Steven To, Managing Director, Africa & Latin America Tink Labs Limited, discusses the top 5 technology trends that’ll be affecting hotels in 2018.

2018 will see a breakthrough in five technologies for the hospitality industry. Some hotels have already acquired and tested the technologies on this list. We anticipate hotels to continue expanding their service portfolio to guests through them

Virtual Reality can be used to market in-destination activities

Hoteliers have now realised virtual reality’s potential in the travel and tourism industry with leading hotel brands including Best Western and Marriott, having already introduced this technology to guests.

The Marriott introduced an in-destination VR service called VRoom Service which guests can use for 24 hours. The VR devices are loaded with “VR postcards”, which provide guests with travel inspiration, showcasing people’s first-hand travel experiences. This has the potential to encourage new holiday bookings and even experiences offered in-destination.

“By using the technology in the rooms, we’re bringing the experience to guests inside. It’s a property renovation,” says Michael Dail, Marriott’s VP of global brand marketing

2018 will see the rise of Virtual Reality, which will become the norm for hotels. Guests will not only want to familiarise themselves with the location pre-check-in but also experience local activities before booking them.

IOT: Guest enabled Rooms are on the way

Hotel brands have considered IoT platforms due to better cost efficiencies and enhanced guest experience. Hilton, for example, has built a beta test room control for selected hotels.

“Imagine a world where the room knows you, and you know your room”  Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta at SKIFT Global Forum

Hilton is using the DIY approach of proprietary technology which is built from the ground up instead of picking off-the-shelf technologies to implement.

They are looking to build a brand-new hotel room with built-in voice control, temperature and lighting settings that are controlled via a custom app, available on the guest’s smartphone.

Despite hotelier’s reluctance to be ahead of the curve or gimmicky in their technology adoption, the signs remain strong that both brands have shown commitment and progress in IoT room technology.

Guest facing technologies provide a more personalized experience

Apart from the Free Wi-Fi, personalis, Digitalation of the guest experience is going to be the biggest factor a hotelier needs to consider. With the availability of guest data and technologies to plug into a Hotel’s CRM, it provides tremendous intelligence information about the guest behaviour all the way from pre-trip, in stay and post trip.

“Nearly three in five (59%) travelers say their hotel stay is significantly more comfortable if services are personalized and more than have (54%) admit it makes them feel more valued” IHG Study reveals

While hotels are utilising technology to avoid private data exploitation, guest data analysis can be derived from smart guest connectivity devices. This provides more behavioural insights, which helps hoteliers offer a deeper level of personalisation. Expect more developments and success in this area.

Digital Concierge will produce an efficient service

By 2021 the number of people using messaging apps to communicate will reach 2.5 billion according to Statista report,  making messaging a primary form of communication.

“39% of people surveyed said they are completely comfortable using chat to contact the hotel front desk, while only 7% said they would not be.” Phocus Wright research

Brands such as IHG Group and Hyatt are already  using third party social media messaging platforms, while others such as Marriott have built apps to facilitate instant messaging. Notably as hotels attempt to engage guests through this technology, travel agencies are also entering this space to drive loyalty.

Technology providers are looking to integrate chat with hotel systems. Chat communication is just another digital channel hotels can use to increase guest engagement and communication . Through a smartphone amenity with an app for example, we should see more engagement opportunities than just to change booking details, such as pre-stay and post-stay communication.

AI & Chatbots lower operational costs.

As Artificial intelligence (AI) & Chatbots mature we see more complex algorithms to perform complicated tasks increase, which should eliminate a lot of overhead operational costs. Finding the balance between human hospitality service and technology is going to be key as hotels try to reduce operational costs while increasing guest’s overall ratings.

“We’ve been building bots on IRC [for] many years … now it’s just that it’s on mainstream platforms.” CEO/Co-Founder of The Bot Platform

2018 will continue to see predictive guest technologies related to AI & Chatbots emerge and provide Hotels with the opportunity to off load tasks that hotel staff and customer support are trained to do.