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Did you know that more than 4.3 billion people now use mobile phones? That’s nearly 60% of the world’s population. The widespread adoption of mobile technology has transformed businesses and services — including in the hospitality industry.
Here are 4 examples of how smartphones and digital technology are revolutionizing the guest experience.
Around 3 billion people regularly use messaging apps like WhatsApp — making these apps even more popular than social networks. This phenomenon has created fresh opportunities for hotels and hospitality entrepreneurs to engage guests.
Whether powered by artificial intelligence or a real live human, digital communication can help companies to streamline customer service. Travel brands like Expedia and KLM Airlines have tested the use of chatbots to handle common customer requests, while staff at the W Paris — Opéra use WhatsApp to answer guest questions.
“One of the most interesting [hotel] technologies right now is mobile booking via messages. The way the conversation unfolds via chat feels more human. You can also keep track of guests, like for instance on Airbnb, where hosts can check in with their guests using messages. The real technological innovation right now is in this area, rather than a specific product inside the hotel itself.”
The smartphone is more than a communication tool — in high-tech hotels, it doubles as a digital “remote control.” Guests staying at some Starwood, Marriott and Hilton hotels have no need for a traditional room key. With keyless entry, guests can use their smartphone to lock and unlock their room.
Smartphones can give travelers convenient access to other hotel services, too. Virgin Hotels offers an app that lets guests control room temperature, order room service and find out about local events.
“For me, the ability to check in, check out and open your room with your phone is amazing. So many times you go to a hotel and you’re super busy, you don’t want to go through reception and wait in a long queue to get the key … you don’t have to interact with anyone.”
Hotels themselves are becoming “smarter,” paving the way for seamless guest experiences. Travelers may find more examples of “internet of things” (IoT) tech in their rooms, where physical objects are controlled remotely.
Starwood’s Aloft hotel chain, for example, is testing voice-powered technology that allows guests to turn room features on and off. And Marriott’s M Beta hotel has installed physical “like” buttons, so guests can give feedback on the amenities they prefer.
Great customer service often involves personalization and human contact. So how can robots enhance the guest experience?
Some established hotel chains are testing the use of robots and artificial intelligence (AI) to improve efficiency and guest satisfaction. Partnering with IBM, Hilton has unveiled “Connie,” an AI robot that answers guest requests and provides info on local attractions. And guests staying at Aloft hotels can have towels, linens and room service delivered by “Botlr,” a robotic butler.
But whether guests appreciate such futuristic automated assistants may depend on the type of traveler. “Some customers like business travelers who are on the road a lot will be more open to technology from the time they check in. But perhaps if you’re going for vacation, you’ll prefer to have more human contact.”
This 5-part series explores the key trends that are shaping the hospitality industry and creating opportunities for entrepreneurs. For a fuller analysis of these trends, see Les Roches and Skift’s joint report: “The Future of Hospitality Entrepreneurship.”
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– The Future of Hospitality Entrepreneurship, Trend #4: Demand for Short-Term Rentals Grows Beyond Airbnb
– The Future of Hospitality Entrepreneurship, Trend #3: Rediscovering Local Experiences
– The Future of Hospitality Entrepreneurship, Trend #2: Chasing the Airbnb Economy
– The Future of Hospitality Entrepreneurship, Trend #1: Digital Concierge and Hotel Services
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