How new interactive technologies are reshaping the guest experience

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31/01/2018 - Hospitality

Increased competition and rising guest expectations is encouraging savvy hotel operators to enhance their offerings by providing innovative personalised services.

Leveraging the latest technological innovations to develop these services is a key trend across the industry. As one of Dubai’s leading hotel asset management groups, TFGAM regularly reviews the latest innovations being launched on the market to assess their suitability for our clients’ operations.

Most innovations are designed to create greater operational efficiencies and/or increase revenues. However, solutions focused towards enhancing the guest experience require further consideration.

The relative impact of certain technologies in this area will largely depend on the kind of hotel operation being considered.

Before investing in any specific solution, the hotel owner should request their asset manager thoroughly evaluate its potential.

In the course of our own research, we have identified specific technologies that will help reshape the guest experience. 

These tools analyse and record guest preferences before, during and/or after their stay. Some of this technology is already being implemented or developed by a select number of international hotel operators and will have a major impact on broader industry trends.

Improving the experience for guests even before they arrive at the hotel is a key priority for operators. Smartphones have become a vital tool from which hotels can interact with potential and existing guests. Some operators now employ technology that enables loyalty club members to use their smartphones to check-in or to access their room. Loyalty members can also record room preferences, and select rooms by viewing them virtually prior to booking.

Guests are also able to use their phone to order room service, ask for turndown service, claim amenities, retrieve their laundry, view their bill or review a hotel’s facilities.

The Internet of Things (IoT) will enable a whole new era of personalisation. Smartphones will interact with other devices in a guestroom reacting to customer requests and recording preferences for the future. Customers will have the ability to control lighting, HVAC, entertainment and in-room media devices.

As guests record their preferences, hotel operators will use this data to anticipate their expectations during all future stays. Voice activation will push the boundaries further enabling in-room technologies to interact with hotel guests directly and understand their specific needs.

Virtual/augmented (VR) reality is another tool hotel operators can use to improve the guest experience. The technology enables guests to virtually view a room before they make a booking. As VR headsets become mainstream devices these types of interactive tours will become a unique selling point and a great marketing tool for hotel operators.

In the long-term, Artificial Intelligence (AI) will become a major industry disruptor. At present, the technology is being used by a few international chains, in the form of AI concierges. These AI concierges have generated significant exposure for these brands, and being among the first to market will provide a major competitive advantage in the long-term.

Chatbots, an online version of the AI concierge, provide fast, cost-effective and human-like customer services. Chatbots or AI concierges will constantly hone their skills as they accrue customer data, ensuring future interactions are better tailored and more efficient. 

The biggest challenge facing operators is the creation of a reliable CRM that can gather and archive this data.

At TFGAM we recommend clients take their time before investing in any specific technology. It is important to match the needs of the hotel with the services provided by the technology. The hotel asset manager (HAM) has a key role to play in this respect.

In some cases, a hotel’s existing infrastructure may be inadequate to support these technologies. It is important the HAM analyses this before any implementation. Set-up costs must also be considered when considering potential ROI.

Additionally, the cost of training staff to use the technology is important when calculating its feasibility. If the solution is not user friendly or is complex it will negatively impact operations.

A detailed marketing/sales plan is also necessary before moving forward. The HAM must ensure the technology ultimately benefits the bottom line.

We always recommend clients trial new technology to allow for a margin of error and avoid having to incur unnecessary costs in the long-term if the technology fails to deliver on its promise. At TFG Asset Management, we always manage this process on behalf of our owners to ensure the technology meets their specific needs and provides tangible long-term benefits.