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Hotel Technology-are you Up to Speed?

By Donald R. Boyken, CEO, DRB Consulting

Donald R. Boyken, CEO, DRB Consulting

Boomers—move over—you are about to be replaced. By 2020, 46 percent of the workforce will be the Millennial Generation. This generation wants a different type of hotel than their parents and the hotel industry is listening to them. With 78 percent of the business travelers using smartphones and 100 percent of Millennials more likely to watch a move on their smartphone than a TV, hoteliers are changing their designs. So Boomers get ready for a change in your traveling experience.

The Millennials want hotels that are more of a social hub with malleability for both work and play. Hotels are being designed with cafes, bars, workstations and more. There is an interactive area to gather around, socialize with others or just to be around an activity of people while working or connected with friends. The more engaged guests tend to share their experience with their friends on social media building a crowd of repeat customers. They like their workspaces more as a public areas, eliminating the need for large hotel rooms. Those large desks that catered to the Boomers are not needed in rooms anymore. Bulky TVs have been replaced by thin flat screens and stand-up showers are preferred to bathtubs.

Technology is redesigning the hotel room amenities. The Las Vegas Aura Hotel has expanded the use of the television remote control device. The entire room lighting, motorized window draperies and room temperature are only a few of the items now controlled from one device. Interaction with the entire hotel staff is literally at the guest’s figure tips in the form of a control panel. Other hotels are adding illuminated bathroom faucets, bathrooms where upon entering, the toilet lid automatically raises enabling the guest to sit on the heated seat.

Hoteliers are changing the hotel’s public area physical assets as well. Those old-school Point of Sale (POS) systems including the reception desk are being replaced with mobile check in. Approximately, 75 percent of guests travel with one or more mobile devices and that percentage is even higher among 25-35 year olds. Over 60 percent of business travelers have made their reservations using a mobile device. Over the next 3-5 years, Generation Y travelers will make up more than half of the guests checking-in to hotels, casinos and resorts and they will interact with the hotel systems for everything from their phone.

The Miami JW Marriott has created an entertainment complex featuring what they claim is the world’s largest video wall. In addition, the guest has access to a virtual bowling alley and golf simulators enabling personal instruction including putting greens. The 3D media room places the guest right in the center of the action. These features are not just giveaways—the additional food and beverage revenue, plus the corresponding banquet revenue adds significantly to the bottom line. This confirms the concept hotels have adopted that charging for internet services is a drag on profits not an enhancement, reinforcing the adage—give it away and they will come.

Hotels that fail to implement software systems that are mobile compatible will soon be considered “dinosaurs” and be avoided by this demographic. Recently, Fontainebleau Miami developed StayNTouch to integrate with its Opera PMS system that runs the 1,500-key hotel. This two-way system enables guests to confirm room reservations, advise of last minute requests, text them when their room is ready and securely check-out, all without having to download an app.

“The list of opportunities to employ technology enhancements to the guest experience is unlimited”

Marriott International will be the first hotel company to offer Apple Pay to its guests in the summer of 2015. Millions of customers already use the Marriott Hotel App to book rooms, check-in and check-out; now, Apple Pay will make it virtually effortless to be a hotel patron because there will be no need to provide a credit card upon check-in. In fact you may not even need to visit the front desk—find your room number and go directly to the room and open the door all with your phone. The registration desk is heading to the relic pile like the “buggy whip.” 

At many resorts, the room key often doubled as a charge card. Disney turned this up a notch by changing the card to a reusable bracelet, enabling access to their hotel room, the theme park, charges for food and other products.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide is taking this flexibility to a higher level by allowing guests with Apple, Android or Blackberry to open their hotel room door with their device. Prior to arriving, the Starwood “preferred guest” downloads and registers through the SPG app. When the room is ready, the guest will receive a message through the app with their room number and Bluetooth key. When in front of the door, the guest can open the app, place the device up to the door lock and open their hotel room. 

Imagine where this can go with the Apple or Google wristband phone enabling technology to reach a new level. With a telephone wristband device, guests are able to search for a hotel, book and check in for a flight, contact and pay for an Uber car from the airport to the hotel, and walk right past the front desk directly to their room. The list of opportunities to employ technology enhancements to the guest experience is unlimited.

The “acceleration rate” for incorporation of technology into our daily lives is faster every day. Think about it—the smartphone was introduced less than 8 years ago. In that short time the world has gone from one device to over 5 billion devices. The Millennials use of technology is driving every marketplace. Is your firm ready to do business with the more than 80 Million U.S. Millennials?

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