The recent economic and global challenges of the past few years have caused a shift in how businesses approach technology for the long term. According to a recent study by McKinsey & Company, companies of all industries have increased the digitization of their customer and supply chain interactions, some by as much as three or four years, while the adoption of digitally enabled products has also accelerated, by up to seven years - and as much as ten years in Asia. This rapid acceleration of technology adoption is transforming the business landscape and presents new opportunities for growth and innovation.
Across many industries, a narrative shift is taking place wherein technology is no longer solely recognized for its cost-saving capabilities, but as a crucial aspect of any business. The rise of technological solutions is not a new concept, but the increasing reliance on technology to meet customer demand and replace outdated communication methods is noteworthy.
Of the changes to the adoption of digital processes, the largest are the most likely to be here for the long term, including:
- Changing customer demands or expectations - such as, for example, increased hygiene awareness and online communication/purchasing
- Increasing migration of cloud-based assets
- Increasing use of advanced technologies within business operations - such as artificial intelligence, automation and analytics.
In fact, 32% of attendees at our recent MarketHub Americas event suggested they were planning to embrace tech and AI above anything else this year, and 28% planned to innovate more.
Within the context of the travel and hospitality industry, it is imperative for hotel owners to consider how they can effectively integrate advanced technology to enhance customer interactions. This raises the important question of how hotel owners can adapt to an ever-evolving digital landscape, and what innovative tools and strategies are already being utilised to optimise customer experiences in the hospitality sector.
Smart Hotel Technology
In response to the growing expectations of digital-savvy travellers, hotels are expanding their horizons by offering innovative facilities such as mobile check-in, smart room technology and partnering with new tech companies to cater to their everyday needs.
To be considered a top-tier hotel, it is essential to provide guests with cutting-edge technology that enhances their experience. Smart hotels achieve this feat by enabling customers to control devices and services using Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality (AR), or digital connectivity. Examples of such travel technology include voice control, energy efficiency controls, facial recognition, and automation.
The implementation of smart hotel technology is a vital aspect of customer experience. By utilising AI machine learning to collect and process customer data during a stay, hotels can gain valuable insights into customer preferences and provide a more customised experience.
What are some other real-life examples of travel technology partnerships or innovations within the hotel industry?
- Marriott International recently partnered with Groups360 to streamline the process of booking rooms, meeting spaces and events for its corporate guests.
- The Maho Group, offering hotels and resorts in the Caribbean, partnered with Cendyn to power its CRM, revenue management and business intelligence, offering personalised experiences to encourage customer loyalty by tracking individual guests’ preferences.
- IHG Hotel and Resorts recently partnered with PPDS to offer Chromecast in select locations, providing guests with the ability to stream content from their smart devices.
- DistrictHive offers its guests a ‘human recharding pod’, an ‘off-grid’ space where AI systems manage energy consumption and can change external stimuli like sounds or smells based on external conditions.
- Ascott’s Lyf One-North Singapore provides a co-living property for guests, where they can trade digital art and engage in virtual activities.
- Hilton has been working with Meta and SweetRush to create VR scenarios to train members of the team to deal with complex guest situations and provide a better experience for future guests.
How Do We Encourage Tech Development at Hotelbeds?
In order to enhance the traveller's experience and ensure a seamless process, we have forged a partnership with Wayra, an open innovation centre operating within the telecommunications firm Telefonica to create the TravelTech Lab by Hotelbeds. Designed to allow us to support upcoming tech startups, this collaboration means we can work together with startup partners to create customer-centric products, platforms, and services that have a significant impact in the travel industry. Our goal is to continuously innovate and improve the travel experience for our customers.
A diverse and data-driven distribution strategy is crucial to enhancing exposure and relevance within the travel industry, particularly in the valuable B2B marketplace. At Hotelbeds, with our extensive network of over 71,000 travel distributors worldwide, we are well-positioned to amplify the success of your hotel(s).
Not only this, but our exclusive extranet is a hotel marketing solution that combines the benefits of our distribution channel with valuable digital tools to effectively manage availability, rates, content and more to maximise room occupancy.
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The tourism sector, research has shown, is responsible for as much as 8% of global CO2 emissions, with around 2% of this directly produced by the hospitality industry. This, and recent insight from CBRE demonstrates the urgency around the need for hospitality and leisure infrastructures, businesses and establishments to reduce their carbon footprints in comparison to other real estate classifications. Hotel carbon emissions alone are shown to be 96kgCO2e/m².
And although there has been tangible progress to reduce carbon footprints in order to meet the terms of the globally recognised Paris Agreement, there is still much work that can be done not only to ensure the development of their business, but to keep in line with the fact that sustainability is now, by necessity, a guiding principle of the travel industry.
