By Terri Miller, Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder, Concilio Labs
The elite of the hospitality industry is set to descend upon one of the most exciting yearly events showcasing the brightest minds and hottest travel and hospitality technology: HITEC. Recognized as the world’s largest hospitality technology show, HITEC 2018 offers a unique combination of quality education, networking, and exhibitors from around the globe.
With the plethora of new innovations that have been unfolding, this year’s show is staged to bring some disruptive discussions. To help attendees make the most of their time at the event, we’ve compiled a list of some key themes we’ll be watching at HITEC 2018, and why.
1. Finding the right balance between technology and personal service
These last few months, it seems everyone has been talking about the emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR), Machine Learning, and IOT within hotels. It’s no surprise this will be a key theme at HITEC. On Monday, June 18 Mike Walsh will take the HITEC Houston stage from 4:30 to 5:45 p.m. to discuss his topic of "Reinventing Leadership for the Age of Machine Intelligence,” and former White House CIO, Theresa Payton, will also tackle these topics during her keynote titled, “Hype or Reality? Your Workplace and Blockchain, Cryptocurrency, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning & the Internet of Things,” on Thursday June 21. While some of us might feel some hesitation at the mention of these futuristic-sounding technologies, they have many applications for our industry, including, but not limited to:
- Concierge robots
- Digital assistants
- Smart rooms
- Voice-activated services
- Guest facing technology
- Business intelligence
- Travel experience enhancers
Advanced AI-powered applications can help to lessen the operational responsibility on staff, drive personalized marketing, and optimize revenue while also ensuring the way in which guest service is delivered is truly intelligent and responsive in nature. VR is also an exciting movement within the hospitality realm; we can expect to see the utilization of applications such as virtual tours. Almost like a “try before you buy” marketing model, prospective hotel guests will be able to engage in new-age virtual hotel tours (best viewed using a VR headset). This also extends to the booking process, as guests can look for flights, compare hotel prices and book rooms through a virtual reality headset.
Perhaps most practical application of these latest advancements is to empower hoteliers to gain deeper insights about guests using advanced data analytics throughout various channels and touchpoints. Hotels can then build a more comprehensive profile of their guests as it relates to considerations like purchase behavior, travel and booking preferences, location and itinerary preferences, hotel rating inquiries, payment methods, upgrade preferences, and so much more.
This trail-blazing technology shouldn’t be viewed as a replacement of one-on-one service from staff, but rather as a way to enhance hotel’s existing approach to exceptional guest service. It also allows hotels to cater to the preference of each individual guests, freeing up staff for those guests who expect high-touch, personalized service and offering the tools to those who prefer a different experience model.
2. Personalization, Privacy and Security
The recent implementation of GDPR has left many hoteliers feeling divided between the demands of a guest economy that expects personalization, and the potential limitations of this new privacy and data reform. How can hotels still tap into data analytics to curate a more relevant personalized experience, revenue management, and marketing efforts, in the age of GDPR?
While GDPR may require a bit of a policy reform for many hotels, it is not meant to act as a barrier between hotels and the data they need to continuously improve their service offering. 69% of travelers are more loyal to a travel company that personalizes their experiences online and offline. This should encourage hoteliers to collect and leverage data the right way while opening up additional lines of communication with guests, as it’s required to gain data-related consent. Those guests who do readily give consent are likely to be more engaged.
CLICK HERE to Download Rainmaker and Concilio’s infographic titled, THE NEW ERA OF
DATA-DRIVEN GUEST EXPERIENCES, for a snapshot of key industry insights about personalization and how data can help transform your hotel’s relationship with your guests.
Privacy issues will likely be a major theme at this year’s show – industry experts will walk through the best ways to adapt to GDPR, without missing the data-driven opportunities that continue to evolve with new technology.
3. What Do Guests Really Want?
Amidst all this exciting change comes the question, what do guests really want? Is it smart rooms, self-service kiosks and touch points, a high-touch service model, mobile apps, text-based alerts, mobile room keys, improved loyalty programs, concierge robots? Is it all of the aforementioned, or should hotels only focus on a few of these modern trends?
Smart rooms are a popularly tested concept amongst many of the larger hotel chains, as of late. For example, the Hilton Honors app will soon allow guests to adjust their room lighting, temperature and TV all from their smartphone, while Marriott International is dabbling in voice-activated technology. However, mobile and self-serve continues to be a paramount consideration as hoteliers look to further specify their offering. 76% of travelers named their mobile device as their number one travel accessory and 70% of guests want to use their smartphone to speed up check in and services.
Hoteliers are also working to cater to the millennial market (in response to their prioritization of travel and impressive buying power), which promotes the embrace of chatbots and frictionless interactions. It’s noted that 7 out of 10 millennials prefer texting over talking on the phone, which makes text-based concierge a natural next step for hotel managers.
Of course, hoteliers can expect to receive the complete breakdown of what guests want most (and why) in the coming weeks, as HITEC provides our industry with a much-anticipated look into the future of hospitality technology.