Digital trends in the travel industry

In the digital age, technology is revolutionizing what until today has always been considered usual practice in the hotel industry. To keep up with the latest trends, hotels have to embrace new technologies, not only to surprise the guest with innovative and still not widespread tools in the hotel industry, but above all to understand what will be the guest experience of the future.

Hospitality pioneers, such as the Hilton and Mariott chains, are already adopting some of the technologies that will become key players in 2019, some of which may be fads, while others may really revolutionize the concept of hospitality and customer experience.

Below is a short list of technological trends that are spreading in the hospitality world and that will take place in 2019:

 

Internet of Things - IoT

The Internet of Things is currently used in various sectors, even if the hotel industry seems to be the one most prone to take advantage of it. IoT means the addition of connectivity to existing products and services, which enables them to send and receive data. Thanks to the IoT it is possible to reduce the power of the light bulbs during day hours, switch off the heaters when the rooms are empty or when they reach a certain temperature or can be used to optimize the temperature automatically before the guest arrives.

Applied within hotels, IoT offers significant advantages: it improves the guest experience, reduces costs by saving energy and decreases manual staff operations.

 

Artificial intelligence - AI

Artificial Intelligence can be applied in different ways: chat boxes, robots and voice assistants.

Chat boxes provide online answers to the questions and requests of customers using artificial intelligence. They are usually simple questions that can be answered without human intervention: this means replying faster and leaving more time to staff to deal with difficult tasks such as handling complaints or solving urgent issues.

 

The robots equipped with artificial intelligence have been introduced this year by Hilton, these "smart" robots answer the questions of the receptionist, such as inquiries about hotel services. In Japan there is a hotel entirely managed by robots: entry into the rooms is guaranteed by a facial recognition system, the same one used for check in; robots welcome guests at reception, bring suitcases in the room and respond to all guest needs (in different languages) establishing an eye contact and interpreting body language.

 

Voice assistants with artificial intelligence are also spreading in hotel rooms: Amazon's Alexa for Hospitality is a cylindrical device that allows the guest to request room service, turn on the lights, set the alarm, leave messages to housekeeping, ask for information about the hotel, call reception, put on the music and many other activities. In the future, Amazon will allow guests to log in to their personal Alexa, in order to have their own preferences already saved within the artificial intelligence system. However, this technology is raising privacy concerns because the device could record conversations guests have in the room.

 

 

Recognition technologies

Another digital trend in the hospitality industry is the use of recognition technology that includes: face recognition, fingerprinting and retina scanner. Its usage in hotels is varied, this technology is mainly used to speed up payments at check out, automating all procedures. Accor Hotel has invested in the use of facial recognition to replace magnetic keys, giving the opportunity to recurrent customers to experience this new system and provide comments to improve the application. The goal is to implement a technology that will allow guests to abandon the use of cards to access the room, speeding up the procedures upon arrival and increasing the quality of the guest experience.

 

Virtual reality

Virtual reality is about transporting people in a digitally created environment. Its uses in the hospitality industry are mainly two: it can be used to give the possibility to the future guest to interact with the hotel spaces before making the reservation or it can be used as an entertainment service for hotel guests.

Some chains use virtual reality on their websites to allow users to see a preview of their rooms through 360-degree tours while travel operators use this technology to provide virtual experiences of the destination and local attractions.

Mariott also uses virtual reality as an entertainment tool, guests can order a VRoom Service to have in their room a case containing the virtual reality kit and be transported in digital world from the comfort of their hotel room.

 

Augmented reality

Augmented reality is similar to virtual reality under multiple aspects, but if the virtual one completely changes the surrounding environment to the user, augmented reality instead "increases" the real world, usually with graphs or overlays information visible via smartphone. This technology can also be used in the hospitality industry to surprise the guest. For example, a map hanging on the wall of the hotel can become interactive and offer the visitor additional information on local attractions directly on his smartphone. These "fun" technologies are becoming increasingly important for hotel marketing, even though are nowadays they are mainly used by big brands.

 

App

Almost all consumers have a smartphone and increasingly using them to manage a wide variety of activities, from calling the taxi to ordering food. Hotels must understand this desire and provide their guests with a service that meets their needs; this is why it is very useful to create a dedicated app or use already existing apps to make sure that guests can book a table at the hotel restaurant, order room service or book a massage at the spa. While self-service can improve customer experience, the app can also be used to create loyalty programs, generating repeated stays. Furthermore, this technology goes hand in hand with the Internet of Things mentioned above, allowing the guest to control heating and lighting always from the app.

 

In summary

Many of the technologies listed above are still not widespread in the hotel industry and some are for the exclusive use of large chains. In general, in addition to the most innovative digital trends, the most popular technologies by travelers are those easy to use and useful to solve the difficulties encountered such as: accessing the property without using keys, travel guides with personalized recommendations based on guests’ preferences, digital concierge or hotel app. After all, technologies are meant for this, to simplify the lives of users. Not all of the technologies listed will become widespread in the hospitality industry, but it is clear that digitization is bringing significant changes in the hotel system. Equipping oneself with tools that enhance the guest experience thanks to an efficient and fast service is certainly at the core of quality.

 

 

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