Here are just a few examples of sustainable technology which hotels around the world are adopting:
- Operational systems: such as Energy Management Systems (EMS), Guest Room Management Systems (GRMS), Property Management Systems (PMS), and Building Management Systems (BMS).
- Online check-in and automated ticket management for guest requests
- Digitised communications and collaboration technology: for shareholders, corporate communications and even for guests, to reduce the carbon footprint that comes with printed or physical resources.
- Renewable sources of energy: solar or photovoltaic - to lower the impact of high-consumption services like air conditioning.
Why Is Sustainable Technology Important?
As previously highlighted in our traveller of tomorrow discussion, the Gen Z traveller profile is one of the most influential in the travel industry. This demographic is particularly vocal in their support of sustainable travel, with Millennials also ranking the ecological impact of transportation, accommodations, and activities as a significant factor in their booking decisions. Google Insights also reports that more than half of surveyed travellers consider environmental impact when making travel plans.
And after all, the guests of the future will be Gen Z and Gen Alpha (the children of Millennial families); and as the 'voice of sustainability', these generations prioritise eco-friendly practices, making it critical for hotels to adapt in order to remain relevant and successful in the industry.
As part of our recognition that providing sustainable travel opportunities to end travellers is so vital, at Hotelbeds we’ve worked to ensure that hotels that can be categorised as ‘green’ can easily be found in our portfolio. This is true when travel agents are locating their clients' perfect hotel using our Booking Engine thanks to our ‘Green Hotel’ filter, or browsing top-recommended hotels in our Star Brochures digital brochure.
This is because we know that it’s critical that your properties are receiving not only maximum exposure, but that the defining qualities of these properties are highlighted to the right traveller at the right time in order to increase occupancy rate.
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Recent data indicates that incorporating self-service technology in hotels can increase guest satisfaction, with around 73% of travellers preferring to stay in hotels that offer such technology. From facial recognition to voice control and voice search, recognition technology offers valuable opportunities to implement self-service travel technology, and is one of the more accessible ways to do so.
Facial recognition technology however can also be used throughout the entire customer experiences to provide:
- Faster check-in and check-out.
- A more reliable payment system.
- Higher security - particularly helpful for travellers embarking on long-haul journeys or who want to ensure their details are protected in far-away countries.
- A dematerialised experience - reducing not only the need for wasteful resources like printed paperwork, but also a less stressful experience for travellers.
The modernisation of previously manual or analog processes in order to streamline a customers’ experience also brings us to our next point …
Customer-Centric Artificial Intelligence
As the demand for travel continues to expand, and customers of all demographics are more expectant of digital processes in their daily lives, travel providers must dramatically rethink how they’re ensuring customer satisfaction.
The integration of artificial intelligence into businesses has become more prevalent in recent years, though it has been in existence for quite some time. And while the use of machine learning and AI does present some logistical challenges, the potential of this type of tech cannot be ignored. It is essential, however, for the hospitality industry to strike a careful balance between the benefits of automation and the necessity of delivering personalised experiences.
The most significant example of customer-focused AI when thinking about travel technology for the hospitality industry, is Chatbots. Using natural language processing (NLP) this technology accurately responds to and engages with users to streamline and enhance the customer experience.
The benefits of integrating chatbots into customer service strategies are supported by research from Meta, indicating that approximately seven out of ten customers feel a greater connection to businesses that offer messaging options. In addition, 65% of consumers prefer contacting businesses via chat. These statistics emphasise the importance of utilising chatbots as a professional and effective means of enhancing customer satisfaction.
From pre-booking enquiries to post-booking assistance, Chatbots offer:
- A direct channel of communication from customer to business, simplifying the way that customers used to contact travel providers in the past.
- Seamless customer service - when implemented correctly.
- The ability to gather crucial data - allowing businesses to learn about their customer needs to better meet them.
Our CEO Nicolas Huss, suggests that technology like chatbots allows travel distributors to ‘provide an elevated personalised experience by remembering preferences and automatically implementing them each time an individual books their next trip.’
Tech-Owned Hotels and Resorts
Another noticeable way that the ownership of hotels and how this may impact the hospitality industry is the increasing instances of technology companies branching out into hotel ownership.
For example, tech-company Heli, who have specialised in providing a booking platform and software to heli-skiing experience providers, purchased their own property in a move to expand into the industry in an all-new way.
This expansion into the hospitality industry directly challenges existing hotel owners and hospitality providers, as established travel technology companies such as Heli are approaching the travel market with a high level of understanding about both sides of the market - what it takes to run a successful business, and also how to keep customers happy.
What does this mean for hoteliers?
