly. Guests use WiFi for business as well as entertainment, and it’s come to be expected. Any hotel without it – or with a faulty WiFi connection – may draw less than favorable reviews online.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning
Two other emerging technologies sure to impact the hospitality space are the concepts of artificial intelligence and machine learning. There’s hardly an industry or sector not touched by either of these two processes.
Artificial intelligence is the ability for a computer program to display intelligence or the ability to think independent of its programming. Machine learning is when a computer program is able to take its initial programming and teach itself without further human aid.
There are multiple ways in which both processes can add to the hospitality experience, including:
- Chatbots. A chatbot is an automated response program programmed to interact with your website users via text-based communication. Chatbots help hotels answer customer service inquiries quickly and efficiently. They can be programmed to answer commonly asked questions as well as to direct users to the appropriate department when they’re unable to answer a question. Chatbots can be programmed to sound lifelike as well, referring to users by their first name and using pleasantries. This helps hotels save money and resources on customer service staff, allowing their team to focus on maintaining hotel operations.
- Online booking. Whether it’s the hotel’s website or sites dedicated specifically to helping guests find the best deals, AI and machine learning help play a role in the booking process as well. Sites can use a guest’s search engine history to suggest appropriate hotels or locations in which to stay.
- Dining and entertainment suggestions. These sites can also use the guest’s search history to suggest dining and entertainment options in the area, as well as flight and rental car information.
Sites like Google, Yelp, and TripAdvisor have revolutionized the ability of guests to gain more information on hotels. So many sites exist with the sole focus of giving travelers data points on the hotels for which they’re searching. These online reviews can make or break a hotel, driving guests either towards or away from the facility.
Online reviews present both positive and negative aspects of the hospitality industry.
On the positive side, they keep hotels honest. They put pressure on hotels to offer high levels of both quality and service to earn solid reviews. They also offer a unique opportunity to collect guest feedback that can help the hotel improve its service.
On the negative side, they make it harder for hotels to manage their reputation. Unhappy guests – who may have less than legitimate complaints – can take to online forums to exaggerate claims of bad service without giving the hotel much recourse.
That’s why it’s important for hotels to monitor and manage their online reputations carefully. Setting up Google Alerts and regularly monitoring their feedback on the most popular sites can help hotels respond quickly and adjust to negative reviews.
While many of these technologies represent drastic disruptors for the hospitality industry, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It just means hotels can evolve and adapt to better serve their guests.
The bottom line? Hotels that lean into adopting – and thriving with – these types of technologies are more likely to create a superior user experience, attracting more satisfied customers.
Interested in finding out how you can improve your digital posture to help your business grow? Contact us today!