Technology is bringing added value to hospitality in ways we never imagined possible only a few short years ago. Here are four uses of technology that are changing the way we think about doing business in the international hospitality & tourism industry.
1. Concierge Services
To start with, the influence of information technology has dramatically changed the role of the concierge. Whilst the current role of the concierge is to provide information and services to guests, Millenials are closer to technology and therefore able to get much of that information directly. Hence, the concierge must be capable of providing what the customer cannot access from a smartphone by not only offering different and unique experiences, but also making them possible.
While some hotels are tempted to make the Concierge redundant by providing information through interactive touch screens or directly to the smartphone of the customers, the current hybrid service approach seems to be gaining ground. For example, Hilton’s luxury brand, Conrad Hotels & Resorts, has adopted a more high-tech approach to serving the needs of its guests through the Conrad Concierge app, which allows guests to customize the details of their hotel stay from a smartphone or tablet. The app enables guests to select bath amenities or their preferred pillow from the pillow menu, as well as to pre-order dinner through room service. For more details, see Hotel News Now’s article, “How technology is changing the hotel concierge.”
Today, making a hotel reservation by calling the hotel on the phone appears to be as remote in time as the telegraph. Does anyone still do that? Direct bookings through the hotel’s operator are slowly disappearing as many more reservations are made through travel sites like Expedia or Bookings.com. As we know, these online travel agents are giants in the sector and they have overtaken a big part of the market. Still though, some new players are arriving. The entry of Google`s Hotel Finder has been perceived as a breath of fresh air by Chains and Operators who also want to have direct access to clients that competes with the large travel sites. They believe this new service will dramatically change the landscape by tying up Hotel information with Google Maps. Indeed, if instead of searching the hotel by brand or category, it is set by its location and proximity to monuments, events centers or meeting places, then suddenly a new door to reservations is opened that could level the floor for independent & boutique hotels that get lost among the giants.
Technology development is not only centered in making Reservations easier. The search for funding and investors is dramatically changing with the progressive use of Crowdfunding by the industry.
Whilst this new trend started with small lending deals between 2M to 4M, the size of the deals is progressively increasing. However, the important element is how the Crowdfunding market dedicated to the hospitality and hotel industry is increasing. From US$396M in 2013, to 1Bn in 2014…. and it is expected to reach US$2.5Bn worldwide this year, of which US$1.4Bn is in the US only.
Again, most of these operations are medium term loans/bonds for Hotels in operation and with the capability to produce steady cash flow. Once the door has been opened, investors will be seen shifting to invest in new projects and, in many cases, overtaking the role of banks. For more information on how Crowdfunding is changing Real Estate linked to the hospitality industry, visit the Bloomberg News article titled “Real Estate Crowdfunding Seen Topping $2.5 Billion in ’15” and Hotel News Now article, “Crowdfunding carves out legitimate niche“.
Of course Crowdfunding cannot assure the outcome, after all, not all crowdfunding efforts have been successful. Still, it is good to see how new options are available for those seeking funding.
4. Competition: Airbnb
Finally, there are increased competitive tools that are employing technology. Take Airbnb who is proving to be a strong competition for hotels and travel sites. Their impact is clearly being perceived in major cities around the world. This rent-direct service now offers its hosts third party services to help them yield-manage their rooms/apartments so that they too can take advantage of the dynamic pricing hotels have long been involved in.