By Samuel Wich
In an industry as asset heavy as hotels, innovation is often lagging behind other sectors. It’s simply easier and more cost-efficient to tweak an app or to install that new piece of equipment in a factory than it is to equip hundreds of thousands of rooms with the latest technological achievements. The investment necessary to fundamentally modernize the industry is immense. Yet there are smart ways to do it so you don’t only improve guest experience but also increase your margins in the process.
A little under a year has passed since both Hilton and Marriott announced their plans to take a large step into the age of digitalization. This move sees two major players in the industry rolling out of the “Smart Room”. Let’s have a look at the top perks of future hotel rooms we can look forward to.
Guests will no longer be frustrated with the few random channels a hotel’s entertainment system offers. Upon turning on the TV, they will see movies and shows of their favorite genre provided by a streaming service and with direct access to reviews and trailers to make the selection easier – After all, falling asleep to an episode of Dowton Abbey that stops playing automatically after dosing off guarantees a better night’s sleep than a 24/7 shopping channel blaring in the background the entire night.
Based on client preferences an algorithm can allocate rooms in a quiet area of a room on an upper floor. The slightly dimmed light feels cosy and warm. The temperature is just right and even the humidity is set to a degree they feel comfortable with. Additional sensors in the room can further increase the comfort. For instance, a sensor can tell when guests get out of bed from bed and automatically activate little guiding lights, making it unnecessary to look for the light switch in the dark. The available technology already provides vast possibilities to set the perfect atmosphere, tailored to exceed client expectation.
Streamlined user experience
Air conditioning, locks, curtains, lights – Finding all the right buttons and switches can be quite a challenge to guests. By bringing the controls to all aspects to one single touch point, smart rooms reduce the confusion and inconvenience guests experience. With a few simple swipes on the hotel app, the lights are off, the A/C is turned to silent mode and the curtains are shut. Now the only reason to get out of bed is receiving a call – from nature.
Travelers’ consciousness about sustainability in hotels is becoming increasingly important. Smart rooms can help cut energy waste in hotel rooms through sensors that detect if the room is occupied or vacant, if guests are sleeping or awake. It can set the status of lighting, temperature and other electrical appliances accordingly. Some providers today already offer the option to put rooms in a particularly environment-friendly mode, saving electricity and water, simply the push of a button. This does not only protect the planet but also reduces utility expenses.
Before a night out travelers might call reception and enquire about the best places to eat or simply to order a taxi. The staff member on the phone however might be dealing with a wave of check-ins or simply not know where the best gluten-free food within a mile can be found. With installed voice recognition software, guests have a personal assistant to get their information from around the clock. Drawing from an extensive database of past questions and with access to millions of websites, it is immediately able to reserve dinner tables and inform about opening hours of the chosen outlet.
These examples give you an idea of the opportunities smart rooms can offer. In an industry where differentiation is key, fast movers will be rewarded with high customer satisfaction and increased customer loyalty, as the data collected during their previous stays further improves the service quality. Wherever data is collected and stored however, a question that must be raised is the one of data privacy.
Operators will have to put a large effort into protecting their guests’ data to keep their trust and comply with strict rules, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) recently put into effect by the European Union. As an increasing number of hotel companies start developing their connected room strategies, it will be exciting to see what solutions they come up with to win the battle for the customer of tomorrow.