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Giving Your Guests the Technology They Want

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June 18, 2018
Technology | Trends
Michael Jenkins

While hospitality technology experimentation has been exciting to watch, 2018 could be the year guests and hotel staff begin to see some of these technologies come to life. Are there incentives and ROI for owners to deploy technology as a platform rather than one-off experiments? Research shows guests are eager for a personalized experience, but, with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and other privacy concerns on the horizon, how do we help guide the technology around the “cool vs. creepy” obstacle course?  
Technology companies providing solutions across the hospitality industry are offering solutions within all segments from luxury to budget and realize the technology needs differ greatly. On the budget end, technology may be most useful aiding low staffing environments to keep guest satisfaction at its highest, while in luxury brands, technology is used to enhance a human interaction, not replace it.
Network Needs
The heart of all new guest- and staff-facing technology trends relies on a highly secure and flexible network supplying bandwidth and Wi-Fi infrastructure to the hotel. Hotel owners should look for a network function virtualization platform, giving them flexibility to adapt their networking infrastructure (things like routing and firewalls) in near-real time. This also allows properties to increase or decrease bandwidth and network elements quickly and easily. With 5G on the horizon, hotel owners should consider in-building requirements, such as DAS, and guest connectivity expectations.
The Interconnected Room
Internet of Things, or IoT, is about connecting things and the analytics and data we can derive from those connections. To realize full site and guest capabilities, as well as cost savings for hotel owners, IoT solutions need to interact with an overall platform. We’re seeing much more emphasis on this platform than on specific end-points for the connected room experience. A hotel’s quality of connective technology will begin to become an industry standard and will hinge on the overall health of the WAN/LAN environment to facilitate this connectivity. Infrastructure is fundamental.
The Lobby Experience
Across the industry, the lobby is transforming into a social gathering spot within brand demographic focus and a means to increase food and beverage sales for the full-service brands. Some tools have crossed over from other industries, including interactive digital signage and opportunities for gamification, bringing fun and engaging experiences to guests. Being able to sense the demographics within the lobby and adjust settings on the fly can greatly enhance the guest experience.
The Local Experience
Using data analytics to forecast and present intriguing opportunities to your guests is needed to remain competitive. AI (artificial intelligence) and machine learning are becoming more than a sci-fi plot, if used wisely. Guests want more out of their travel and want to explore their local surroundings on each trip, leisure or business. With travelers leaving digital footprints at every touchpoint along a connected journey, harnessing this anonymous and aggregated statistical information in a highly secure environment to drive effective marketing campaigns is becoming a critical data source for analysis.
The Mobile Experience
The hotel mobile app is undergoing a personality change, from a booking engine occasionally used by the seasoned road-warriors, to a digital room key and a remote control for your connected guest journey while in and around the property. Guest-staff communication options will become more prevalent within the branded apps for time sensitive services such as housekeeping 
requests and concierge questions. But the biggest evolution is toward personalization. The ability to quickly personalize a guest’s experience will improve overall customer satisfaction. If the guest allows an app to store previous preferences, personalized service becomes a major benefit and incentive for return visits. The opportunity for the bell man through the concierge to greet guests by their name, take luggage up to their room when the car arrives and serve up a curated wine list are opportunities to create a high-touch experience, engender loyalty and increase average guest folio spend.
In-room (and out of room) Entertainment
It’s well-known that the way guests are consuming entertainment has greatly shifted over the past few years to an on-demand and streaming experience. Consumers want access to their desired content anytime, anywhere and on any device. Some hotel owners are wondering if they should forgo linear video service. Next generation video solutions combine the consumer expectations with a robust and flexible hotel television experience. There are options that offer access to 4K sports, thousands of on-demand titles, premium networks and popular shows through the in-room television and on guests’ personal mobile devices. Hotels can also interact with the content guests are bringing with them with simple-to-setup casting solutions. Creating a more interactive environment on the in-room television also has some great possibilities in personalization and upselling experiences based on the guests’ desires.
Voice Technology
Hotels have been experimenting with in-room, voice-controlled intelligent personal assistants for the last few years, using consumer grade devices with mixed results. As guests grow more accustomed to using smart speakers at home, it’s only natural they will want them in the hotel room as a remote control for the entire in-room experience from ordering room service to dimming the lights. New hotel properties are using these devices to personalize guest experiences even further, keeping guest privacy concerns top of mind. There are also more new build hotels opting to move their basic needs for a PBX away from the property and into the cloud where possible. There may be an intersection on the horizon combining both into an interactive voice concierge.
2018 and Beyond
So, is this the year?  Possibly…but more likely this is the year experiments begin to meet the guest with deeper trials in hospitality.  The baseline of hotel connectivity will be ramping up and further consideration of guest privacy will increase in 2018. Trialing guest personalization to keep guest privacy at the forefront is critical. Listening to guest feedback about new technology will be essential.

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