The Future of Hotel Tech: What Does It Hold?
For a long time, hotel tech didn’t give investors much to get excited about.
Why? Many technology companies didn’t create anything ground-breaking, partly because the hospitality industry was averse to investing in and trying new technology.
With hoteliers waking up to changing customer expectations and evolving distribution landscapes, tech companies have learned to come up with truly excellent value propositions and ROIs both in data-focused and customer-focused applications.
The steadily growing demand for innovation has led to interesting developments, promising start-ups and an overall promising future in hotel technology.
Here is a look at the main trends in hotel tech in the coming years.
Forming a cohesive ecosystem
Not long ago the serial interface was the only way to connect systems within a hotel. It had to be set up manually which made adding new features and applications slow and cumbersome. In some cases, even having established the physical connection didn’t guarantee the systems were compatible which meant costly and time-consuming set-ups for hotels.
According to a study of HotelTechReport, 53% of the hoteliers stated that outdated technology architecture and the effort required to integrate systems is the top pain point and is holding back investments in new technology. The legacy systems have been slow in opening their technology and this has led to a situation where hoteliers are not able to make data driven decisions and where they cannot make full use of new technologies to automate manual and time-consuming workflows.
Today, it’s possible to connect multiple systems via interfaces which allow direct information exchange. Software which comes with an open application programming interface (API) and thus makes it easy to establish one- or even two-way connections between systems is quickly gaining popularity. Since the interface is already part of these programs or can be created via middleware, system connections can be set up remotely and be up and running in a fraction of the time it took before and for a much lower cost.
Because this makes it easy to share information between the property management system (PMS), point of sale system (POS), a revenue management system (RMS) and any other applications a hotel is using, we are hopefully looking at the end of data silos.
The CCO of MEWS, Gregory Naidoo reflects over the PMS’s place in the hotel tech stack;
“The PMS is the place where most data sit and therefore its essential to open up and connect this with other software used in your hotel. Thanks to the open API of Mews, data can flow freely between all your systems. This enables automation and gives hoteliers the much-needed insight into their data and performance. In addition, all available integrations have already been built, so it’s just a matter of connecting your systems. Integrations come with now extra costs and hoteliers can connect their PMS to our partners within a few clicks through the MEWS Marketplace.”
The CEO of Atomize, Alexander Edström talks about data-streams as a fundamental foundation for a RMS:
“The next-generation revenue management system is dependent on free and continuous information exchange between multiple systems to live up to its fullest potential. The strive is to continuously fetch as close to real time data as possible from the PMS, competitor rates and reviews, as well as other external market sources in order to set optimal prices. The full loop to process and set prices for a full year will require to be executed in less than a second. The open API-based systems with real-time data streams are therefore fundamental in this evolution to provide real time optimization in a real time world. Those that do not adopt to this evolution will perish. “
Cloud-based systems and integration capabilities
In recent years cloud technology has developed by leaps and bounds, revolutionizing data storage, connectivity and security. Today’s cloud-based systems are efficient, cost-effective and more reliable compared to physical on-site legacy systems. Their flexibility makes it easy for them to connect with other applications and services, make data accessible on- and off-site and streamline operations which creates a smoother experience for guests.
An example of a vendor that has taken full advantages of a cloud-solution is the PMS provider MEWS. Their cloud-based PMS brings security, flexibility, efficiency and cost savings to the hotelier.
“Working on cloud-based software means working on the most up to date version and superfast support. In Mews we are able to respond within 7 minutes to newly raised tickets from anywhere in the world. Besides great support, modern hoteliers need access to their PMS 24/7, from anywhere and on every device. The time of having to be on site to make a change to your rates are over, cloud technology allows hoteliers to log in to Mews while you are in your car, the train, anywhere! What we see as well is that the traditional check in is being replaced by a personal welcoming experience. What about a check in the restaurant with a glass of wine, or on the terrace in that beautiful hotel garden during a warm and sunny day? Mews PMS allows hoteliers to be creative and create experiences that fit their brand.” says Gregory Naidoo, CCO at Mews Systems.
There is no doubt that the shift towards the cloud will continue. Since cloud-based technology has superior integration capabilities, hotels will be able to use it to capitalize on their data and harness the potential of technological advances such as voice command and AI.
When it comes to AI, Atomize RMS is a great example of a next-generation revenue management system that is using AI and machine learning to a large extent. As these capabilities improve further over time and receive more high-quality data to work with via the cloud, RMSs will be able to improve in all areas including forecasting and pricing recommendations.
