Included among the key findings:
- A combined 60 percent of respondents are “more likely” to choose a hotel that allows guests to check in and open doors with a smartphone than a hotel that doesn’t.
- A combined 37 percent of respondents are at least “moderately likely” to choose a hotel with lobby technology, such as touchscreens and check-in kiosks, over one without.
We interviewed Taylor Short, Software Advice market research associate, to get his viewpoint on the research and the current state of hospitality technology.
What led your company to conduct research on guest preferences for technology use in hotels?
We frequently conduct research in the hotel management software and technology industry to better understand market and buyer trends. We’ve noticed statistics showing that hospitality brands plan to increase technology spending, but beyond that, we know that millennials are the top travel segment hotels want to reach today, and they’re the most tech-savvy group yet. Overall, hotels are experimenting with various technologies, like robots and virtual reality, to see what consumers respond positively to and what will set them apart from their competitors. So we wanted to gauge the interest and potential impact of a handful of the most current technologies in hotels.
How do you think hotels can find the balance between digital and human touch for guests?
Hotels can use technology in many ways to actually improve the human touch aspect for guests, such as facial recognition technology prompting a general manager to greet someone by name as they enter the lobby. This improves the guest experience, but the implementation of these things should be transparent to customers, and they should be given the option to opt-out if desired. This way, the guests who appreciate that sort of experience can have it, and those who don’t know the hotel respects their preferences and privacy.
Why do you believe a majority of participants in your research preferred smartphone-enabled hotels?
I think our results for smartphone-enabled hotels speaks to the saturation of smartphones in the consumer market. More than half of Americans have a smartphone and use it during travel. Hotels know this and want guests to use their phone during their stay as much as possible. This can benefit hotels in several ways, such as increasing revenue through notifications pushed to a customer’s phone or by guests posting about the brand on social media.
Do you think wearables, such as smartwatches, can truly be successful tools for guest engagement and satisfaction at hotels or is that still a long way off?
Based on their relatively basic functionality, I don’t see smartwatch implementation being a big draw for hotels, hotel guests or even most consumers. Once wearables become more useful and more widespread, we should see more interest from companies.
What’s your prediction for the next big technology trend in hospitality? Where should hotels be looking to invest right now?
While it’s the most controversial, facial recognition should be popping up in more properties within the next couple of years. How exactly it will be used remains to be seen, but it has the most potential to increase personalization for guests.
What are your thoughts on the recent use of automated intelligence (robots) in hotels? Is that the future for the industry?
It sure looks like something from the future, and it seems to be testing well for Starwood. However, it’s still quite an investment, and for many types of hospitality companies, it seems unfeasible at this point, either because of the cost or because the property itself isn’t conducive for a rolling bot. The idea of automated hotel service is certainly desired by some portion of travelers, as we’ve seen in examples of fully automated hotels. But whether this will take the form of a robot or something else is yet to be seen.