In the hotel business, cutting-edge features that were once a novelty or “nice to have” are what today's increasingly tech-savvy travelers have come to expect. A recent report from Hotel Technology put it another way, noting that “hospitality customers no longer simply accept the role of technology in their experiences and transactions, but actually demand it.”
According to that study — the result of a survey of hotel professionals representing more than 18,000 properties worldwide — adoption of tech such as smart technologies such as mobile reservations and keyless entry has been nearly universal.
The latest technology can be a competitive advantage
For hotel businesses, these new technologies could be the very thing that helps them gain a competitive edge in the hospitality industry.
“The high rates of adoption we are seeing suggest that hotels that have yet to implement mobile, self-service, digital signage, two-way messaging, smart TVs, and other technology that customers demand, are now at a significant disadvantage,” the Hospitality Technology study concluded.
In addition to meeting guest expectations, here are a few more reasons that hotels should stay on top of the latest developments in hospitality technology.
1. To attract "laptop luggers"
In this digital age, all most of us need to do our jobs from anywhere in the world is a laptop computer or mobile device and a reliable WiFi connection. One of the many impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic was a widespread shift to remote and hybrid models of working, which further illustrated that employees at tech companies and a wide range of related industries need not be chained to a desk at downtown office in order to be productive.
In previous blog posts we have discussed the rise of the “digital nomad”, which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as “a person who earns a living working online in various locations of their choosing (rather than a fixed business location).”
When the pandemic hit in 2020, the number of digital nomads in the US soared to 10.9 million, more than double what it had been two years before. It has been estimated that by 2035, there will be roughly a billion digital nomads worldwide.
Business in the front, party in the back
Not everyone wants to adopt working-from-anywhere as a lifestyle, of course. Some just want to squeeze a bit of work into their vacations — or vice-versa.
Sometimes known as “bleisure” (a combination of “business” and “leisure”), this approach to work trips has also been called “mullet travel” by Wall Street Journal reporter Jacob Passy; just as the mullet hairstyle can be described as “business in the front, party at the back”, a bleisure trip is often front-loaded with work, with a bit of time for fun at the back end.
In its 2023 travel-industry outlook report, Deloitte categorized these bleisure travelers as “laptop luggers”. That report cited a survey from last year, in which one in five travelers said they intended to work at least partially on their longest summer trip.
Engaging guests who travel for work
Worth noting is that these travelers tended to be in the 18-to-34-year-old bracket, and that many of them earned $100,000 or more per year. A third of them said they intended to add three to six days to their longest trip of the season.
All of this adds up to a market segment that the hotel industry cannot afford to ignore.
Hotels can make working travelers feel welcome
As we have previously noted, hospitality operators can make working travelers — whether they’re checking in for a weekend or staying for a month — feel welcome by providing them with work-friendly desks in their hotel rooms, free WiFi, and co-working spaces.
Offering a digital news platform such as PressReader as an amenity will provide guests with a way to keep up to date with the latest in business and finance, or just give them something good to read during their downtime.
2. To alleviate labor woes
The labor shortage in hotels (and restaurants and bars too, for that matter) has been one of the biggest stories to in the hospitality industry in the last few years. And it’s not over yet, as evidenced by headlines coming out of British Columbia, New Zealand, Japan, Macau and all points in between.
Could investing in new technologies help? According to the Hospitality Technology report we cited above, 66% of hotel operators have identified lack of qualified labor as a key reason to pursue self-service solutions, which could include mobile check-in, online using the hotel’s website booking engine, checking in online, or using a mobile app to order a meal
Artificial intelligence and machine learning
In its 2023 State of the Industry Report, the American Hotel & Lodging Association noted that “Recent labor shortages are causing the industry to take a fresh look at the practical use of robots to fill this gap. There is still the concern that in hospitality, we should not be putting machines in front of guests, but there are a growing number of use cases out of guests’ view.”
Many hotels already use AI
Indeed, the average hotel’s tech stack already includes software that employs artificial intelligence and machine learning.
While a property management system or a piece of customer relationship management software can’t really be classified as a “robot” per se, these tools can certainly be used to automate processes in a way that can save hotel staff a lot of time and effort and reduce operational costs.
Focus on the guest experience
The right technology can give hotel management more bandwidth to focus on creating a better guest experience.
At properties that offer PressReader, for instance, members of the hospitality staff don’t have to spend time selecting, ordering and distributing publications to rooms. That's because hotel guests will have unlimited access to content from their favorite newspapers and magazines using their own mobile devices.
Using the Self-Pub feature, hotels can also use the PressReader platform to share important information (including house rules, a hotel directory and up-to-date menus) and reduce pressure on front-desk staff, freeing them up to focus on addressing guest needs.
3. To support sustainability initiatives
Moreover, Expedia + Skift Research tells us that “Half of consumers would be willing to pay more for transportation, activities, and lodging if the option was more sustainable. On average, consumers are willing to pay 38% more to make their travels more sustainable.”
Tech enables sustainability efforts
EHL Insights' Hospitality Industry Outlook 2023 cites research that shows that green hotels "benefit from a room rate premium of 6.5% without reducing occupancy, mainly due to better indoor environmental quality.
“Technology is a critical enabler” of sustainability efforts, states the AHLA, “from energy conservation to food waste reduction to electronic vehicle charging and much more.”
Beyond merely remaining relevant in the eyes of eco-conscious consumers, hotels have compelling reasons to embrace technology and its potential to bring cutting-edge solutions to the climate crisis.
High stakes require cutting-edge solutions
"The stakes for the hospitality industry are high," EHL's report states. "Buildings, including hotels, are the biggest source of greenhouse gases after transportation. In fact, hotel operations consume more energy than any other type of building, accounting for an estimated 1% of global carbon emissions.
"The long-term commitment to becoming carbon-neutral by most major hotel chains is thus an important goal, also to raise awareness for people who stay and enjoy amenities at the hotels."
Smart technology for greener hotels
Going digital can help hospitality operators gain a competitive advantage in a variety of ways, from appealing to today's tech-savvy travelers to increasing customer satisfaction in an extremely competitive hotel market.
The right technologies — including services like PressReader — can also help a hotel meet its sustainability targets. By reducing the number of physical copies of publications in circulation at their properties, hotel management teams can also control the time and money allocated to recycling and waste management while also complying with environmental best practices.
PressReader is working with hotel leaders around the world to improve the guest experience. Learn more about how we’re partnering with members of the hospitality industry to help their properties stand out.