Technology, perhaps more than any other sector of the hospitality industry, undergoes the most regular changes. It is always evolving, constantly changing the guest experience along with it.
Beginning at the front desk, new technology is making check-in so easy, guests don’t even need to speak with anyone to do it. “Many brands and hotels are using technology to streamline the experience,” said Kevin Tyjer, project designer at Wilson Associates. “More and more have check-in apps and are using the smartphone as the key. If guests have been traveling and they don’t feel like interacting after that, they can check in to their room with their phone and not have to speak to anyone.”
“The trend to keyless entry has finally gained traction, and the desire from our guests to check in without the traditional front desk cannot be ignored,” said Chris Manley, COO, Stonebridge Companies. “While the airline industry is not known for its hospitality, they have been a clear leader in this category. However, companies like Stonebridge that focus on guest hospitality are losing an important touchpoint which must be replaced in other areas, such as housekeeping cleanliness and the breakfast experience. If we lose meaningful interaction with the guest, we run the risk of becoming a commodity.”
After they’re checked in, technology continues to inform the guest’s arrival. “Once they’re in their room, they can connect it to Bluetooth and control their own media and entertainment,” Tyjer said.
“Within certain products, you can charge your smart device and listen to media via wired or Bluetooth,” said Jason Allen, president, Pinnacle South LLC. “Technology is always changing, sometimes affecting our options and decisions even from the time we start [a project]until we finish. For example, TVs change in size, in features and in image quality. They continue to increase in screen size. It is not uncommon for us to have requests to use 43-in. and 49-in. TVs in a standard guestroom—and 49-in. TVs in suites.”
Televisions, too, are increasingly being integrated into mirrors. “This allows guests to control when they watch television,” Tyjer said. It also enhances the design aesthetic of the room. “When it comes to ports or outlets, we try to conceal them.”
But technology also needs to be accessible, even when concealed. “It matters where it’s located,” Nunturat Robbamrung, interior designer at Wilson Associates, said. “It must be easy to locate but not so noticeable—it has to blend in to the materials, but it must be easy to access.” Robbamrung added that guests want to carry over the technology they use in their own homes into their hotel. “Hotels should provide what they expect: WiFi, charging points and connectivity. Previously, most hotels tended to provide a device for guests to use. Now, everyone brings their own device, so their connection to the device is more important.”
“There are a lot of elements we can look forward to, from wireless charging, personal media brought by guests (casting), personal media access via TV and, of course, IoT connectivity,” said John Edwards, chief information officer at RLHC (Red Lion Hotels Corporation). “Being able to have your devices, including wearables, and connect to your room upon arrival is going to be key.”
Edwards predicts that, over time, guests will have more control of their room. “They will be able to set personal comfort preferences and security, and communicate directly with hotel services,” he said. “These personalized solutions are one technology that will find its way into hotels very soon.
“Ultimately, we should be creating systems that know our guests prior to check-in, and allow guests to record TV shows or access their online media automatically without the need to log in through the room TVs,” he concluded.