Suparna Mukherjee, assistant professor, ITM Institute of Hotel Management elucidates on the emerging smart technologies that can translate into huge savings for the hospitality industry
Due to the very competitive nature of the hospitality industry, it is essential that they keep up with the latest technology trends. Those who fail to adapt can be quickly left behind by those who have implemented new approaches using technology. Adapting to the new technology trends can lead to great savings by the hospitality industry. In many ways today, hospitality industry is leading the market in adoption of smart business technology.
Some of the emerging technology trends are:
- RECOGNITION TECHNOLOGY: Widely used in many other industries, its uses in hospitality could benefit hotel processes. Touch technology or facial recognition is being used to unlock rooms, as well as facilitate the check in / check out process.
- ROBOTS: Robots are used in the hospitality industry extensively and putting them to good use. The Hilton robot concierge “Connie” uses speech recognition and AI to respond to queries from customers and self learn from different interactions with customers. There are robots deployed for security in airports called Knight Scope robots. The Henn-ne Hotel in Japan is the world’s first robot-staffed hotel, where robots are handling front desk and also act as luggage porters.
- CHATBOTs and ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: Today, customer’s expectations have increased multifold. They want to interact with hospitality inventories directly using multiple digital channels and expect quick responses to queries. It is a near impossible task manually. Thus chatbots and Artificial Intelligence is used. Chatbots are able to understand simple questions and provide answers almost instantaneously, taking the burden away from customer service staff and improving the experience for customers. AI’s uses also extend into other important areas for hotels too, including data analysis. Proper analysis of data can lead to increased business. Chatbots are capable of understanding and answering simple queries from customers. This reduces the burden of customer service staff as well as improves the customer experience. AI contributes majorly to data analysis which can lead to increased business.
- INTERNET OF THINGS (IoT): The “Internet of Things” or IoT is another widely developing technological trend used by the hospitality industry.IoT extends connectivity to everyday objects, devices and appliances. Thus mechanical or electronic devices which were previously unintelligent have turned into ‘smart’ devices by collecting data and communicating over the Internet. An example of this already being used with the hospitality sector is internet-enabled thermostats, which are used to automatically adjust room temperatures at check-in and check-out times, or in response to temperature swings caused by the sun, or by windows being opened. The same concept is also being deployed for lighting, improving energy efficiency and reducing light intensity during daylight hours.
- BIG DATA: Today data collection forms the basis of all industries. Hospitality businesses can use data to analyses and provide customers with more personalized experiences. For example, it could be used by travel agents to make recommend intelligent destinations based on the age, gender, budget, previous locations visited etc. In hotels, big data is used to identify business trends over period of times to take strategic decisions regarding pricing, revenue management, understanding completion business, and allied businesses. One definitely gets a clearer understanding of current business performance in comparison to the market trends
Along with the advantages, handling the security of big data is also important. According to Cloud beds, “Big data is great when you can use it to take action—whether that’s tackling a new market segment or adjusting your rate plans to compete against your competitors. However, the biggest concern around big data and the necessary data harboring is the safety around it. Every data harbor’s goal is to keep their customers’ data safe, but that’s easier said than done. In recent years, we’ve seen massive data breaches that have literally put hundreds of millions of consumers at risk—like Equifax and Target.”
- VIRTUAL REALITY : It is the requirement of the day to place customers in virtual settings, which includes booking process, hotel virtual tour, virtual view of the stay , local attractions etc to give them a virtual insight of what they are about to book. More and more, hotel websites are using 360 degrees imaging technology to allow virtual reality users to experience rooms in their hotel before they book. VR headsets can also be used in hotels, for entertainment purposes.
- SMART ENERGY MANAGEMENT: Smart devices like smart thermostats and occupancy sensors can respond to fluctuations in occupancy. Smart energy management devices can reduce hotel energy costs by almost 20%, thus contributing to more revenue generation.
- SMART RESERVED PARKING: Hotels use smart sensors and apps to reserve parking space in advance and the parking is reserved upon arrival, giving the guest a very smooth experience.
- MOBILE ROOM KEYS: More and more hotels are giving guests access to the room through their smartphone app. This eliminates managing keycard inventory and also reduce use of environmentally harmful plastic keycards.
- ONLINE REPUTATION MANAGEMENT TECHNOLOGY: Today, hotels online ratings predict future business. Using technology one can monitor online reviews, manage online reputation, and use this feedback to improve guest services.
To conclude, use of technology is a must in the hospitality industry, not only to provide a great customer experience, but also to streamline and handle internal processes better.
The hospitality industry is becoming super hi-tech. It is definitely improving customer experience, but how much is it taking away the guests personal experience, an experience we crave for is something to be considered. The warm welcoming smile, the personal touch in the restaurants is always a refreshing change in a home away from home. Customers still look forward to a hospitable guest interaction by management and staff more engaging and emotional experience. Let’s hope we don’t entirely lose that aspect of our great industry over time.