Once long ago, hotels and other hospitality businesses occupied a fairly simple space in people's lives—they were a place for guests to lay their heads away from home. But anyone who's spent time in the hospitality industry in the last several years knows that the role of technology in hospitality businesses has drastically expanded.
In many cases, they're becoming hubs of activity unto themselves. Most of this activity relies directly or indirectly on technology, making IT more important to hotel operations and the guest experience than ever before.
So we're here to share ten of the top communication technology trends in hospitality today. Check them out and think about which ones make sense for your business. And if you see an opportunity, you can get out in front and begin planning accordingly. After all, in hospitality, every advantage counts.
Trends we'll cover in this post:
- Cloud Communications
- Service Automation through AI
- Smart Guest Experiences
- Going Touchless
- Wireless Mobile Devices for Staff
- Virtual Reality
- Tech Lounges & Bleisure Travel
- Self-Service Meeting Spaces
- Green Technology
- Predictive Analytics
1. Cloud Communications
Last year, we predicted the hospitality industry would see an increase in a migration to cloud technologies. We expect that trend to continue in 2023 and actually pick up speed – particularly when it comes to unified communications technology.
From the benefits of OpEx expenses on the bottom line to software integration options and new innovations coming from emerging technology, cloud communications offers hotels opportunities for back office efficiency with low technology acquisition costs. It's a no-brainer for new, small properties, but even large hotel corporations are investigating how cloud technologies might simplify operations, reduce staffing needs, and provide a better guest experience. The challenge continues to be ensuring reliability and security beyond 99.99% SLA for those who need it.
2. Service Automation Through AI
Automation continues to be a trend that is changing the way guests are served. With the advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI), hotels are looking at new ways to interact with guests digitally while freeing up hotel staff to work on other tasks. This also improves the travel experience as language differences can be eliminated, ensuring clear communication with travelers wherever they may be from.
Creating a realistic human experience has been a challenge for developers in the past, but it is evolving every day. While many people are put off by the idea of talking to software that can understand language and respond easily, the day is coming where the difference between a real human and a computer will be indistinguishable. As long as room service and clean towels arrive promptly, do we really care who takes the request?
3. Smart Guest Experiences
The vision of the connected guest entails nearly every aspect of the guest experience. Something as complex as that needs a single hub from which to operate—and guest apps for personal mobile devices are the natural place to host all of these functions.
Smart technology has been revolutionizing the hospitality industry for a few years now, delivering cost savings and energy efficiencies. A well-designed application combines everything from deal notifications to hotel services to loyalty programs. If you see a guest used the group rate for a conference, you could use the app to electronically send your guest the event itinerary, complete with an interactive map of meeting spaces where sessions will be held. Mobile apps streamline the check-in and check-out process, allows guests to communicate with hotel staff, and even serves as a virtual room key. Add in reliable Wi-Fi throughout the property, and your guests will be fully satisfied and connected, whether poolside or enjoying a drink at the bar.
Most hotels have some mobile application available already, but they're adding new features every day. Likewise, innovative developers serving the hospitality industry have are offering interesting capabilities that can be integrate into these hotel applications that grant guests increased ability to engage with hotel staff and other guests at the hotel.
Some of the major flags have already started investigating new ways to create unique, personalized experiences for their guests on their mobile devices. Ultimately, the hotel with a truly connected experience will be full of very happy, very empowered guests.
4. Going Touchless
As important as automation and self-service has become, the pandemic has illuminated the need to reconsider how guests can interact with amenities. From motion sensors that turn on lights, to voice-activated control of appliances, advancements in IoT devices and natural language processing (NLP) has given hotels and the developers who serve them, the toolkit to tie these emerging technologies with their integrated guest applications providing futuristic experiences. Even existing features like digital room keys that allow guests to unlock doors using their phones are gaining renewed interest. Reducing contact with commonly touched interfaces allows guests to stay safe and housekeeping staff to sanitize and prepare rooms faster.
All of this can also be integrated into the property's communication system providing administration staff greater visibility to what's going on across the hotel. As these devices work in concert to care for guests and accelerate service, new options emerge for staffing, customization, and experiential design.
5. Wireless Mobile Devices For Staff
Already popular in the hospitality space and other industries in Europe, SIP-DECT is a mobility-enabling alternative to VoWLAN and radio-based networks that's starting to get attention in North America.
Many SIP-DECT setups bring the kind of features usually found on a fixed network to mobile workers all over your hotel or campus without tethering them down to specific locations. Since hotel service staff, like housekeeping, valet, concierge, and event staff are often on the go, SIP-DECT a natural fit for hoteliers.
