6 ways in which technology is transforming the hospitality sector
Gone are the days of Wi-Fi troubles and limited menus at your favourite budget chain hotels. These companies are beginning to bolster their guest experience with technology like IoT, and security measures like smart door locks.
To say that technology has fundamentally transformed the way we live would probably be the most hackneyed statement to make, especially in a publication like this. We don’t order food over a phone call now; we order it online. We don’t go stand on the road trying to flag an auto; we simply book a cab on the app. We no longer cajole the box office guy to give us good seats at the movies; we simply select them online. So, of course, technology has disrupted consumer sectors.
But has it disrupted all the sectors? Not really.
Think about your experience at hotels. What aspects of it have been transformed by technology over the last decade or more? Sure, you book them online now, as opposed to earlier, when you used to reach your destination and then make a booking. But you still walk up to the front desk to check-in and enter copious details in forms or registers. You take whatever room is given to you, mostly. You have to call to get Wi-Fi details. You have to call to get a coffee. You have to call to arrange a taxi or a sightseeing tour. Even in the way hotels manage their own operations, there is abysmal use of technology, with most processes still being manual. We are yet to see technology truly transform the front-end and back-end of hotel operations.
This is set to change soon though. Like most other sectors, the advent of new-age, technology-led full-stack startups will usher in sweeping changes in the hospitality space too. What’ll be even more interesting is the development of affordable applications that make this technology accessible at scale, rather than it being the prerogative of luxury hotels only. Here are six examples amongst the several applications of technology in hospitality that will fundamentally alter how hotels serve their guests:
- Don’t check-in/check-out. Zip-in/zip-out.
- Haven’t you wondered why you can’t do a remote check-in at hotels when you can do a web check-in for flights? Imagine if you could pre-select your room as per your preference, check-in yourself in advance, complete a geo-tagged authentication once on site, pick up a key from a key dispenser, and just walk straight to your room without waiting at the lobby. New hospitality technology is making this possible. Soon keys might become history altogether with the introduction of smart door locks that allow you to directly head to your pre-selected room and unlock the door with your smartphone. Budget hotel chain Treebo is working on the prototype of a check-in kiosk and an economical ‘connected’ door lock that would transform how people start their hotel stay. And checking out of hotels would be an equally quick, touchless exercise - similar to how you walk out of a cab letting your wallet pay for your ride.
- The hotel, and everything else, under your thumb.
- All things that you currently need to call the front desk for once you are at the hotel will soon move under your thumb on the hotel app. Calling to ask for Wi-Fi password will get replaced by Ola-like auto-connect. Spending 15 minutes trying to understand menu options and placing room service order will get replaced by ordering seamlessly from scores of neighbouring restaurants through integration with foodtech platforms like Swiggy and Zomato. The charges would go straight to your hotel bill. Planning one's local travel and sightseeing will also get a makeover, with the tourist no longer being dependent on the limited knowledge of the front desk. Trip-planning and cab-booking sections will happen out of the hotel chain's app.
- Behind every happy customer is a tech-enabled service professionalTech-enablement of the hotel staff has been as conspicuous by its absence as tech-empowerment of the customer. Reality is that technology cannot meaningfully enhance guest experience when applied on the guest-side alone without the supporting foundation on the operations side. Mobile app to intelligently audit properties, convert every guest interaction point into data, analyse and resolve quality issues promptly, train staff members, manage their incentives, and a whole host of other tasks will make quality control that much easier and more effective in a budget environment. Similarly, front desk managers will use tech to keep track of special requests of guests, create new bookings, do much faster check-ins and check-outs among other things. Finally, smart use of SMS and IVR as a platform allows integration of even the housekeeping staff, who may not use smartphones, into the tech-led service architecture where they get alerts, service requests, training tips, and assessments on these platforms.
- Your preferences catered to. Across time. Across space
- Imagine if your next hotel experience is an extension of your last stay in some other city. What if a hotel can understand your likes and dislikes and personalise your stay as per your preferences? For example, the moment you switch on the TV, instead of showing the same boring list of channels, what if the hotel was able to let you watch either your favourite show on Netflix, or YouTube a song, or catch-up on an unfinished movie? In the near future, every aspect of guest experience - right from room selection, room temperature pre-set, and services will be delivered in a personalised manner and truly transform one's hotel experience into a delightful and personalised one.
- Care for this last drop of revenue, Mr Hotelier?
- For the longest time this industry has been following antiquated pricing practice of using rack rates and Best Available Rates (BARs), wherein prices are more or less fixed and vary only twice or thrice a year. This, at a time when in airlines—the neighbouring industry—companies vary prices even while you are booking a flight! Taking a leaf from this, technologically-advanced hotel chains have started using multivariate forecasting models, automated pricing engines, and dynamic inventory control across channels to maximise revenue realisation from the perishable room inventory. Treebo has seen a 15-20 percentage point improvement in occupancies compared to market because of this approach.
- Connected places. Connected people. Connected things. If you are running a large network of hotels, you are probably in for a nightmare when monitoring the health of assets that go into this network. Whether it’s the televisions, the air-conditioners, the WiFi network, or even the electricity connection - all need to be actively monitored and controlled. This is where Internet of Things (IoT) technology comes into play. Sensors placed on each of these devices send out regular information about the device as well as receive information and adjust the behaviour of the device or appliance accordingly. This technology can be used to monitor and figure out which properties face Internet connectivity or bandwidth issues, enabling the company to take corrective action before it interferes with guest experience. In the near future, the tech-savvy chains will also be able to use this technology to check fraud by connecting the electricity supply of rooms to the property management system such that no one can switch on the lights in a room unless the room is shown checked in on the system
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)