The rise of new technologies within hotels is about more than just reducing the risk of lost room keys: new innovations are all about providing better service and keeping operations running smoothly.
In March Starwood Hotels launched mobile keyless entry at 10 properties in its Aloft chain, allowing guests in those Florida hotels to get into their rooms using a cell phone.
That’s just the beginning. The hospitality industry is aggressively testing new technology concepts as hotel owners and operators battle to build brand loyalty.
Elsewhere, the Marriott Hotels are offering detox salads through vending machines; hotel guests are checking in with WhatsApp; robots are delivering fresh towels and more hotels are using new and improved software designed to forecast demand and supply management.
“Almost 100 percent of guests travel with at least one mobile device and of those 45 percent travel with two devices and 40 percent travel with three or more. Guests carrying their own devices have implications for more than just bandwidth; guest devices are home to a lot of rich content, namely entertainment such as movies, music and games,” says Ross Beardsell, Senior Vice President for Strategic Advisory at JLL’s Hotels & Hospitality Group, who provides strategic advice and management for hotel owners and operators.
Adapting to meet guest requirements
As those numbers increase and more millennials become business travelers, hoteliers must adapt to keep customers coming back.
“Marketing strategies continue to focus on guest preferences, mobile booking engines, gaining loyalty and increasing a guest’s ancillary spend,” explains Andrea Grigg, an Executive Vice President with JLL’s Hotels and Hospitality Group.
In particular, Grigg is keeping her eye on the ways room service evolves. “Some brands are getting quite creative by offering a more casual room service experience to their guests — and a more profitable concept to their operating models,” she says.
As an example, last year in Seattle Hotel Max partnered with a popular restaurant, Miller’s Guild. Instead of the traditional linen swathed cart, guests get their room-service in custom-stamped brown paper bags with butcher’s twine, compostable containers and personalized labels and tags, complete with the name of the cook who prepared the meal.
Embracing technology innovations
As a frequent hotel guest, Grigg sees a lot of the new offerings first-hand. “My favorite trend is in the luxury hotel apps space,” she says. “These various mobile apps that allow guests to text hotel employees are taking personalized service to the next level.”
Intelity’s ICE application, available at more than 500 hotels, lets guests submit requests including room service, wake-up calls and housekeeping directly to the relevant hotel staff. More than 85 percent of hotel guests have used the system during their stay.
Technology can also help hotels to manage their staff and their day-to-day operations more effectively.
Beardsell says: “If hotels get their IT management system right they can forecast more effectively, re-design jobs within the industry, be more efficient with their staff scheduling, while also allowing more time for employee needs and defining career aspirations.”
And happier staff, satisfied guests and improved operations are certainly good news for hotels’ bottom line – and future development. “Increased value for guests will ultimately result in higher yield for hotels meaning an improved return on investment, which will benefit not only hotel owners, but the guests too, as they will be rewarded with improved services,” Beardsell concludes.