By Laura Calin
In the past year the industry has seen a strong resurgence as guests headed back to leisure vacations and business travel started to pick back up. Still, the industry does not look the same as it did before the pandemic, and now innovations that were a necessity at the height of COVID-19 have become mainstays that may never go back. As we move into 2023, we will continue to see hotels leverage technology to not only increase operational and staff efficiency, but also meet changing guest expectations for a high-value, but relatively low-touch experience. Below are the technologies that will likely continue to transform the industry this year:
1. Hotels will prioritize guest convenience and choice by presenting offers for upsell and ancillary products and services
Airlines and retailers have trained consumers to not just accept upsell or ancillary offers, but to look out for and expect them. Hotels have no choice but to step up to this new level of guest expectations.
A recent Oracle study found that 81% of hoteliers surveyed expect a big service model shift between now and 2025, and 49% strongly agreed that special amenities and upgrades are critical to their revenue strategy. In tandem, more than half of consumers (54%), said they are willing to pay more to choose their view; 38% to choose their room; and 32% to choose their room floor; etc. Consumers want what they want, and it’s up to hotels to provide options for guests to customize their stay, and to present those offers throughout the guest journey, from booking to check-in (digital or in-person) to on-site.
Every touch point provides an opportunity to give the guest the ideal stay. But to achieve this, hotels need to evolve away from rigid and siloed business models, and adapting to new guest expectations. By blending accommodation styles and focusing on wellness and experience, hoteliers can also more effectively compete against short-term rentals.
2. Automation, supported by AI and machine learning will improve operational efficiency and support new revenue streams
Automation – once considered a “nice to have” in the hospitality industry – is now essential. A growing number of innovative hoteliers are taking initiative to fundamentally change the way they operate their hotels and best serve their guests by leveraging AI and automation to transform day-to-day hotel operations – the areas that are historically admin heavy. For example, intelligent, rules-based systems that can determine, in real-time, the most efficient housekeeping schedule while correctly prioritizing guests needs can trigger notifications to other users directly in their primary system, enabling frictionless communication between departments and swift action. Similarly, finance automation can auto balance transactions for daily audits and uncover any discrepancies or imbalances proactively.
Second, guest service can be boosted via AI-based automation, particularly with apps and chatbots that provide guests a digital choice to instantly fulfill their requests or interact with hotel staff, while giving back employees the most valuable thing: TIME.
And last, automation can assist hotels with revenue management and new revenue streams, whether collecting and analyzing data, or determining the right room, attributes, and ancillary services for each guest. Machine learning is able to target a precise combination of initial and subsequent upsell offers that help maximize conversion while keeping the guest engaged throughout the entire reservation cycle.
3. A modern UX, including self-service tools and gamification, will become essential in optimizing staff efficiency
Hotel staff, like employees everywhere, want the same user experience on professional software as they have on consumer software – intuitive user interfaces that are quick to learn and easy to use. And when dashboards and workflows can be customized through the power of configuration at brand, property, role and even user level, applications can easily adapt for maximum efficiency for everyone.
With today’s staff churn, fast onboarding is critical, so the more self-service tools, the better – from onboarding digital learning to intelligent knowledge bases. Application-guided learning identifies first time users and takes them step-by-step through their tasks, helping them learn on the job and eliminate extra training.
Gamification, or the use of game design elements in non-game contexts, can be a powerful tool for attracting and retaining employees, making work tasks more enjoyable, rewarding employees for reaching certain milestones or achieving goals. Leaderboards, comparing performance of employees based on relevant metrics, like check-ins or upsells or room cleaning, can introduce transparency and healthy competition, not to mention a bit of fun.
4. Hoteliers will look to integration technologies and ecosystems that help them innovate at a more rapid pace
The pandemic and the resulting safety requirements forced hotels to shorten the timeline and cost of deploying new functionalities, such as mobile check in and check out, keyless entry, and mobile ordering. And now there is no turning back.
Taking advantage of the platform-based approach noted below, hoteliers will increasingly look to cloud-based property management systems that feature modern integration tools so they can innovate quickly or fail fast and move on. Properties know that to stay competitive and to navigate any future disruptions that come their way, they need agility to ‘plug-in’ capabilities to their PMS system from an ecosystem of pre-integrated technologies. In 2023, we are already seeing this across hotels looking to:
• Simplify payments processing by embedding it into the core systems, while evolving with new fintech solutions.
• Flatten the distribution landscape with demand partners integrated directly at the source.
• Introduce more sustainability drivers such as smart room technology.
• Use physical and digital robots to aid with tedious, boring, or administrative tasks.
5. Adopt a platform-based technology approach
Imagine a unified hospitality technology platform that can enable property management or central/brand management functions. This platform is organized logically around business domains and can harnesses the power of centralized availability, rates and inventory, reservations, profile management, group management, configuration management, and reporting and analytics.
The modules of the platform can be gradually adopted, regardless of whether the journey starts with property management or brand functions such as loyalty, central sales, or distribution.
The result is real–time access to data across all departments: operations, sales and marketing, distribution, and financials, all with a single, complete view of the guest. While it may sound like a far-off pipe dream, forward-thinking hoteliers are already taking advantage of this platform-based approach to more efficiently run their properties, maximize revenue and profits, and delight their guests by consistently executing tasks with excellence.
We are looking forward to working with our early adopters and integration partners this year to deploy OPERA Cloud Central, offering brand enterprise management, loyalty, distribution, and call center functions. Visit the Oracle Hospitality Blog for the latest in hospitality industry customer and technology news.