Essential Hospitality Industry Technology Trends to Look for in 2021 and Beyond
Even before the COVID-19 began to leave a massive mark on hotels and how they run their operations in the midst of a pandemic, undoubtedly, advances in hotel and hospitality technology had already taken their place within the industry.
If nothing, the pandemic sped up these advancements out of necessity. While many tend to equate technology in the hospitality industry with luxury, the fact is that health and safety needs have done more to introduce modern technology into hotels than the desire to offer guests a more comfortable and luxurious stay.
Of course, convenience is another key area which technology has set out to improve, with an ever-increasing focus being placed on allowing guests to manage their stays according to their wishes with as little interference or help needed from hotel staff as possible.
Why Technology Trends in the Hotel Industry Are Important
Technology has become an integral part of our lives so quickly that most industries are still trying to catch up as if many of the advancements in technology took them by surprise. Technological trends in the hotel industry are no different.
The goal for hotels has always been to provide their guests unrivaled service and accommodations; to make guests feel as comfortable staying in your hotel as they do in their own homes.
Obviously, technology is a big part of that. If guests are used to having high-speed Wi-Fi available in every corner of their homes, they expect the same from your establishment. Now more than ever, your hotel amenities need to mirror what people have access to at home and, if possible, exceed those expectations.
In the current post-COVID-19 world of hospitality, technology aims at not only prioritizing an immaculate guest experience but also keeping guest safety and health top of mind. Technological trends in the hotel industry are helping hoteliers adapt to these guest expectations and, hopefully, surpass them.
Technology can help hotels not only achieve guest demands for a “return to normalcy,” but also offer them revolutionary innovations that they might not have been able to experience prior to the pandemic.
Today, it’s all about customizing guest services and personalizing them so that guests feel as if property owners know exactly what they want and need. And even if they don’t, technology should serve to bridge that gap in order to enable hotels to meet guest demands and preferences on the fly with little to no effort.
What to Expect from the Future of Hospitality Industry Technology Trends
Of course, the customer experience is at the forefront of what technology aims to improve. However, it’s also important to note that advances in technology, especially in the form of custom-tailored hotel management software, are equally helping hotel staff to perform their jobs more easily and efficiently.
In the coming years, we can expect hospitality technology to work even more fervently towards the goals of both giving the guests exactly what they desire and making it easy for hotel staff to not only meet those demands but also foresee and predict what those demands will be.
Technology trends in the hospital industry in 2021 and beyond will likely focus on the following:
- Increasing guest comfort levels
- Optimizing service efforts
- Automating and improving hotel staff workflow
- Improve marketing and reputation management efforts
Technology has always served one predominant purpose; to solve problems. Technology trends in the hospital industry are following in those footsteps. Every advance in technology serves to improve the guest experience while making it easier for hotel staff to do so.
Let’s take an in-depth look at some of the key hospitality industry technology trends that we can expect to see more of in the coming years.
Check-In and In-Room Technology
Another aspect of staying at a hotel that was already turning towards technology and self-service was the check-in process. According to a report by Statista, 27 percent of business travelers would prefer to use self-check-in and check-out kiosks if provided by hotels.
The transition to contactless check-ins has obviously been sped up by the COVID-19 pandemic as have many other aspects of both getting into your room and then functioning within it without having to interact with staff.
Advances in booking technology have helped everyone in the chain when it comes to increasing efficiency and convenience. The entire concept of online booking was obviously implemented with the goal of making it easier than ever for guests to view their options and book their rooms with as little contact with hotel staff as possible.
No more phone calls to see if rooms are available, no need to visit the property in order to see what its rooms look like, no need to find people who have been to the property to ask them what they think about it; all of that can be taken care of online now.
And while online booking advances certainly serve guests first and foremost, the advantages that they provide for hotel staff are incredibly underrated. The future of booking technology lies in being able to integrate popular booking platforms that guests prefer to use with hotel management software that hotels prefer to use so that the entire process of tracking and managing stays can be further optimized and streamlined.
The clearer picture hotel management has regarding which rooms are available and how many guests they are expecting to have staying at the property at any given moment allows them to organize themselves better. It decreases the chances of overbooking properties and it makes it easier for housekeeping, maintenance, front office, food and beverage, and all other hotel departments to organize their staff members better in order to provide the best possible service.
Many leading hotels have realized the importance of technology and have developed their own mobile applications that allow them to automate many of the processes that once had to be handled in person. Check-ins are one of those processes which, once again, necessitated there to be as little contact between guests and staff as possible due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Using mobile apps, guests can check-in themselves by inputting all of their pertinent personal information themselves instead of relying on hotel staff to do so. In the post-pandemic era of hospitality, safety and convenience will continue to remain in focus, and automating these types of processes checks both boxes.
