By Robert A. Rauch
Each December, we come out with my trends for the following year. Last year we led with Artifical Intelligence and Robotics. In May, 2017, we hired our first robot as Employee #25 at our Fairfield Inn & Suites. Designed by Savioke, Relay the Robot (we call him Hubert) has been a big hit! This year we are leading with the lobby design side of the business—every hotel seems to be doing something to encourage the “millennial mindset” traveler to “hang out!” So, feel free to comment, here are our picks for 2018:
- Hotel lobbies become the center of the hotel universe akin to those found in communal work spaces such as WeWork – millennials and those with “millennial miindsets” have been the center of attention of all the brands and independents alike; open spaces with lots to do.
- Technology, led by mobile, digital keys and in-room entertainment gets a big upgrade and blockchain, which is a clear and incorruptable path from the hotel to the guest has the ability to create more direct and lower fee transactions. This direct route is a potential disruption to OTAs and that is a possible game-changer.
- Food and beverage revenues become critical, restaurants become simple and healthy with a focus on locally sourced suppliers. Perhaps more importantly, profits may return to hotel restaurants!
- The internet of things (IoT) becomes a thing by translating the smart home experience into the hospitality world. Technologies such as sensor-activated thermostats, digital room keys and in-room streaming services are all possible today.
- Voice activation. Amazon Echo and Apple’s Siri are consumer versions of this technology. Getting the Internet of Things upgraded to the network is coming soon and voice activation will be at the top of the list.
- Robotics hits full stride and Artificial Intelligence is enabling the hotel industry to do incredible things. From creating hyper personalized guest experiences to identifying unrecognized revenue opportunities, this is happening now. We are already planning to hire our second robot!
- Virtual Reality (VR) is no longer just a gimmick. It can and will be used in some form frequently in 2018. Coupled with augmented reality, (AR) (think Pokemon Go phenomenon) VR and AR will develop rapidly this next year. It is already widely used to sell adventure travel.
- Crisis management and cyber security will gain in importance as the addition of Active Shooter training is added to a hotel’s playbook and cyber crime continues to increase dramatically.
- Data and analytics lead to winning the loyalty game as data can segment guest profiles to infinite degrees, creating a comprehensive picture of who’s staying at our properties. We can track guest habits, interests and preferences as well as reason for travel, booking date, date of last stay and much more.
- Bleisure – Bleisure looks like it’s becoming more common with millennials – having a plan to “extend the stay” after people book corporate stays is working all over.
At this time of year, it is also appropriate to offer all of our friends, colleagues, friendly competitors and the entire industry a happy, healthy holiday season and a Happy New Year! Have a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah or just a season of joy! To a great 2018!