Travel tech companies moving into the hotel ownership sphere will result in an increasing level of competition for existing hotel owners to ensure that they know what their guests want, and have the appropriate resources, facilities and internal tech solutions to provide this.
Technology and Remote Working/Bleisure Travel
As we previously discussed in our article covering the best destinations for remote workers, the impact and influence of the remote worker on the travel landscape is significant, and does not seem to be dissipating. In fact, by 2022, the number of remote workers had grown to 35 million, with around 16% of companies around the world operating on a fully remote basis, and 76% respondents to a TravelPerk survey suggesting their company was hybrid.
'Bleisure’ travellers are also an increasingly prominent segment, and the combination of business and leisure travel not only changes the needs that guests have during their stay, but also their search criteria during the booking process and businesses that lack the facilities or technology solutions to cater for this segment may find themselves at a disadvantage.
This continual blurring of the line between business and leisure travel can cause several challenges for hotels, such as determining the travel motive for their guests, and changing travel behaviours which are leading to fewer ‘shoulder’ seasons throughout the year amongst other changes across the industry. This will have long-term impact on the considerations that hotel owners should be keeping top of mind when it comes to attracting, and retaining this segment.
Here are a few crucial technologies that hotel owners should consider implementing for remote and bleisure travellers:
- Secure, superfast WiFi - while this may seem obvious, the importance of reliable WiFi that will allow remote workers to conduct their business as usual is vital to attracting this type of traveller, and ensure positive word of mouth marketing as a result of their experiences.
- Access to tools like printers, desktop computers, and smart TVs - this supports a productive environment and ensures spaces are convenient for a wide range of needs.
- Cloud-based technologies - offering coworking or meeting spaces which offer online or cloud-based solutions ensures you’re meeting the variable needs of the remote worker.
Nomad Stays is also looking to take their accommodation of remote workers even further, by offering a booking platform that focuses on the sense of community that this type of traveller is often looking for. This marketplace will provide travellers with ideas of where to buy relevant software to create meetups, coaching and training sessions, consultation services and more - and it’s a key example of how travel providers everywhere are beginning to change their business models to incorporate this high-value segment.
Why is it important that hoteliers are accommodating remote workers?
The notion of ‘hybrid hospitality’ encompasses the opportunity for hotels today, and how businesses utilising the spaces available in their hotels throughout the day and at different times can significantly uplift revenue generation. For example, by ‘stacking’ a co-working model onto the hotel real estate, a 24 hour window of revenue generation opens up, and several hotels found that by doing this it grew their revenue by 20%; just by offering remote workers space to conduct their business in.
By offering a combination of spaces where their business travel and leisure travel needs meet, you’re offering the level of flexibility that today’s travellers are looking for.
VR As A Hotel Marketing Tool
Virtual Reality (VR) offers travel providers and travel sellers all over the world to build a sensory experience of a destination, attraction, or activity, which can then be used to complement or even replace traditional promotional tools much like printed travel brochures.
However for hotels, VR offers a multitude of opportunities to increase occupancy rate, by emphasising the physical environment which is being sold to travellers. By engaging with VR experiences or materials, potential travellers can make a more informed judgement of a new destination, hotel or tourism experience. VR, when used as a hotel marketing tool, provides travellers the chance to more intrinsically understand what will be offered to them and therefore better influence the decision-making process.
When guests can see themselves using the hotel facilities, or even relaxing in their room, the likelihood of them booking this hotel increases.
Some real life examples of successful VR marketing include:
- Unveiled at Fitur 2023, Amadeus announced plans to offer virtual experiences and previews of trips for travellers to travel agencies with its ‘Triportation’ program. This innovative development will provide a mix of ‘VR, AI and metaverse’ to enhance the travel experience at critical moments in the booking journey.
- The use of a VR web portal (Bihor360) was used to successfully promote sustainable tourism in Romania, with positive effects on the awareness, protection and conservation of historical and cultural monuments.
We predict that the use of virtual reality and augmented reality (AR) will continue to expand as travellers become increasingly familiar and reliant on this type of technology during the travel booking process. This includes utilising it to inspire them at the initial “dreaming” stage all the way through to their departure.
So there you have it! These are just a few of the ways that travel technology is being integrated into the hospitality industry, whether that’s with a customer-centric approach, or with initiatives designed to improve the sustainability of hotel facilities, or even to train members of the hotel team to better serve their guests.
At every level of the travel and hospitality industry technology is being recognised far and above its efficiency-increasing capabilities, and is becoming a crucial component of any business. At Hotelbeds, this integration of technology is something we hold as one of our central pillars, from the TravelTech Lab by Hotelbeds to the wealth of data we collect and use to offer our partners informed, market-relevant insights to improve their business.
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