The Future is Here: The Next Innovations in Hospitality
In the last 10-15 years, digital technology has changed the face of business – Facebook, Twitter and smartphones are everywhere and, of course, the Internet itself is absolutely ubiquitous. In terms of the hospitality sector then, you won’t be surprised to learn the latest – and next – innovations are all digitally-driven; what’s important is to appreciate and accept the fact they’ll be upon us far sooner than we may expect. Digital innovation is accelerating faster and faster – the trick is to embrace it and reap the rewards…
Alternative lodging/ transport
There’s no doubt the highly successful alternative models for lodging and transport that are, respectively, Airbnb and Uber have shaken up the hospitality sector. And neither are going away any time soon – indeed, while the former may have stolen market share from traditional hotels, it seems its future lies in evolving into a kind of online travel agency. Fundamentally, though, business is about competition and evolution, so all companies in hospitality should look to these upstarts as inspiration – they’re both brilliant examples of how embracing digital technology can successfully streamline the booking and purchasing process. There are lessons to be learned there for all hotels.
Talking of harnessing the possibilities offered by digital technology for booking and purchasing, the likes of loyalty pricing and online marketing (especially via search engine optimisation – SEO – and social media publicity) are combining into an ever more leverageable and lucrative method of bypassing the high commissions of online travel agencies (OTAs) and getting travellers to book directly with hotels themselves. For a long time, OTAs have had the booking process balanced in their favour, but now the scales are tipping – and by completing the process with an effective, user-friendly hotel website booking engine, individual hotels are fighting back and maximising booking revenues.
Yes, it’s an innovation that’s been around for a while now, but as the technology behind it is evolving, so the self-check-in process itself is becoming refined. While the vast majority of people who stay at hotels today have smartphones with them (yes, even if they’re getting away from it all on holiday!), thus can self-check-in that way, the likelihood is that in the near future tablet-based kiosks or ‘pods’ will replace formal front desks for check-in purposes. Moreover, using your smartphone to choose, book, check-in, unlock and lock your hotel room and control functionality in the room will sooner rather than later be a reality in many hotels throughout the world.
Finally, as noted above, the amenities of hotel rooms are shifting ever more to becoming digital technology (‘functionality’) than featuring individual items. Now, that’s not to suggest that properties are going to stop offering an iron, tea and coffee-making facilities and, of course, a shower, but it’s quite possible that in many hotels a physical telephone in every room will be a thing of the past. Instead, the aforementioned functionality will enable you to use your smartphone, yes, smartly in its place.
With us already, though, are regular in-room entertainment updates. Guests increasingly expect to be able to access the same ‘TV’ options they can at home (nowadays that means getting into their Netflix account, for instance), while a present-day constant in a good number of hotel rooms is a tablet. Why? Because it enables a guest’s preferences, such as custom lighting, to be arranged before they check-in. Like it or not then, when it comes to digital innovations, you can’t fight the future – in fact, the future’s already here.