The degree to which hotels will venture into newer technologies may have to be reevaluated. Does technology improve the guest experience or do guests value human interaction over convenience?
Understanding visitor preferences and expectations is critical to guests having a successful experience when staying in a hotel. CallisonRTKL, a global design and consultancy firm, recently unveiled a report that predicts the future of hospitality design. Survey respondents also indicated guest preferences when it comes to food, amenities, technology, and more.
The Hotel of the Future report ranked factors, in order of importance that guests consider when booking a hotel:
- Security/privacy (79%)
- Front desk check-in (34%)
- In-room technology (32%)
- Bar on-site (22%)
- Hotel app—mobile check-in, concierge (21%)
It is no surprise that security is at the top of the list of guest concerns in light of the recent tragic event where, from his suite on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel, a gunman opened fire on a crowd of 22,000 concertgoers at the Route 91 Harvest music festival on the Las Vegas Strip in Nevada, leaving 58 people dead and 546 injured. The event showed how vulnerable hotels are to safety and security threats.
Keeping guests and their belongings safe and secure has always been a major concern of hotel operations. Hotel security continues to be more comprehensive with upgraded digital systems like IP video. Some of these technological advancements are now being put towards the entire guest experience at hotels.
Keyless room technology was all the rage over the past few years. Keyless hotel room entry basically uses a smartphone as a hotel room key for additional convenience and secure way to access a room. Big hotel chains jumped at the chance to provide guests the added benefit of going straight to their room without stopping at the front desk.
The keyless service requires the user have a hotel loyalty membership and have the loyalty program app downloaded on a smartphone. It streamlines the check-in process by eliminating the need for front desk check-ins. The digital key opens any door you would normally access with a regular hotel key. This could include your room, elevators, side doors, the fitness center, and even the parking garage.
Hotels began offering mobile key as an option because they thought hotel guests wanted more self-directed control in leveraging technology to accomplish tasks that do not require them to stand in line or interact with other people. What is most telling from the Hotel of the Future report is that while guests expect tech-integrated services—particularly when it comes to guest room controls—44% of guests would like to speak to a staff member during check-in.
Integrating or upgrading technology in hotels is costly. In terms of keyless room technology, as Starwood, Hilton, Marriott, and other brands invest in mobile technology, it is vital that the service supports the investment with wide acceptance by the user.
How far hotels can go with technology remains to be seen. According to the Hotel of the Future report, 60% of guests would not stay in a hotel with only robots but that has not stopped the success of Henn na Hotel in Southwestern Japan. The 100-room Henn na Hotel bills itself as the world’s first hotel staffed by 140 robots. The hotel uses other interesting technology such as keyless facial-recognition for guests. Since opening in 2015, the Henn na Hotel has done well enough to spawn six identical versions planned for Tokyo and three in Osaka by 2018, according to owner H.I.S., and additional robot hotels overseas.