Eager to stay ahead of those trends which will define the coming years (and big players) in the hospitality industry, hoteliers from around the world will find themselves at the upcoming HITEC conference from June 18th to 21st. HITEC Houston is the world's largest hospitality technology show that brings the most exciting technology and trends from around the world to one place. In anticipation of this year's showcase, we've rounded up a list of what to expect at HITEC 2018.
Gone are the days of regular hotel rooms — 'smart' rooms are positioned to surely take over the hospitality space in the coming years. Using computer systems that link guests' preferences to the hotel room's appliances, smart rooms can tune up a host of specific preferences the minute a guest checks in. This includes temperature, lights, favorite TV channels and streaming services, mini bar selection, room service orders and so much more.
Voice Integration has also become one of the most buzzed about technology advancements recently embraced by the hospitality industry. Following the widespread popularity of voice-powered assistants, Amazon Echo and Echo Dot devices are being placed in various U.S. hotel rooms so that guests can control the TV, lower the blinds, adjust the room temperature, and make front-desk requests without using a remote.
In fact, since January, properties franchised or belonging to nearly all of the major U.S. flagship brands have tested the Echo Dots. Further, 400,000 guests have been exposed to Alexa-powered rooms managed by Volara, a voice-technology company for hospitality companies, since the beginning of the year. This allows guests to get immediate answers to their inquiries, while ensuring hotel staff spends less time stuck on the phone.
The emergence of voice-powered tech extends beyond hotel rooms, into the travel planning process as more hotel and travel websites are becoming optimized for voice search. This movement entails a combination of traditional SEO strategies and the study of patterns inherent in voice search. Currently, this function is limited to destination-specific inquiries (such as, "What is the best hotel in ______?") versus booking confirmations, but is still an exciting trend to watch.
However, while we continue to embrace this evolving trend of hyper-personalization, it's also imperative that hoteliers remain mindful of data privacy requirements. With the recent implementation of GDPR to regulate and strengthen data protection for individuals within the European Union, hotels are only able to collect data for specific and legitimate purposes. Further, data cannot be captured without specific, documented consent. But with an appropriate balance between privacy measures and personalization established, new technologies, including smart rooms, may offer an interesting prospect for hoteliers and guests alike.
Marriott has recently started experimenting with the utilization of the Internet of Things (IoT) to transform their guests' experience with technology that not only predicts their needs, but personalizes the entire experience. This movement focuses largely on the utilization of voice-activated technology, as mentioned above.
Together with Samsung and Legrand, Marriott has built two different prototype rooms, each programmed with different scenarios for three different types of travelers: a yoga-minded meeting planner; a frequent road warrior; and a family of four on vacation. After guests opt-in to providing their preferences and creating a profile, those profiles are memorized and respective scenes are set for them. This extends to smart mirrors, smart art frames, smart showers and faucets, as well as voice-activated control (and saved preferences) for lighting, temperature, humidity, curtain, artwork etc.. Further, sensor presence technology will know when a guest gets out of bed at night, and will automatically turn on red night-lights that guide the path to the bathroom.
AI and Machine Learning technology advancements boast the potential to truly transform the travel experience throughout the booking process and on-property. AI and machine learning will extend to the utilization of concierge robots, digital assistance, voice-activated services, travel experience enhancers, data processing and booking chatbots, and more.
Not only will AI robots lessen the transactional load placed on hotel support staff, but they will also help the hotel's guest service model to become more intelligent, responsive and personalized to each guest. With the power of AI, hotels can pro-actively learn about their guests using advanced data analytics that provide an intelligent overview of customer purchases, travel choices, journey patterns and itinerary, location preferences and payment methods etc. AI-driven chatbots can also provide guests critical, personalized information and suggestions regarding booking inquiries, trip scheduling, reservations, itineraries, local attractions and restaurants, and so much more.
The modern guest not only expects a personalized experience, they want to be in control of their travel experience every step of the way. With the undeniable rise in technology advancements, guests are now provided the opportunity to plan and navigate their travel experience at every touchpoint. In response to this trend, hotels are beginning to leverage their data to gain insights that tailor the online booking process, pre-stay marketing, request management, guest communications and loyalty programs. This also entails the utilization of technology solutions to track the inner workings of the rooms department, including check-in statistics, guest fulfillment, and upgrades and downgrades. Ultimately, this empowers guests to purchase their hotel rooms the way they think of them – as a set of attributes. Guests get more of what they want (more choices and the right guest room), and you get happier guests and higher revenues. Not only does this empower guest to choose their preferred experience model, but it frees up staff to engage with guests in a more holistic, personalized manner.
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Pierre Boettner spent his entire life between hotel operations and hospitality technology. In 1993 he pioneered an industry-first forecasting and pricing tool for Mövenpick Hotels and was later involved in many system innovations, helping hoteliers improve their distribution capabilities. Recognizing the increasing difficulty of managing rooms operations, he and long-time colleague Denis Bajet founded hospitalityPulse in 2013. This company has dedicated itself to solving the most complex operations tasks still requiring daily human intervention. Pierre Boettner is a graduate of the esteemed Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne.