By: Agnes DeFranco, Minwoo Lee and Jihye Min
May 11, 2023 marked the end of the federal COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. Indeed, the pandemic has had an impact on the perception of technology usage among hotel guests. The need to safeguard hotel guests and employees during the pandemic accelerated the adoption and acceptance of various technologies in hotels. In 2020, HFTP sponsored a survey to gauge how guests view technologies in hotels. Now that the pandemic has officially ended, we thought an update on this topic would be of interest.
During the last few years, many hotels adopted contactless check-in and check-out, allowing guests to easily bypass the front desk and use their smartphones to complete such tasks, reducing physical contact. Instead of sanitizing and recycling key cards, mobile key access via smartphones also reduced touchpoints. Inside the guestrooms, many technologies have also been upgraded such as voice-controlled assistants and smart devices for guests to control lighting, temperature and entertainment, without touching surfaces. Contactless payments have also gained popularity, minimizing the need for physical cash handling and again, reducing touchpoints during the payment process.
So, do guests like hotel technology better than before, or not? A total of 1,002 participants answered a survey in 2020 and 1,211 participants shared their opinions in 2023. Let’s take a quick dive and see if general sentiments have changed.
In terms of demographics, the most significant change revealed an increase of the 30-39 year age group from 18 to 31 percent of people who responded to the survey. In addition, 31 percent reported their most recent trip taken was in the last three to six months, with another 27 percent stating less than 3 months and 20 percent stating seven to nine months. Undeniably, travel is gradually coming back. While half of the participants in 2020 are members of loyalty programs, only 37 percent stated so in 2023. A typical stay is still two to three nights (58 percent in 2020, 62 percent in 2023), with upscale and upper upscale categories welcoming over 50 percent of the participants.
Drum roll! The most encouraging part about technology in hotels can perhaps be summarized in this table of positive and negative statements regarding technology usage. With a scale of “1” = “Strongly Disagree” to “7” = “Strongly Agree,” a higher score is more preferred for the positive statements while a lower score is preferred for the negative statements.
|POSITIVE STATEMENTS||Average Pre-COVID||Average Post-COVID|
|I am confident I can learn technology-related skills.||5.96||6.39|
|I am able to keep up with important technological advances.||5.10||5.67|
|NEGATIVE STATEMENTS||Average Pre-COVID||Average Post-COVID|
|I have difficulty understanding most technological matters.||2.77||2.11|
|When given the opportunity to use technology in hotels, I fear I might damage it in some ways.||2.80||2.54|
|I have avoided technology because it is unfamiliar to me.||2.84||2.15|
|I hesitate to use hotel technology for fear of making mistakes I cannot correct.||2.98||2.17|
|Technological terminology sounds like confusing jargon to me.||3.03||2.00|
|I feel apprehensive about using technology.||3.47||2.12|
We have assuredly become more adaptable and technologically savvy during the pandemic. Hotel guests are more confident that they can learn technology-related skills, sending an already high score of 5.96 to 6.39. While keeping up with important technological advances was positive at 5.10 pre-COVID, that score also improved significantly to 5.67. Regarding the negative statements, while the scores ranged from 2.77 to 3.47, (good news in the pre-pandemic era), the scores for all six negative statements dropped to 2.00 to 2.54. This indicates our hotel guests are less negative about technology, experience less difficulty understanding most technological matters, and are generally not as apprehensive about using technology in our hotels.
The difference between the pre- and post-COVID scores are all statistically significant, indicating that these changes in sentiments are real and not likely due to chance.
A detailed white paper exploring voluntary hotel technology use among guests, their overall satisfaction regarding hotel technology, brand loyalty and changes in sentiment among subgroups will be published in July, following HITEC Toronto 2023.
So, enjoy HITEC in Toronto, where you can learn more about all the new technology there is to enhance the guest stay experience, as well as hotel productivity and profitability. And stay tuned for more research.
Agnes DeFranco, Ed.D., CHAE, CHE, CHIA, CAHTA is a professor and the Conrad N. Hilton Distinguished Chair, and Minwoo Lee, Ph.D., CHIA, CHE is an assistant professor, at the Conrad N. Hilton College of Global Hospitality Management, University of Houston. Jihye Min, Ph.D., CHIA, CAHTA is an assistant professor at the College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism, University of North Texas in Denton, Texas.