Travel is hotter than ever, with the U.S. Travel Foundation forecasting an increase in leisure travel spending in 2023 compared to 2022 and the pre-pandemic levels set in 2019. Moreover, all evidence indicates that guests are willing to spend more for this travel experience. A Booking.com survey found 43% of respondents plan to spend more on an experience to make up for lost time.
That doesn’t mean guests are willing to spend more and get less, and this can pose a challenge for hotels where staffing remains an operational challenge. Data from American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) indicates that nearly all hotels (87%) continue to experience staffing shortages, with 36% of AHLA member hotels facing severe shortages.
This is where today’s hospitality technology trends aim to give hotels an edge. The most effective technology investments remove operational burdens from staff, allowing them to prioritize high-value customer-facing interactions. Technology can also provide a valuable avenue for collecting data that can drive better operational and marketing decisions to the benefit of the hotel and guests alike.
Examples of Today’s Hot Hotel Technology Trends
Below, we outline eight hospitality technology trends picking up speed in response to heightened consumer demands and expectations.
1. Virtual Reality Previews
Travelers rely heavily on other guests’ online reviews because they want to have a sense of what they’re getting before they book. Give prospective guests a look at what sets your property apart before they arrive through an immersive virtual reality tour. This is no longer a solution for luxury hotels alone. Any conference center, lobby, restaurant, or amenity can become the showpiece of an online tour.
2. Omnichannel Check-In
Contactless check-in became a standard option during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, remote check-ins have evolved from a competitive advantage to an absolute must-have for sustaining guest confidence. The next step is to adopt technology that supports a personalized check-in experience and caters to all potential guest preferences. An omnichannel check-in experience allows guests to check-in via app, in-lobby kiosk, or with a front desk representative, based on their personal preference.
3. Front Desk AI
Artificial intelligence (AI) has become a standard feature of travel websites, in the form of chatbots that answer customer questions or provide recommendations based on collected data. Now, AI is poised to move from the website to the front desk. Automated receptionists can take over simple routine tasks, such as scheduling guests’ early morning wake-up calls or taking room-service orders. This switch can elevate your customer service by increasing speed response time for guests and allowing staff to spend more time with customers who require a human touch.
4. Collaborative Robot Support
According to the AHLA, hotels’ most critical staffing need is for housekeeping staff, with 43% of member hotels ranking this as their biggest challenge. So, it’s no wonder why today’s hottest technology trends in the hospitality industry include collaborative robots that support staff by performing routine cleaning tasks such as vacuuming and mopping. This promotes a more balanced workload for housekeeping staff, so they can prioritize other activities, such as changing linens or responding to guest requests. Together, this human-robot team can ensure that your space reflects the cleanliness your guests desire.
As an added bonus, many hotels are finding that autonomous cleaning robots become an attraction in and of themselves. When the Marriott Denver Tech Center deployed two Whiz robot vacuums to emphasize its focus on technology, hotel managers found the solution appealed to guests and staff alike.
5. Room Service Apps
Room service apps allow guests to rapidly select the services that are most important to them. Much like front-desk AI, apps can streamline food ordering to lessen the demand on staff. They can also give guests the power to track those orders and hotels the ability to mine data on customer preferences and fulfillment times. Many apps can do more, such as integration to keyless check-in or reservation systems for spas and other amenities.
Other apps allow guests to submit maintenance or housekeeping requests, which can alleviate your staff’s workloads and free up their time to work on other, more meaningful tasks. Using a dedicated guest experience application means that your staff can handle requests as guests submit them, as opposed to patrolling your facilities to find areas that need upkeep. Many of these applications can also further boost your operational efficiency by incentivizing guests to opt out of extra housekeeping services.
6. Smarter Rooms
A smart room features Internet of Things (IoT) devices that, when connected, can drive a more personalized experience for guests. Features might include the ability to manage lighting, temperature, curtains, or TV by app or voice control. Some solutions allow guests to make sweeping adjustments with a single request, such as dimming the lights using voice commands or increasing the room temperature remotely. Alternatively, backend solutions allow hotel staff or apps to switch on room lights or adjust the temperature once the guest checks in.
7. Tech-Fueled Wellness
Health and wellness are among the fastest-growing hospitality trends. However, traditional spa offerings are plagued by the same labor shortages seen in other areas of hospitality. Technology is stepping in to address this demand in a range of ways. Features may vary from mediation apps to in-room features such as light therapy sun lamps.
More advanced spa technologies – including hyperbaric chambers, cryotherapy, LED treatments, infrared sauna, halotherapy, and more – are gaining a reputation for being as effective as many traditional spa treatments. Mariana Palmeiro with hospitality school, Glion, notes that these solutions may “create fewer but more interesting and better paid spa and wellness roles,” attracting talent where it’s most needed.
8. Network Upgrades
The Bookings.com survey mentioned above determined that, despite an uptick in interest in going off-grid, the majority of travelers (53%) still feel that a phone and internet connection is non-negotiable. In fact, guests expect connectivity even in outdoor amenities.
More smart devices demand more connectivity. Upgrading to WiFi 6, the latest network solution, can support hotel operations and guest expectations. This latest generation technology can accommodate four times the number of devices of WiFi 5, and offers significantly faster speed.
Adopt the Hospitality Technology Trends that Work for You
Today’s hottest hospitality technology trends can secure higher rates of guest traffic, deliver a more personalized and welcoming environment, and ensure an exceptional experience that doesn’t overstretch staff. However, achieving these goals requires a strategic approach to technology investments and deployment. The key to success is to prioritize investments that help solve your specific operational challenges and cater to your guests’ needs.
If you’re ready to upgrade your technology and transform your cleaning operations, learn how Whiz and the SoftBank Robotics team can help.