With relatively low cost compared to the alternatives, ease of deployment and quality, predictable voice quality, is poised to take off in a big way.
6. Virtual Reality
If you don’t already own a VR headset, chances are you will soon. The virtual reality market is expected to grow from £13.85 billion in 2022 to £189.306 billion by 2029. You might be surprised to hear how much virtual reality has to offer the hospitality industry. Just think about how much more likely a person is to book a room when they can take a virtual tour of the hotel, including suites, on-site restaurants, meeting rooms, the spa, and the fitness center.
Throw in virtual tours of nearby attractions like museums for an even better return. When guests can actually see themselves relaxing in their room, climbing into bed, or soaking in the grand tub, they’re more likely to click that “Book Now” button.
7. Technology Lounges & Bleisure Travel
It may be time to rethink your hotel business center. As jobs lean into hybrid and remote work, the lines between work and life — and business and personal travel — continue to blur. There are millions of UK residents who have the potential to live and work as digital nomads, and this segment of the workforce is expected to grow quickly. This represents a big opportunity for the hospitality industry, as digital nomads travel and explore the world while they work.
Workers engaging in "Bleisure” travel want the ability to get out of their rooms but still have access Wi-Fi to relax or get work done. The use cases for technology in hospitality seem to grow every year, and savvy hospitality businesses are transforming these guest desires into stylish semi-public spaces where guests can engage tech on their terms. Many guests are even beginning to include these kinds of technologies in their online hotel search criteria, so hospitality businesses that lack them may eventually find themselves at a disadvantage.
8. Self-Service Meeting Spaces
The modern meeting space has evolved, and the boring, basic business center won’t cut it. No longer is it about tables and chairs and nice serving carts. Modern meetings run on technology. Business people need to make multimedia presentations and videoconference remote attendees — sometimes both simultaneously. Modern, more comfortable co-working spaces that give digital nomads a place to work will be a draw.
And for the marathon meetings, they'd like access to services like catering with minimal interruptions. Most of all, smart hotels know they need these spaces to be as user-friendly as possible. The A/V rooms of the past that required dedicated engineers are no longer an option.
If you think these kinds of business needs are limited to boardroom-style conference spaces, you're missing an important part of the picture—business customers are increasingly asking for advanced technology enablement in ballrooms and event halls, as well.
9. Green Technology
Room rates and amenities aren’t the only things potential guests consider when deciding where they’re going to book a room. In 2023, sustainability is going to make its way further up the list of must-haves for hotel guests. In fact, it’s already happening. Kind Traveler’s 2022 Impact Tourism Report found that a resounding majority (96%) of survey respondents said it’s important the money they spend on travel makes a positive impact on the places they visit.
Additionally, nearly half (48%) of survey respondents said their greatest travel challenge is finding accommodations that are sustainable and socially conscious.
To meet demand, the hospitality industry must continue to adopt green technologies. Hotels can attract guests in search of sustainable lodging with amenities like low-flow shower heads and charging stations for electric vehicles.
Leading hospitality operators can take sustainability even further by using communications and collaboration technology to reduce their carbon footprint. Video conferencing and screen sharing can be used for meetings, so remote employees don’t need to drive. Automated ticket management for guest requests reduces paper usage. With the right green technologies in place, hotels can win business from guests looking for more than a mint on their pillow.
10. Predictive Analytics
It's been said that knowledge is power. As more technology is added to improve the guest experience, the software and devices will produce more and more data about how guests interact with staff and the amenities throughout the campus. Based on when lights or the TV turn on, staff can know the average time a guest wakes up. With the mobile app on the devices, and IoT sensors throughout the hotel, staff can know how long it takes to get from any room to the lobby. These profiles can be saved and follow guests as they go from property to property, adapting their experience to be more consistent regardless of where they stay.
The era of big data started years ago, but as more industries learn the insights that can be gathered by collecting and analyzing data, the small tweaks information can provide can be the difference between a guest thinking all hotels are largely the same, to one flag standing out, one property becoming a preferred place to stay, one that gets recommended to others.
As we proceed into the future, it is clear that the broader themes affecting the hospitality industry are communications efficiency and mass customization. From integrated cloud communications to touchless, interactive service, the potential for the hospitality industry to revolutionize the guest experience has never been as imminent as it is today. The global crisis changed the ways people communicate, work and expect businesses to engage with them, and these advancements are timely and necessary to the long-term success of these organisations.
Thank you Mitel for your guest post, the original can be viewed on Mitel's website.
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