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Published on : Wednesday, July 1, 2015
With research from the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research, Google, other industry bodies, hoteliers and some of its exhibitors, The Hotel Show has identified the following as the top ten technology trends impacting the hospitality industry in 2015:
Millennials are the new power segment – the fastest-growing consumer segment for the hospitality industry, expected to represent 50% of all travelers to the USA by 2025 according to the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research, for example. According to Ali Hashimi, Google’s Head of Tourism & Hotels, Middle East and North Africa, the rising wave of millennial travellers will change the face of travel in MENA and companies that fail to define a strategy based on their key habits will risk getting left behind. He describes them as aged between 18 and 34 and called them “the largest generation with the largest spending power of any generation”. A summary of the key traits of MENA millennials according to Hashimi:
Hashimi refers to an Abu Dhabi tourism campaign where travellers could personalise their ideal holiday as a good example of how brands can increase personalised interactions and strengthen brand loyalty as a result.
“Interaction and emotional experience” are typically described as key personality traits for Millennials and they expect technology for everything – quick check-in, eating, payment, shopping and more. They will quickly engage on social media including Facebook, YouTube (search the infamous ‘United Breaks Guitars’ video) and TripAdvisor to complain. A subset of this market also includes “Foodies” who are looking for high-end dining experiences at reasonable prices.
2. Personalisation vs genuine customer service
The concept of what makes good customer service is changing. The majority of guests now want to be given the ability to be self-sufficient travellers. The rise of the digital traveller includes getting the balance right of managing expectations of personalisation, while enhancing the guest’s need to remain independent with top-quality technology via apps or mobile websites that provide everything they might need without having to trouble themselves to ask for it. For guests that are not tech savvy, service must be top-quality and very genuine. The only way hoteliers will capture the interest of the traveler and ensure repeat custom with or without good technology is through genuine, personalised service. With regards to business travelers for conferences and events in particular, expectations are high for the provision of high-tech equipment, excellent space and support from staff. The winner of the Best Conference/Banquet Facilities at the Middle East Hotel Awards 2015, The Four Seasons Hotel in Riyadh, was successful in achieving all aforementioned factors.
3. Catering for more international visitors
International leisure travel has increased markedly. In the Middle East, there has been an increase in international travelers to Dubai in particular as Dubai International Airport has become the busiest airport in the world seeing 70 million passengers in 2014. Silver sponsors and exhibitors at The Hotel Show Saudi Arabia this year, Samsung Business, have reported an increase in the number of hoteliers incorporating their smart technologies into the service process for the very reason of being able to cater to international guests. Ahmed Skaf, IT Solution Business Manager at Samsung, spoke on Smart Hospitality Trends at the first ever Vision Conference Saudi Arabia 2015. He said: “Visitors to the Middle East are now expecting much more with regards to technology. Not just from the initial booking process, but from what is available inside the hotel.” He continued: “With increases in the number of domestic and international visitors travelling to and within Saudi, we have seen 40% growth in the number of hotels in the Kingdom adopting our smart TVs and other technologies as part of the Samsung Smart Hospitality Solution in the last 3 years. This smart technology, available in over 20 languages, provides a tailored experience suited to the culture and needs of the international visitor and is now a key factor for hotels to consider in order to remain competitive in an increasingly saturated market.”
4. Taking control of personal health and well-being
In the Middle East, the UAE and Dubai in particular, taking charge of personal health and well-being is an increasing trend with the growth of the number of independent, residential and hotel pools, spas and gyms on the increase and expected as a feature. Technologies to monitor and adjust personal health are more available than ever and becoming more sophisticated. Travellers will begin to expect innovative wellness options and technologies from hotels. Growing trends include energising lighting, air purification, yoga spaces, in-room exercise equipment, and vitamin infused shower water, and this is just the start. Healthy food options are one of the easiest ways to cater to this trend and a good example of this comes from Marriott Chicago O’Hare which recently implemented a test pilot in partnership with Farmer’s Fridge, to provide a healthy vending machine. At the suggestion of a guest, soda, candy bars, and ice cream were replaced with a “detox salad” made of kale, quinoa, Greek yogurt, berries and locally sourced honey. However – although the response to the healthy vending machine has been positive, the hotel’s best-selling food item is still the Marriott burger.