Another level of convenience mobile check-ins and check-outs provide for guests is the ability to arrive at and leave the hotel properties according to their own schedules. A guest’s schedule might require them to leave your property in the middle of the night and giving them the ability to check-out without having to seek out someone at the front desk to do so provides much needed and appreciated the flexibility.
Mobile App Keys
Another thing that hotels use their mobile apps for is getting rid of the stress that is having a room key or card. Very few concepts in the hotel industry have been less efficient than giving guests room keys or electronic cards and watching them lose or misplace those cards. It’s stressful for guests and it’s bothersome for staff members to have to replace keys. Moreso, hotel staff usually have to reconfigure the locks every time someone loses or misplaces a key because of the chance that it might have been stolen.
Providing guests with a personalized mobile key on the hotel’s app solves all of these problems. Like most people today, guests rarely do anything without having their phones on them. Putting the room key on their phone makes it very improbable for them to lose it, which gives both guests and hotel staff a lot less to worry about.
Solutions like this are a great example of how hospitality industry technology trends can benefit both guests and hotel staff at the same time.
Once guests finally enter the room, that’s where the technology completely takes over. As we’ve already said, guests want to have the same technological amenities that they have at home. That means good Wi-Fi, a smart TV, access to their favorite streaming services, and so on.
However, hotels are going even further these days offering technologies such as voice and mobile control to personalize the guest experience and make it even more comfortable, but also interesting. As time goes by, we’ll be seeing more and more technology in hotel rooms that we’ve only seen in movies until now.
Imagine coming back to your room after a long day of business meetings and using voice control to tell your smart room to run a bath for you, order a burger from room service, and pull up the next episode of the show you’ve been watching.
While that might sound like science fiction still to some, we can expect these types of technologies to be considered commonplace in the coming years as the customer-centric business model of hotels continues to be transformed by cutting-edge technology.
Hospitality Staff and Management Technology
As much as technology has done to improve and enhance the guest experience over the last decade, hospitality staff and hotel management might have actually benefited most from recent advances.
Namely, the digital tools that property managers now have to help them organize and keep track of their work are constantly evolving, taking almost every aspect of running a property into the digital realm and making data more accessible to everyone involved.
Hotel Management Software
Hospitality operations management software is a blanket term we use today for applications that can help property managers run just about every phase of their operation. There are applications available that are strictly housekeeping software and there are also holistic software solutions that cover every facet of the hotel operation including the following:
- Housekeeping management
- Maintenance management
- Staff schedules
- Team communication and task management
- Guest relations
- Amenities and room service
Most importantly, by using software to run your hotel operations more efficiently, you are also building a database of information that’s going to enable you to be able to look at real, pertinent data in order to make better-informed decisions in the future.
Predictive Analytics and Big Data
When we look at the technology that hotel managers now use to organize their staff better and run their operations more efficiently, there are two major ways in which software solutions can benefit them.
Firstly, in the everyday operations. That means being able to know which rooms are occupied and vacant, knowing how many staff members are needed to service guests, knowing whether you are running low on inventory, keeping track of your preventive maintenance program—practical property management issues that can be organized more efficiently on a day-to-day basis with the help of technology.
The second, and possibly more important, aspect of this technology is how it can provide insights that will help you improve these processes even further in the future. Hotel management software gives you access to an overview of how you are running your hotel and enables you to improve your processes based on predictive analytics.
It allows you to see patterns in every event that takes place in your hotel and is tracked; when your property is the busiest, when your guests like to eat, what amenities they use most, and much more.
The concept of big data, which starts with the collection of data points and their implementation through various models of predictive analysis, will lead to more personalized experiences for guests while making it easier for hotel staff to provide those experiences.
Big data allows hotels to identify trends and use a data-driven approach to steer all strategies towards gaining a clearer understanding of your business’s performance and both internal and external factors that impact this performance.
Essentially, the implementation and integration of big data into how you run your property enables you to anticipate needs and initiatives that can benefit your property and act on that data accordingly.
We’ve already covered how technology has made actual face-to-face or phone conversations obsolete for both booking rooms and checking into them. And we’ve also covered how hotel management software has enabled hotel staff to communicate via apps no matter where they are on the property.
What about conversations between guests and staff that are absolutely necessary? How do they occur? Thanks to technology, they can also unfold “remotely.”
Because technology has influenced how we communicate so much, there are younger generations of hotel guests that simply wouldn’t want to have to talk to people in person if they don’t have to. Texting technology and Internet messengers have made the need to see people face to face or call them on the phone practically obsolete.
Hotel technology is moving in a similar direction, with many properties now employing chatbots and similar solutions to allow guests to contact staff at their convenience and how they feel most comfortable when communicating with strangers.
Using chatbots, guests can get answers to all their questions, which are filtered through the technology and sent to the appropriate department to answer. Another great feature that many chatbots now have is that they can be programmed to answer frequently asked questions automatically. A guest can ask for the closest bar or club to the hotel or the best Italian restaurant in the area and the chatbot will be pre-programmed to give guests answers instantly.
