Written By: Katerina Berezina, Ph.D., CHTP, CRME
When reflecting on my entire HITEC experience, I was asking myself questions about what I have seen and where technology is going. Overall, I have noticed that hospitality technology is moving towards integration and convergence in order to ensure seamless user experience. I call it “unique and united.” This means that different players in the hospitality technology field are bringing together their expertise to build a united eco-system that may ensure a unique experience for each user. We are connecting different systems to be able to differentiate and recognize every customer, and tailor the experience to their needs and preferences.
Nowadays, hotels work with an extremely diverse group of customers. Some customers discover hotels in printed catalogs, on billboards or during a conversation with a travel agent; while others come to hotels via meta-search, opaque travel agencies or flash sales websites. Some customers shy away from using technology and are more comfortable with doing things the way they have been doing them for years. However, other customers keep abreast with the latest developments, they are connected and they are “smart” (e.g., using smart devices, living in smart homes, etc.). In light of all these changes, every hotel should answer a question: Am I as smart as my customers?
HITEC 2016 presented numerous examples of how different technologies may connect with each other and connect guests with hotels. Many hotel brands have already released the mobile check-in options and a keyless entry to the room, so that those guests who choose to do so may bypass the front desk and head directly to their rooms. This area of technology continues to grow allowing for proximity service based on Bluetooth technology: similarly to starting a car when the smart key is within a certain range, hotel guests may be able to open the room door while keeping their phones in the pocket or in the purse (you may see an example from y!kes and Stanley). As guests enter the room they also may customize their experience to their liking by controlling the temperature, lights, shades, privacy settings and housekeeping status from mobile devices. This year HITEC floor featured a Samsung hotel that showcased integration of such technologies that were made available to the guests via a convenient interface on a smart TV.
It appears that technology convergence that is happening in the industry is providing a foundation for unique guest experiences. We often say that hotels strive to provide a home away from home for their guests. Well, don’t all these technological advances take us one step closer to achieving this goal? If our guests are used to keyless entry to their garage or house, we will give them that. We may empower guests to “bring” their home to the hotel guest room by allowing them to customize the room to their liking, bring their own content from Netflix, Amazon or other sources, and, basically, create their small world in a standard hotel room. And hotels continue to get “smarter.” The Internet of Things (IoT) and interconnectivity of different technologies provide endless opportunities for customization of guest experiences. For example, the winner of HITEC’s Entrepreneur 20X People’s Choice award, Daylighted, provides smart art galleries for hotels. Using this technology hotels may frequently update the art work that best fits to the image of the brand, time of the day, or a special event that is taking place. Taking this to the guest room we may also give an opportunity to our guests to control the artwork that is displayed in their room during the hotel stay. Would not that be something special?
HITEC 2016 also offered an educational session entitled “Connected Home – Connected Guest”. This session suggested that connectivity may not only drive guest experience, but also revenue, and operational improvement. United technologies may not only provide a unique experience for hotel guests, but for employees as well. When implementing technology we should make sure that those who are there to take care of our guests are effective and efficient in doing so. This year at HITEC we have seen examples of technologies connecting guests and staff members for improved performance (e.g., ALICE), and technologies connecting different data sources for improved decision making (e.g., M3 Link).
Overall, we are at the stage of technology development right now where united technology may provide unique results for hotels: enhanced guest experience, improved operations and advanced decision making. Growing connectivity also calls to improvements in the Internet service provided in hotels that would support all of these technologies. Also, we may observe a stronger push for open integration of different systems that may allow technologies to “talk” to each other and also lay a foundation for faster development in the field. This is a very exciting and dynamic time that has a lot to offer to hotels and their guests. I cannot wait to see what the next HITEC will bring us!
Katerina Berezina, Ph.D., CHTP, CRME is an official 2016 HITEC Guest Blogger, and an Assistant Professor in the College of Hospitality and Tourism Leadership (CHTL) at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee (USFSM). She also serves as a Coordinator of the M3 Center for Hospitality Technology and Innovation. Her industry experience includes working in travel agencies and hotels in Russia and the United States. Follow her on Twitter at @KateBerezina.