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After two years of isolation, the desire to travel is more present than ever. What has changed is not if we want to travel, but how we want to do it.
Travelers now prefer self-service to waiting to be served, with technological ease expected at every step of the process. From online planning and booking to contactless check-in and 24/7 digital concierge. The expectations of today’s tech- and hygiene-conscious travelers are rapidly accelerating the technological revolution in hospitality. Businesses must act quickly to meet changing demands or risk missing the boat.
In a Stayntouch/NYU Tisch Visitor Center Report81.7% of hoteliers surveyed had implemented at least one new technology during the pandemic and/or planned to do so in 2022. Integrating technology into daily operations is key to minimizing human error, maximizing service efficiency and improve the customer experience.
Related: 3 Trends Shaping the Hospitality Industry
Combining the best of high touch and high tech, here are six tech trends that are reshaping what it takes to stay in business as a hospitality player in 2022:
1. Travel planning gamification
With cabin fever at an all-time high, the world couldn’t be hungrier for spontaneity. As people plan their next getaway, hospitality businesses can leverage gamification – using game design elements in non-game contexts – to turn travel planning from a chore into a guilty pleasure.
By combining gamification mechanisms like challenges, luck, and rewards, with things like points, quests, and sharing, businesses can capitalize on human motivation. Imagine a travel planning website that challenges users to solve a travel puzzle where they will get a score, be placed on a leaderboard, and receive points for their next trip.
Launch of the famous European airline Lufthansa Surprise Lufthansa, which allows travelers to choose from nine categories, with themes like nature, cities or party. After selecting the best choices from seven to twelve European cities, the destination is not revealed until after booking.
Beyond novelty, using gamification for online advertising is proven to drive data collection, customer loyalty, brand awareness, user-generated content, online engagement and revenue.
2. Virtual reality tours
It’s hard for travelers to imagine their next vacation rental before they arrive. How can hoteliers accurately communicate the polished charm of their Santorini boutique hotel to potential guests?
Through the use of VR (virtual reality), businesses can now offer first-person digital tours of their space to future customers. Atlantis Dubai offers a virtual tour showcasing key features of the hotel through visual immersion.
The advantage: virtual reality encourages future travelers to dream about offers before their arrival. Compared to other virtual tours, virtual reality increases the elaboration of mental imagery and presence, which leads to a better brand experience, according to a study in Tourism management.
3. Go contactless
One of the biggest changes in the travel industry is how we think about hygiene. Between government restrictions and personal anxieties, hospitality companies can’t afford to miss the boat.
Adoption of contactless technology like self-check-in, in-room technology, mobile keys and digital payments, has increased 66% during the pandemic, according to the Stayntouch/NYU Tisch Center of Hospitality report. This number is expected to continue to increase throughout 2022.
But hygiene isn’t the only reason hotel companies are rushing to remove human touch from their service. Following a pandemic-induced hotel labor shortage, many hospitality businesses have moved to contactless check-in and check-out to reduce staff dependency.
After the pandemic, we can expect human-to-human contact services to be quickly exchanged for robot receptionistsfacial scan check-in, guest voice control, robot delivery and robotic concierge assistants.
4. Chatbot as a digital concierge
Hoteliers are scrambling to respond to guest requests 24/7. With fewer staff, chatbots go from luxury to necessity. The percentage of hoteliers offering chatbots on their websites is expected to reach 29.2% by the end of 2022, up from just 14.5% in 2019, according to the Stayntouch/NYU Tisch Center of Hospitality report.
Think of the chatbot as a digital concierge, putting the concierge desk at customers’ fingertips. This means a 24/7 ability to engage users, answer their questions, and respond to their requests. Marriott International’s Aloft Hotels created ChatBotlr, allowing guests to make requests from their smartphones, from toiletries deliveries to morning wake-up calls.
Hospitality businesses can implement guest messaging apps through guest smartphones, such as Knowcross, Runtriz, Zingle, Guestware, or Beekeeper. They could also install voice assistants like Volara or Intelity in the room.
5. IoT for room control and customization
With the trend towards efficiency, sustainability and personalization, the IoT (Internet of Things) is enabling hoteliers to keep pace. When installed in a hotel room or short-term rental, IoT technology allows guests to customize in-room settings, such as room temperature and lighting. They can even reduce energy consumption by automatically turning off lights when no one is using the room.
The IoT allows hoteliers not only to adapt the experience to the needs of customers, but also to anticipate them. Imagine coming home after an evening to a room at 70 degrees, with the bedside lamp and aroma diffuser already on. The IoT can collect sophisticated data to create these intuitive spaces.
6. Location-Based Services
Travel today is all about personalized, localized experiences and hoteliers can use location-based services to create them. By seeing a guest’s location through their smartphone, hospitality companies can offer more intuitive local recommendations. Without the need for staff assistance, customers can instantly access local information, such as the nearest grocery store or the best pub in town.
A customer’s location can also improve day-to-day marketing and customer satisfaction efforts. For example, staff can send special offers to customers’ mobile devices when they’re near the hotel spa or bring water to a customer’s room after working out. Plus, knowing staff locations means faster response times for guests, like dispatching the closest employee to a guest request on the fifth floor.
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Predictions of the hotel technology revolution
After a momentous year in history, the hospitality industry cannot expect a return to normal. Today’s traveler wants more contactless assistance, self-service and risk-free travel. If hospitality companies want to keep up, technology will be paramount.
Between gamified travel planning, VR tours, contactless service, chatbots, in-room IoT and location-based services, it’s a whole new world for hospitality players. But it’s up to us to stay in the game by embracing technology-driven efficiency, customization and flexibility.
Related: How to Impress Guests in a Changing Hospitality Industry