Remember not very long ago when free and decent WiFi was a luxury? Take a look at some of the digital innovations that are trendy now, but will become the standard in the not too distant future.
Once upon a time, and not that long ago WiFi in a hotel was considered a luxury. Many hotel owners rolled their eyes or hoped that it would be a passing trend. But they have since invested into best systems that their money can buy to remain competitive and ensure that their guests keep coming back.
Despite how forward thinking some of the concepts highlighted in this article may seem now, they’re likely to become an expected standard in the not-too-distant future. Every single element of the guest booking journey (aside the stay itself) will be online and powered by artificial intelligence and to what exciting developments are in store for hospitality, consider us currently in the dinosaur age.
What’s trending now?
I remember feeling rather revolutionary when we implemented a manual WhatsApp e-service concept back in 2015. Powered by two phone operators and an excel sheet containing a bank of saved responses - guests could book excursions, order food, book a late check-out or do anything on WhatsApp that they could do over a call to the operator. The beauty of it was that we could tap into the customer journey to engage and upsell both before and after they arrived.
Today it’s a standard for larger chains to have APPs that provide all the necessary service requirements at the touch of a screen. From booking, checking in and ordering room service to controlling the room temperature, paying the bill, and managing loyalty programmes. But even the concept of a hotel branded app is a standard one today.
Chatbots and Robots
The Hilton teamed up with IBM to pilot Connie – the world’s first robotic concierge. How long will do you think it’ll be before we have branded bots brandishing the coveted Les Clefs d'Or brooch and joining hoteliers in the lobby?
Chatbots are providing relief to an overwhelmed hospitality industry by giving 24-hour guest support. A chatbot is a computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users and while it was limited and frustrating in the earlier days, the continuous advancement of this tech has led to it taking over various stages of guest interaction almost entirely.
Hyatt Hotels led the way in Facebook messaging, embracing chatbot technology and providing guests answers to all their queries from the palm of their hand and on a channel they visit frequently. They started the trend and ultimately increased sales, bookings and resolved customer queries.
Despite how desensitised we are to the term ‘data analysis’, its revolutionising the way that we engage with our hotel guests. From the way we attract guests and tap into the discovery part of the guest journey to how we’re able to keep them coming back - data analysis is changing the game.
The Dorchester uses the Ketis AI platform, an enhanced analysis of data that translates into invaluable data to assist with operational and commercial improvements.
It’s not just about the way that we use highly targeted advertising to attract and retain hotel guests. Again, this is quite old school and standard practice in the industry. What we will see soon is a another level of personalisation, speed and convenience and one that will start to become expected by hotel guest, starting with guests of the luxury hotel sector.
Apps and other advancements in technology will enable guests to book their entire stay with just a few voice commands. There will be an entire guest profile loaded with an advanced network of data, meaning that when they walk into their hotel room the room automatically adjusts to their preferred temperature, lighting and with their favourite music playing in the background without even the click of a button.
Once we catch-up with the full scope of what some of the enhancements that this data can bring to the guest experience, this advanced level of personalisation and automation will make it almost impossible for most guests to try another hotel experience. Consistent evolution of the personalised guest experience will become a key selling point for marketers.
After we’ve become impatient with chatbots and before automation completely takes over – voice control will reign supreme. Guest rooms and stays will be controlled by it and entire vacations will be booked with just a few words.
Alexa Hospitality and Expedia Skill have partnered to offer a glimpse into the future. Alexa can book most elements of the holiday without the user even needing to look at a screen.
Augmented reality gained popularity in hospitality during the pandemic. With flights grounded globally, hotel commercial teams scrambled to get future beds on the books and augmented reality allowed B2B decision makers to get a glimpse of the product from afar.
Marriott has transformed the planning and dreaming stage of the guest journey with the launch of its augmented reality app the Portal to Paradise. Users can pan their phone and explore the resort in a way that’s not been seen before. Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KeedM5QkMtE&t=69s
Florence has released a travel guide that takes the concept of Google search to another level. Visitors simply pan their phone around the city and important information, Instagram hotspots and countless other interactive content features pop up and allow them to complete the entire booking stage on the spot. Hotels have and will start embracing this technology. Goodbye historic chunky hotel directory. Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a90DDQZmGj4&t=51s
Smart glass is changing the in-room guest experience. In place of the TV in The Paramount Hotel Dubai guest rooms is a large mirror that acts as a state-of-the-art TV.
In the future, guests will walk into a room and will be submerged right into an advert of the hotel spa, restaurant or latest hotel in the collection. They’ll be plunged into an augmented world with the floor to ceiling mirrors and windows using smart glass, sound, scents, and special effects to create a fully immersive experience. This is the future of hotel marketing. Video: https://youtu.be/pJj01QbNs9A
Customer experience and user generated content
52% of people are inspired to travel because of what they see on social media and 20% of leisure travellers look to social media for inspiration.
As TikTok and Instagram Reels take over, this short-form video content is becoming the format that the masses are habitually becoming familiar and comfortable with and soon there will be a tipping point.
It was once acceptable to post a simple text status on social media. Today, even posting an unedited picture or standard brand video doesn’t stop anybody scrolling – not when there’s so much eye-catching, highly edited and real-life or content out there.
It’s very trendy for hotels to incorporate user generated video content that showcases real guest experiences into their content calendars. Hotels are becoming increasingly innovative and competitive with their brand videos – emulating popular social media styles using short clips in collage format. But none of it competes with the organic content that hotel guests share and in terms of trends, influencers will create more of this candid video collage content that hotels will then incorporate into their marketing.
Marketing Advisor - London Rock Partners
Marketing Consultant | University Lecturer | Hospitality Specialist
About London Rock Partners
Born in a post-pandemic hospitality landscape, London Rock Partners is a new approach to hotel management. They go beyond the tried and tested to deliver a standard of innovation to which the industry aspires.
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