5. Easier check-in and room access
More individuals now rely on mobile check-in and digital concierge services. Seamless connectivity across platforms and devices is now expected as the norm. Many hotel groups are launching partnerships with the new Apple Watch to include the option to check-in via their apps on the innovative new digital watch including Accor and Starwood. The smartphone is now essential equipment for almost all hotel employees, making it a potential tool for HR training and other workplace uses. Integrated outlets, USB ports, and wireless technology integration with hotel TV systems are basic. To be able to check-in quickly and easily via an app is surpassed by the most technologically advanced hotel in the world, the Aria Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. Instead of regular room keys or cards, guests are provided with a high-tech card that can detect a guest’s presence near their room and unlock the door before they even reach it. Talk about accessible.
Most hotels must now have an attractive “green policy” that stimulates the traveller somewhat, as eco-friendly practices are becoming the norm. This is despite the fact that still, few travellers are willing to pay extra for such features. Water scarcities and allocation pose challenges to governments in the Middle East, Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and northern China. Renewable energy resource and innovative projects will shape the future of resource use in 2015. Referring back to the Aria Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, it is also often referred to as one of the most sustainable or ‘green’ hotels in the world. Aria is based and built around an environmental commitment which is featured in all of its high-tech rooms. Amenities include smart automatic control systems to manage the curtains and windows manually without the guest having to do so themselves. The rooms have light colored roof tops to keep away solar heat, and the system also controls air conditioners and lights in the rooms so that when the guest leaves the room they are switched off automatically.
7. Less people, more data
More travellers appear to prefer technology to human beings, bypassing the “hassle” of the check-in process at the front-desk using a digital concierge. Rethinking how to communicate with guests will involve using more data and less staff, meanwhile existing staff will need to be better able to develop and execute on a “new” model of service, genuine and personal, that keeps travelers wanting to have an element of personal interaction. More data means the chance for more personalisation – taking a guest’s order for breakfast in advance of arriving at the dining area, for example. Eric Rogers, Regional Head, FCS Computer Systems (EMEA) Ltd (www.fcscs.com) said to The Hotel Show: “The trend today is still moving towards Big Data – we often hear it, but frankly in hospitality it is still in its infancy. FCS recently launched our first data-capture solution, VEGA, the only ‘Guest Behaviour Business Intelligence System’ currently available for the hospitality industry.”
8. Globalisation and the need to promote the destination
The travel industry is among the largest and fastest-growing industries worldwide. As the world becomes more connected due to increasing accessibility to technology and social media in particular, some argue there are increasing similarities between individuals, nations and organisations. This is leading to individual hotels having to be more involved with destination promotion than ever before to attract increasing numbers of international guests travelling to more destinations.
9. Reputation management and real-time marketing
People have quicker and easier access than ever before to their personal smartphones and other tech devices and this is making reputation management and real-time marketing more important than ever before. If a guest at a hotel is dissatisfied it is quick and easy for them to write a complaint on a Facebook wall or a TripAdvisior review. Hoteliers need to be just as quick to deliver a response and therefore ease the damage. Yelp, Yahoo, Facebook, and Expedia in particular are emerging platforms for guest reviews and comments. “Revinate” (www.revinate.com) is a new, one-stop solution for reputation management instead of communicating over each platform. Engaging with guests and responding to their needs publicly through these forums can go a long way in maintaining positive guest relations and driving future bookings. Real-time marketing and providing content on an ongoing basis will dominate the industry. Social media in particular is now a key element of the marketing mix. Video campaigns on social media, when done properly, are proving to be successful for hoteliers looking to generate guest engagement, especially with MENA Millennials.
10. Technology as luxury and the importance of unique perks
Now that technology is incorporated into the online booking and check-in processes and automated systems in hotel rooms is an almost-common practice, hoteliers will have to provide tech experiences to their guests in ways which are unique and/or have a feeling of being special or luxurious in order for them to be memorable or especially worthwhile. An example of this is shown at the Eventi a Kimpton hotel in New York, which has a “business bar” full of iPads and iPad Minis for guests to use. There is a variety of examples where hoteliers increase luxury offerings through technology, examples include high-definition TVs embedded in bathroom mirrors and The Hard Rock Hotel offering curated set lists of music downloads. Little luxuries not of the norm have more chance of being memorable to guests.
Source: The Hotel Show