Hoteliers are no longer just competing with each other for the prospective guest’s attention, but with other entities that aren’t even hotels. Online travel agencies are selling guests hotel stays and charging hoteliers commission, and sharing economy phenomena that provide traditional services in new ways such as AirBnB and Uber have disrupted the travel industry.
Technology has changed not only the hotel booking landscape, but is also creeping into the very job of being a hotelier. Hilton is even piloting a robot concierge featuring advanced artificial intelligence and the ability to “learn” from its interactions with guests.
Most hoteliers, and their guests, for that matter, do still prefer to interact with real humans, but considering the impact that technology has on our day-to-day lives, even those guests looking for the most hands-on experience expect the speed and convenience that modern technology provides (and that we have all come to take for granted). This is even more true for hotel brands focusing on more personalised and intimate guest experiences.
The ever-changing expectations of guests and fierce competition for online bookings mean that technological solutions have to be embraced. But which ones? Ironically, more technology can also mean more challenges for smaller or boutique hotels where budget allocations and staffing limitations can lead to wasted time and money. This confusion is compounded by the fact that two-way radios and clipboards can still get the job done adequately (although not excellently).
Before you embark on a quest to become gadget-wise in your hotel – especially a boutique hotel – ask yourself what kind of guest experience you are trying to provide. A hospitality business exists for and because of its guests, and therefore all operational decisions, including choosing what technology to implement, should be informed by a careful consideration of what will improve and enhance the guest experience, what will help you to win bookings during the path to purchase, and ultimately inspire trust in your brand over your competitors.
For boutique hotels especially, where the product is a unique personalised experience (in contrast to more homogenous commercial brands), trust is an immensely valuable commodity: your customers can’t send the product back if they aren’t happy with it, they can’t test it with a free trial if they are unsure, and making a purchase (going on holiday) is costly in terms of both time and money.
Thanks to the growth of user-generated content online, your prospective guests have the capacity to learn directly from your previous guests about the best and worst aspects of your hotel.