In the cold, dark and, some would say, gloomy month of January, people start fantasising about sunnier climes. The lure of the sun is strong as a result and January is typically the busiest month for holiday sales. What better time, then, to discuss how the internet of things (IoT) is likely to change hotels, accommodation and hospitality.
How will connected devices and the data that they generate typically be leveraged within the hospitality industry? How can they be used to provide guests with a better experience? Are they capable of reducing costs or enhancing profitability? Finally, and vitally, why should the hospitality industry be looking at this technology and considering how best to harness it?
The hospitality industry has been through two large digital transformations in the last few years. Firstly, the move to analytical, fast Wi-Fi, allowing guests to stay online when visiting. More importantly, it allowed hoteliers to gather important footfall analytics (where their guests went in the hotel and how long they spent in each area), demographic information about who their guest was and their interests, as well as most importantly for some, the ability to monetise 'premium' Wi-Fi for video streaming and downloads.
The second digitalisation came in the way that hotels used apps for hotel booking and, as an industry, moved back to intuitive, easy to use websites with integrations to hotel booking platforms such as Trivago and Booking.com. Now we see a further shift into improving client experience, with smart technology playing the central role and mirroring what many travellers are now equipping their homes with.
What are guests saying?
In a recent study from Travelport, travellers overwhelmingly state that they want a good digital experience (online check-in, room key on a smartphone, etc.) from their hotel, but still sought excellent human engagement and interaction when visiting¹. 75% of Gen Y (those born between the mid-1990s and early 2000s) expected smart TVs, Bluetooth speakers and voice assistants at hotels and this was important when choosing their hotel.
There was also a suggestion that augmented and virtual reality would be useful when planning travel. However, almost half of all travellers stated that they found it frustrating if they aren't able to talk to a human when there was an issue or a query. Travellers across all age groups echoed similar thoughts - giving the guest more technical autonomy and freedom, but also being able to reach a real person when something was needed or there was a problem.
How hotels can use IoT
The potential ways in which hotels and other hospitality providers can leverage IoT is virtually immeasurable. Determining the granular and business-specific benefits it is capable of delivering requires in-depth planning, but there are more than a handful of ways in which accommodation providers can benefit from IoT. Here are a few examples:
IoT can be used to personalise guests’ experiences
Imagine a guest wants their breakfast brought to their room. It’s by no means an unusual request, but it would require them to either specify the time they wanted it delivered or, alternatively to call reception and order it when needed. Neither option is entirely desirable; the guest could, for example, be awake earlier than they’d anticipated meaning that they’ll find themselves waiting and, almost certainly, hungry. Alternatively, if they call reception to order, they’ll again find themselves waiting, this time whilst their meal is prepared.
What if your guests could, instead, request that their breakfast is delivered to them 15 minutes after they wake up? By simply installing motion sensors in rooms, kitchen staff can be informed of the exact moment a guest rises and begin preparing their breakfast so that it’s delivered at their requested time.
IoT can make maintenance easier
With broken equipment typically amongst hotel guests’ greatest bugbears, being able to identify any that required repair in advance of it failing would greatly improve customer satisfaction.
Allowing devices to communicate with a central hub can facilitate this. This centralised control mechanism, once programmed to identify declining performance, will be able to inform anyone responsible for sustaining or replacing equipment when repairs or new products are required. This can be used for all devices regularly found in hotel rooms from showers to hairdryers and televisions.
IoT can reduce the costs of running a hotel
Sign-in consoles can be used in reception areas to reduce staffing costs. These devices can check if rooms are ready by communicating with various sensors and reviewing staff records. In the event that the room needs to be prepared for a guest, they can inform them of both this and, by reviewing staff availability, can provide them with accurate waiting times, too.
Hotels also generate large amounts of waste expenditure as a result of appliances, heating and so on being used excessively and unnecessarily. Simple changes such as allowing temperature sensors to automatically turn off heating devices or turning off lights when a room is not being used can generate significant savings as a result.
IoT can synchronise guest preferences across locations
Hotel chains are often described as being impersonal – as lacking the kind of tailored experiences that smaller, independent businesses provide. With IoT, though, hotel chains can provide customised experiences that are automated across multiple locations.
Bespoke applications can, for example, be offered to clients as a means of controlling various smart features in their room but, by requiring that each app be associated with an individual user, they can also be used to transfer these preferences from hotel to hotel. As a result, the temperature of a room or lighting can be set to a guest’s preference in advance of them entering it.
Their preferred breakfast and caffeinated morning beverage can be sent to them within minutes of them waking up, tables for lunch/dinner can be automatically booked for their preferred times as soon as they check in and they can be appraised of any additional offers available at the hotel that their prior activities would suggest they’d be interested in such as beauty treatments, exercise facilities etc.
IoT can make hotels more secure
It’s common knowledge that society is becoming increasingly risk-averse. Imagine the benefits of being able to promote a hotel as significantly safer than its counterparts – it’s fair to assume that this would be a powerful and unique selling point.
By teaming facial recognition software with surveillance equipment, hotels can minimise the prospect of unauthorised personnel gaining access to various parts of the hotel. Guests, for example, could be prevented from accessing floors on which their rooms aren’t located or staff-only areas.
Hotels will need to truly transform for IoT
IoT, like all forms of digital technologies, has a variety of blanket applications but hotels that want to use it to its full potential – to deliver a truly superior experience to their guests – will need to comprehensively research the technology and understand the myriad of ways in which it can be used before they will be able to do so.
ROCK’s team of consultants utilise their unparalleled technical knowledge and blends this with a comprehensive understanding of our client's organisations and objectives to deliver digital transformation strategies that will yield transformative and sustainable improvements.