There’s a trend I’m seeing at hotels that you may have noticed too. Not surprisingly, it’s in the realm of technology, which is permeating everything we do, everywhere we go. Remember when WiFi came out and you had to go down to the lobby and sit beside a certain window in a certain spot to get your email? Now virtually every hotel room is equipped with Wifi, and most often it’s free (or included in an overall room charge).
Hotel technology has reached a new level, as the need for hotels to connect with consumers through all phases of their journey grows. Most hotels now have docking stations for device hookups, and many have tablets in the room for ordering services. At the new Crawford hotel in Denver’s Union Station an iPad mini sits on the nightstand for guests to make breakfast reservations, order a complimentary car and other concierge requests using the Crawford Hotel app. And when you check into Halcyon Hotel in Denver’s tony Cherry Creek neighborhood, a greeter checks you in on a tablet at the front door, and you’re good to go. No front desk, no waiting in lines, no hassle.
A lodging technology study by Hospitality Technology shows that more than half (54 percent) of hotels are spending more than ever on technology. Eager to drive loyalty, they want to know what customers want, provide personalized service, capture more direct reservations and ultimately drive revenue per available room.
Trends of Hotel Technology
Robotics and artificial intelligence – When guests check into a Hilton property, they might find Connie, a pint-size IBM robot concierge who can interact with them and answer questions. The more people interact with Connie (named for Hilton’s founder Conrad Hilton), the more it learns, adapts and improves its recommendations. Currently, the robot is doing concierge duties at the Hilton McLean in McLean, Virginia.
Internet of Things (IoT) – This technology connects any device that has an on and off switch to the Internet. Applied to a hotel room, things like cellphones can notify the coffee maker and TV to turn on at 7 a.m. and lamps to turn off at 10 p.m. Disney is already using this concept in some of its hotel rooms.
Virtual Travel – Marriott is testing “VRoom Service,” a service that allows guests to order virtual reality experiences to their rooms that they access through a headset and headphones. The hotel also launched VR Postcards, intimate and immersive journeys of a real traveler guests can follow in their rooms.
Mobile key – In 2014, Starwood pioneered SPG Keyless Entry, the mobile technology that lets you use your smartphone to open your hotel door. Now, Hilton and Marriott have adopted the application in some hotels and Hyatt and InterContinental Hotels Group are testing it.
Mobile payment – Marriott International, Inc. was the first global hospitality company to offer Apple Pay. Omni Hotels, who uses Google Wallet for its loyalty program, plans to expand it to payment ability.
Mobile analytics – Hotel operators are using data collected from mobile devices for ideas on how to keep customers coming back. In addition, data trails give clues on how the industry can improve guest experiences, which results in a win-win for travelers.
Energy Conservation – Intelligent technologies that can reduce energy consumption is an area in which hotels are investing big time.
The more technology a hotel has, the more it is vulnerable to hackers. So hotels are also investing in programs to counter hacking and insure guest privacy.
If you know of any other ways hotels are investing in technology, please shoot me an email at [email protected].
Claudia Carbone is an award-winning journalist based in Denver, Colorado. See where she’s slept lately in Sleepin Around, a hotel and travel blog.