Hotels are also embracing social media interaction options for guests who are most comfortable and familiar with this type of communication. If you’d like to get all information pertinent to your stay via WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, modern hotels will be able to oblige you because, once again, it’s in their best interest to make guests feel comfortable and customize the experience based entirely on the guest’s preferences.
None of the technological advances we have discussed thus far would be possible to establish in any hotel without the proper IT infrastructure in place.
Your hotel’s IT infrastructure is made up of all of the components that are needed to operate and manage your hotel’s IT environments, which includes all hardware and software components, your network, data storage, and everything else needed to deliver your IT services to your guests and staff.
The biggest uniting factor within your IT infrastructure is cloud technology. Making sure that your operations live in the cloud is absolutely essential in hospitality today for many reasons. Being in the cloud allows for real-time updates across all channels and also makes adding new innovations into your hotel’s tech stack easier, more efficient, and less expensive.
If your hotel is still investing a lot of money and time into installing and running hardware and software that is on-site, it’s going to be impossible to keep up with the competition that has already migrated its system to the cloud. The cloud is the future of business and has been for some time, offering flexibility and efficiency that traditional systems cannot.
Without cloud technology, your hotel is at a clear disadvantage and cannot introduce new technologies into your operation quickly enough to keep up with your competition and the general trends of what is considered essential technology for the hospitality industry in 2021.
Wi-Fi and General Connectivity
According to a recent study, the amount of revenue lost across the hospitality industry due to poor Wi-Fi offerings is roughly $5 billion per year.
Having great Wi-Fi is especially important for hotels that have a large number of international guests who might not have local access to the Internet. But even if your guests are mostly local, they would still much prefer to use your Wi-Fi and not have to use their personal Internet service on their phones and other devices, because most guests feel that a strong Internet connection is a basic amenity that all hotels should be offering in this day and age.
Guests require strong Wi-Fi signals not just in their rooms, but all throughout your property. People that are visiting your hotel on business will commonly request even stronger and more secure Internet connections via ethernet connections if possible.
Having multiple and plentiful areas within your property where people can connect to the Internet but also charge their devices is also essential.
But by providing guests and staff easy and quality access to the Internet, hotels open themselves up to a wide variety of cybercrimes that can potentially cripple their businesses in a variety of ways. This is why being able to protect your IT infrastructure is just as important as being able to install and enable it.
Every modern business needs to worry about cybersecurity, but hospitality businesses are without a doubt some of the most at-risk businesses in terms of exposure, simply because they are incredibly reliant on the Internet in just about every facet of their services.
Hotels deal with and store an incredible amount of personal guest data, which is something that’s very valuable to hackers and makes them a very popular target for cybercriminals. Not just that, but the fact that you have hundreds, if not thousands, of guests using the Internet you provide, adds another level of risk.
Guests using your Internet can also be targets of social engineering and phishing schemes that can give hackers access to your network. Any hotel that has the ability to do so needs to hire an in-house team that’s responsible for securing hotel networks, establishing security protocols, and performing regular checks to make sure that your hotel is protected.
Not only is prevention necessary, hotel IT security teams should also have well-developed incident response plans in place for when cyberattacks inevitably do occur.
The level of Internet access and technology you can provide for your team and customers will hinge on the strength of your security system and protocols and your hotel’s ability to protect the plethora of sensitive data that you’re dealing with on an everyday basis.
Future Technologies of Today
We are living in times in which ideas that were once reserved for science fiction movies are becoming reality.
And while you might not be driving guests around your property in flying cars any time soon, technology is developing at such an exceptionally quick rate that many once inconceivable technologies are becoming commonplace.
Yes, we could be seeing robots in many hospitality businesses in the not-so-distant future. The rise of robotics is imminent and while it’s unlikely that robots will entirely replace humans any time soon as some predicted, robots will definitely be employed to help humans perform their tasks more efficiently.
We’ve already seen robotic devices being used to vacuum, clean, and disinfect floors. Therefore, it wouldn’t be a surprise if we started seeing robots perform necessary tasks that are basic and repetitive in hotel kitchens and restaurants as well. Robots could also start appearing as digital concierges, welcoming guests and providing them with basic information pertinent to their stays.
COVID-19 protocols will also make a case for the use of robots since robots, unlike humans, are unable to transmit and spread germs and viruses.
Virtual and augmented reality are already being used within the booking process, enabling potential guests to explore your property in an immersive way without having to step foot on it.
Virtual reality represents the next frontier of presentation, providing a much clearer and all-encompassing understanding of your property than pictures on your website can offer.
Best of all, these types of presentations can already be implemented fairly easily via most web browsers and can be offered as immersive experiences for people who might have access to a VR headset, which have become more readily available and can even be created with the help of a smartphone fairly easily today.