by David Goldstone

Airbnb and other “shared economy” businesses have raised the bar for travel providers who wish to deliver personalized, truly local experiences for guests.

For hotels, the new environment means a re-think of a hotel’s relationship with their guests – and in many ways, a complete redo of the foundations of the guest experience.

Attention Hotel Owners: It’s No Longer Your Hotel Room

Today’s travelers see a hotel stay as part of an immersive travel experience that begins with booking and continues through multiple engagements and touch points.[1]

To satisfy them, it must be made clear, every step of the way, that it is the guest – not the hotel, nor any other travel provider with whom they are engaged – who is at the center of the value chain.

In fact, it’s not the “hotel’s” room – it belongs to the guest . . . at least for the duration of his or her stay.

Just as new kinds of guest interaction have shaped the experience in hotel common areas, inspiring concepts such as those delivered by brands like Ace, Citizen M and Public, we now need to start thinking of the guest room as a kind of shared space, between the hotel owner and the guest.

The owner, of course, controls the physical asset; but the guest has laid claim to the in-room experience – they want it delivered to them their way, with the ease of the push of a button.

How can hotel owners and brands deliver?

Understanding and Marshaling the New Technology

The traditional standard of successful guest delivery – providing a clean, quiet, comfortable guest room in a good location – is now only a piece of the overall guest requirement. Technology at the most sophisticated level, what I call uber personalization, is now also an expected component.

From the provider’s perspective, it should ideally be driven through a strong backbone of integrated hotel systems that tie seamlessly together. This should include the CRM, PMS, request management systems, guest feedback systems and in-room devices that control everything from lights to thermostats, television sets, smart showers and door locks.

Many industry leaders are working on the problem of seamlessly meeting guests’ needs in real-time.

These include companies like ALICE, which offers efficient point-to-point communication among hotel staff, personalized room service and manages other aspects of the on property stay.

At the same time, technology is moving way too fast for any solution that originates outside the guest room to fully keep pace with the changing tastes of consumers as they evolve within the room during their stay.

Just ten years ago, the iPhone was a new phenomenon; today almost every guest carries one, it is the central point of every guest’s stay, and all in-room technologies must adapt to it.

Only six years ago, Netflix began delivering original content to your TV at home.

Today, for many travelers, moving about without their own cache of movies and personalized video experiences is unthinkable.

This poses challenges for hotels – for example, obtaining the bandwidth necessary to support as many as three of four devices streaming simultaneously in hundreds of guest rooms.

At DigiValet, we return to the guest room as the core of the guest experience.

Taking a cue from the latest IOT thinking, we believe that every important feature in a guest room can be connected via a single point of contact, with the guest in charge of the experience.

Properly executed, huge leaps in guest satisfaction will follow.

For example, guests should be able to stream their own video content directly into his room on a big screen; order room service tailored to their needs, and purchase tickets to an off-property performance for any show at any time. They should be able to turn off the lights and close the curtains when it’s time for a good night’s rest – all from a single device, from the comfort of their bed or easy chair, and all with one touch of a screen.

Industry research shows that once a guest has this kind of comfort and convenience, they never want to give them up.

There is lots to be done to fully achieve the vision, of course, and at present some of the world’s most exclusive luxury hotels are leading the way.

One thing, however, is eminently clear: The hotel room of the future, will be a fully connected, fully shared experience, connected by a solid backbone of technology inside the guestroom.

The faster hotel brands and owners create that in room experiences for guests, the faster they will meet and exceed their expecations.

[1] According to he latest research from Phocuswright, suppliers are making big gains in customer experience by focusing on digital engagement.

This article first appeared in Phocuswire and is reprinted with permission of the author.