Why Hotels Are Embracing Smart Technology
There has been a lot of buzz in the hotel industry about adapting age-old hospitality practices to make sure properties appeal to younger generations. With millennials and Gen Z travelers more interested in using technology and automation for various services throughout their travel experiences, many hotels have jumped at the chance to experiment with smart tech.
While the term “smart technology” has been applied so broadly that it has become tough to nail down its definition, it is generally understood as when a device is wirelessly connected to other devices or networks. In the context of a hotel room, this is typically done through a smartphone.
The list of potential uses for mobile phones in hotel rooms is enormous and the number of people who are willing to use this tech while traveling is on the rise. This is causing hotel designers to keep tabs on how the function of the hotel room is changing. Some tech-forward hotels are focused on making various aspects of the room controllable from either the guest’s personal device or a phone or tablet that is provided in-room.
What Do Guests Want Control Of?
Even if their phone can control aspect of the hotel room, from the brightness of the lights to the music played through the TV, it is unlikely that most guests will make use of every feature available to them. A study by YouGov finds that Americans are most willing to use their phones to access hotel and area maps (63%), book a reservation at an on-site restaurant (58%) and book cruises and other activities (48%).
Ranking lower are some features that impact the room itself, marking the room as unoccupied for cleaning and adjusting its temperature. This may be because people commonly use their phones to get directions and book reservations when they are at home, so using them for these reasons when traveling is a logical next step. However, far fewer actually use smart speakers to control the temperature in their own homes and are likely unfamiliar with using their phones to mark the status of their room.
With smart technology being a relatively new addition to hotel rooms around the world, it seems that guests would want to start with the kinds of applications they are used to.
Security Concerns Are Common
One reason why some guests are still hesitant about embracing smart rooms is security. Hospitality Technology reports that 75% are worried about how this technology affects their privacy. However, 44% of these travelers still want to use this technology while traveling, despite their concerns.
A similar trend exists when looking at the use of smart technology at home, showing that consumers are not just concerned about what hotels are doing with the information collected by smart devices and applications, but also the tech itself. However, people who use smart technology like Google Home or Amazon Echo at home are more likely to trust it when traveling.
Of all the areas of smart technology, the one that has brought up the most concern is keyless room entry. While the conventional hotel room key card is vulnerable to digitization because of its environmental impact, 52% of guests are still worried about scanning their way into a room with their phone.
The Ultimate Tool for Personalization
For the past several years, travelers have been craving highly personalized travel experiences, with even minor details of the stay being tailored to the guest’s individual needs. Hotels that embrace smart technology will be able to give more power to their guests, as the more elements of the experience that are controllable from their personal devices, the more power the guest feels.
For chain hotels, the possibilities for personalization are even greater. Hotels that consensually log data on guest preferences about room lighting, temperature, food and drink, and bigger-picture travel goals have an opportunity to set the room just the way the guest likes it by the time they check in. While not every guest will want the hotel to save this information, it shows just how great the potential for personalization is in the modern hotel landscape.
The Impact on the Hotel
With more hotels directing every facet of the travel experience through the guest’s smartphone and other Wi-Fi-enabled devices, hotels need to make sure their bandwidth can keep up. While many guests enjoy a tech-focused stay, slow internet will ruin the experience and likely sour them on the idea of smart hotels.
Keeping the property’s wireless internet fast and reliable is not just essential for hotels that have fully embraced smart technology, as 58% of respondents to a Hotel Internet Services survey say internet quality is highly likely to impact their booking decisions. Many guests expect the internet to be strong enough to stream video and support multiple devices per room, relying on the hotel’s Wi-Fi to support their entertainment preferences.
For these reasons, maintaining a strong wireless network is seen as an investment in guest experience. While doing this and setting up other aspects of smart technology in each guestroom is not cheap, modern guest expectations show that creating a sense of connectivity will be worth the cost going forward.
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