With a foot on the door of 2018, we are all set to bid 2017 a goodbye. A lot has happened in the last 12 months, but the one thing that was indispensable enough is – penetration of technology. There wasn’t an industry that was left untouched by the impact of Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, Virtual Reality, and various other trending technologies. One of such industries with a noticeable impact is hospitality. Although most in the hospitality industry overlook technology as a gimmick that helps them showcase their fancy side and give their customers a reason to remember them, the reality is that technology has helped them augment customer service and smoothen operations, immensely benefitting their business.
Several big hotels and restaurants are aggressively using technology for immediate and personal engagement to have a lasting impact on their guests, while the patrons are using technology diligently to get the best deals possible in order to create a memorable experience. Guests are reserving their tables at fancy restaurants and booking rooms in swanky hotels with their smartphones. Business owners save their information and later utilize it to attract guests with customized offers and deals. In short, both customers and businesses are relying on technology for maximum benefit.
Data – a Valuable Asset
In this tech-driven era, data is the biggest asset. Many in the hospitality business are beginning to understanding this, proven by a study*, which highlights that nearly 54 percent businesses in the hospitality industry are planning to increase their investment on technology in the following years. Some tech areas that will witness an increase in spending include data accessibility, mobile engagement, payment security, guest room tech, and bandwidth. Out of these mobile engagement solutions will dominate with mobile keys, mobile payments, and location-based technology being some of the prominent rollouts.
Moving forward, we highlight some technology trends shaping the hospitality industry today.
Big Data and Machine Learning
The hospitality industry is a data rich industry with large amount of data generated every day, thanks to customers browsing travel and hotel websites. It is, therefore, essential for hospitality businesses to invest in cloud and cluster computing along with revenue management systems (RMS) leveraging Machine Learning and Big Data to collect the data and convert it into understandable format. It will not only help businesses determine the path customers took to make reservations but also enable them to offer the best possible deals in real-time.
Internet of Things (IoT)
IoT is one of the coolest technologies on the horizon. Imagine all your interconnected gadgets in your hotel room, enabling you to switch on the TV, dim the light, and control the fan and AC, all with a single click while snuggling in bed. A refreshing and comfortable stay, isn’t it? What’s even more surprising is that, IoT is still expanding and will surely enhance guest experience and operational efficiency in the coming future. We saw a glimpse of it at this year’s CES, where engineers showcased a sensor that measures UV risks at a specific location and advises when to reapply sun-screen. Can you believe that hotels can embed this sensor into a hotel pool chair, helping users enjoy a perfect sunbath?
AI is probably the technology that has made the biggest strides in the hospitality sector, predominantly due to chatbots. Fueled by AI, chatbots are a viable customer service channel, enabling customers to communicate and place their requests and get answers to questions. Some chatbots are so good that they easily recognize the content and context of customers’ requests and questions. Add to that the near perfect CX of these chatbots that customers cannot even differentiate if they are communicating with a human or computer.
Hotels, travel organizations, and airlines are, thus, delivering a delightfully interactive UI to their customers and building loyalty and competitive advantage. Natural Language Interaction, an AI-based voice search UI is a cutting-edge technology altering the way travelers engage with technology. Bots with natural language capabilities create unique experiences with fewer web page clicks, thereby augmenting the capabilities of airlines, hotels, travel operators, and car rental companies in serving their customers. Also, these bots can work 24X7 and handle millions of requests, improving the productivity of hospitality industry on the whole. While handling customer requests, the bots gather valuable data about their individual preferences, enabling tour operators, hotels, and other businesses offer tailor made experiences for the customer.
Virtual Reality (VR)
VR, an immersive technology that has already cast a spell on the gamers, is slowly creating ripples in the hospitality industry too. A VR headset program offers guests a “virtual” walk through luxury suits and exotic locations to explore the amenities and hot spots, enabling them to make an informed decision on the holiday destination and hotel, from the comfort of their home.
Last few Words
The advancement of technology has completely changed the demographics of the hospitality industry. It is influencing the expectations of customers and transforming how hospitality conducts its business. Also, customer’s, today, only expect the best, and businesses have no option but to deliver on those expectations, especially with increasing competition every passing day. Having interconnected devices and chatbots can help cater to basic customer needs and staffing requirements of businesses. That said, with technology advancing at a rapid pace, we might see some really interesting and immersive gigs influencing the hospitality industry.
* HT’s 2017 Lodging Technology Study