By Bob Rauch
Hotel fundamentals are on an upward trajectory, but several macroeconomic elements are a risk to owners and operators including inflation, higher oil prices, geopolitical tensions, rising interest rates and broader economic growth concerns.
A recession would clearly affect near-term hotel stock price performance and sentiment as well as net income; however, hotel industry fundamentals remain solid, midweek business travel is recovering nicely, and groups are coming back.
Was COVID-19 good for the industry? No, but much of the technology that was implemented during the pandemic will stay.
Contactless check-in and touch-free menus will likely be the norm as viruses are easily passed between people. Contactless will likely rule as most prevalent, but mobile will be a close second. Even baby boomers use their mobile phone for everything; therefore, going forward, reservations, mobile check-in, messaging with guests, mobile room key and control of the guest room via mobile phone will be standard.
What Do Guests Want?
Guests are getting used to more self-service at limited-service hotels. They are aware of employment data — if you are an operator, you know it is extremely tight — and do not mind not having their guest room serviced daily. Resorts are another story — full-service hotels and resorts are expected to offer daily housekeeping and have staff available to assist with questions. Most guests are supporters of new technology, and we believe they will accept robotics and chatbots as they evolve.
We will see more robotics rolled out, especially those that perform mundane tasks. These will include delivery/service robots and vacuum-cleaning robots. Artificial intelligence will become more intelligent as they provide revenue managers with better data. Clearly, they all had to be reprogrammed from year-over-year predictive analytics to pace of bookings and deeper analytics. Using 2020 data to predict 2021, and 2021 data to predict 2022 was senseless as the travel restrictions had a major impact on travel patterns.
Guest room entertainment will continue to be upgraded to reflect guests’ viewing habits. If a guest subscribes to Netflix, why should they have to watch network television? Amazon Prime, Hulu and others will quickly replace the offerings that most hotels have provided for decades. One more related software change will be the use of mobile point-of-sale systems for food and beverage and other revenue sources (spa, golf, recreation, etc). It can be contactless if desired and allows servers or other customer service employees to handle transactions in the field.
The Future in Hotel and Restaurant Technology
5G will be a disruption to all hotels as many now provide cable, fiber or satellite technology. Most likely, 5G will be deployed for property management systems and other uses beyond the guestroom entertainment including augmented reality, voice-assistant technology and more.
Wi-Fi 6, a competitor for 5G, will also play a role. For me, it will be interesting to see which one wins in hotels. 5G has the hype and support of the government. Wi-Fi 6 is a new wireless standard, also called 802.11ax, that is making big waves in network connectivity and user experience improvements.
Another disruptor will be business analytics. Understanding when and where a customer exits a purchasing funnel can significantly improve both revenue and service by offering tailored products.
Hotel content distribution will be streamlined, so that it is easier to digitally create new content and have it “auto-populate” company websites, social media and new technologies seamlessly. Further, guest check-in, guest awareness of property attributes and overall guest service needs an overhaul to create consistency. Automation will grow quickly due to guest demands and challenges with finding labor. Unions will claim hoteliers are eliminating jobs, but that is not the case. We are just filling tasks that are not getting done today.
The bottom line is that owners will be spending more money on technology post-pandemic. To great times ahead!
For more information about R.A. Rauch & Associates, Inc., visit www.rarhospitality.com