The tech revolution sweeping through the global hotel industry seems fuelled by the post-pandemic zeitgeist of ‘life’s too short’. Tech speeds things up, ensures efficiency, minimises human error, and remains in action 24/7.
Then there’s the new breed of post-Covid, tech-savvy guest, who has requirements and expectations that the industry is still getting to grips with. They’re looking for 24/7 contactless support, ease of use, and a sense of control through self-service, basing their choices on a greater variety of options, which are challenging the hospitality paradigms of yesteryear.
And while this post-Covid era and all the pent-up travel demand seems to be driving these global tech trends, I disagree. It’s the ‘fault’ of the millennials!
Here at BON Hotels, we are the first to admit that millennials were right all long. But let me “rewind” to five years ago, when I was musing over the minds of millennials wondering why they seemed antisocial.
The millennial mind
Back then, the distinct traits of millennials were proving challenging for the hotel industry.
I remember thinking to myself that the more I got to understand the millennials, the less I understood them. It was a mystery to me why they seemed to want as little human interaction as possible – bypassing reception by checking in online, avoiding hotel staff at all costs, SMSing a room-service order and generally refusing to answer the phone in their room.
This year, when my family and I had the opportunity to stay in one of the world’s great resorts in Spain, I was blown away that this 400-bed, exclusive and fully inclusive resort was ‘speaking millennial’ and speaking it so well. I had to find out more and started interfacing with the technology they had put in place. That’s when I realised that the millennials were right.
At this resort, guests are assigned a host, who one meets upon arrival, and whose mobile number one is given on check-in. Face-to-face interactions are few, perhaps four times during a two-week stay, but guests are able to message all their wants and needs which, if not seen by the host, are rerouted through the backend to the relevant departments.
The beauty of this is never having to look for a waiter to place a drinks order while you’re lounging at the pool or being able to request extra blankets from housekeeping or a copy of your bill from reception. Later when you’re sitting in the restaurant, you can simply WhatsApp your order without interacting with a waiter. Same with room service at 2am after a long night out!
So, the “contactless” mindset of the millennials is fast becoming mainstream and proving once again that they are ahead of their time.
Let’s take a look at some global tech trends that are reshaping hotels:
- The remote concierge: In some limited-service hotels, remote concierges are doing guest check-ins. Guests interface with a person onscreen, who is in another country. So, for example, concierges stationed in calls centres in the Philippines are checking in guests in New York.
- Facial recognition: Becoming more commonplace now from banking apps to PayByFace, some hotels are using facial recognition to automate the check-in process and improve personalisation. Matching a guest’s face to their profile on a database enables hotels to deliver on some personal touches, such as stocking the guest’s favourite drinks in the minibar.
- Digital keys: Guests can head straight to their rooms on arrival and use their smartphones as ‘keys’.
- Room personalisation: Temperature settings and lighting in rooms can be remotely controlled from a smartphone via an app.
- Chatbots: Hoteliers are using chatbots on their websites as digital concierges. Available 24/7, they’re answering guest questions and carrying out requests or ‘handing over’ more complicated requests to a human being.
- QR-code menus: Downloading QR-code menus has become the norm throughout Europe, prompted by the pandemic. It’s making physical menus that need to be touched and paged through virtually obsolete.
- Robo-staff: Gimmicky robots that were all the rage back in the day, are no longer R2-D2 replicas but humanoid versions with advanced and meaningful uses. Super-fast room service and deliveries of items like towels and slippers are already being handled with no fuss, no mess, by hotel bots. So, no need for late-night staff on shift. Robo-chefs are being trialled in some pioneering restaurants.
While all these trends are impressive, let’s remember that bots are merely a tool and tech merely a system to streamline our hotel operations. Authentic human interaction that comes with the feel-good factor can’t be replaced or replicated by tech. Our guests, and especially those enigmatic millennial guests, may no longer want to be schmoozed with a welcome cocktail and exchange pleasantries at reception, but when they have a special request or an issue with their room, it’s only a friendly human being who can help them out. And it may be the only time that hotel staff verbally interface with them. Isn’t life amazing!