“The next-generation revenue management technology is based on AI and machine learning. Atomize pricing algorithm is built with the latest innovation in machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI). Our system gains knowledge and insights that enables it to progressively improve the accuracy of its forecasts and pricing decisions.”, says Alexander Edström, CEO of Atomize.
Atomize vision is to manage to optimize all costs and revenue streams in the future, moving towards Total Profit Management.
“The future is exciting and in not too distant future hotels will be offered real-time automated Total Profit Management systems, optimizing all revenue streams and distribution channels from a profit perspective rather than looking at only revenue.”, says Alexander Edström, CEO of Atomize.
Digitization: current trends and future applications
Smart guest experiences and personalization
While smart guest experiences are still seen as a gimmick by many hoteliers, they are quickly gaining popularity among guests. Personalized recommendations and offers sent directly to a guest’s mobile will soon go from ‘nice to have’ to ‘must have’ for any hotel wanting to be remembered.
Hoteliers will also need to come to terms with the strong trend towards a ‘mobile first’ world. The number of bookings made on mobile devices is growing every year and has reached close to a third in Europe, North America and APAC, Ve Global found in a recent study. Especially digital natives are keen to manage every aspect of their trip via their phone. Luckily for hotels, things like remote check-in and check-out, mobile room keys and chat bots which assist with simple requests are already available and quickly developing to allow for more personalization soon.
Embracing these trends can help hotels both improve the guest experience and their bottom line. For example, upselling via chatbots or other direct messaging tools is a way to let guests customize their stay through personalized offers.
Bookboost is a great example of an up-to-date guest messaging solution:
“Guest Messaging enables hotels to communicate with guests directly through channels such as iMessage, WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. This will provide a lot of possibilities for hotels to build personal relationships with guests at scale, while driving additional cross-selling revenues through these channels. The guest, on the other hand, will feel like having met new friends at the hotel that are so incredibly forthcoming and helpful in making his or her stay unforgettable. And from there on, they’re just a simple text message away.” says Lucas Höfer, Partner, Bookboost Guest Messaging
The possibilities with AI will make the guest communication and experience even more personalized by predicting products and services guests are more likely to choose based on their profile.
The Amsterdam based upselling company, Oaky.com, co-founder Erik Tengen explains how they have implemented AI-technology in their solution;
“From upselling to millions of guests, we have identified over 8,000 add-ons that our customers have sold to their guests with Oaky. From all these transactions and non-transactions, we have learned invaluable insights into how hotels should upsell to their different types of guests in order to maximize relevance and therefore conversion, ultimately leading to more revenues. Powered by AI, this type of upselling is the elegance of providing value without being intrusive.”
Digitized property management
Apart from using advanced tech to create a great guest experience, hoteliers can also look into how it will help them manage their properties more efficiently.
Smart energy management can help save power all while ensuring the guest stays comfortable. How? An IoT (Internet of Things) enabled thermostat, TV or light can switch off or into power saving mode once a guest leaves the room. Applications which also allow for more customization are sure to follow.
Preventive and predictive maintenance use IoT technology and AI to send alerts when problems are in early stages so quick, cost-effective repairs can be made before greater damage occurs. Today this is available in water and HVAC systems and more advanced applications for other areas of operations are underway.
Deeper insights into the guest journey
As the entire guest journey moves to the mobile device, more integrated apps and services will let guests choose customized experiences. This, in turn, will let hotels collect more data about guest preferences, needs and behaviour, help create an integrated view of the guest and make data-driven marketing much easier.
With big data collection becoming a common practice, there is also a growing need for big data analysis. Previously only accessible to large brands with the necessary pocket money, new tools are rapidly making big data analysis more affordable for smaller hotels. This means in the future more hoteliers will be able to rely on predictive analysis for forecasting, marketing and planning operations rather than relying on their gut feelings.
Thierry Collard, Global Commercial Manager at OTA Insight shares his view on the importance of big data;
“Distribution channels are proliferating, new OTAs are springing up vying for business and the popularity of mobile as a booking platform – often offering discounts – is on the rise. So, hoteliers’ need for sophisticated systems to monitor data such as competitors’ prices, distribution channels and the end-to-end performance of their rooms will grow rapidly.
Big Data will continue to play a huge part in meeting this need. But its value is dependent on a number of factors: accuracy; being up to date; being as complete as possible; being well structured, with the appropriate level of granularity; and being presented in a way that facilitates meaningful interrogation and generates actionable insights.”
Collecting all this data brings responsibilities with it too. As hotels learn more about guests and store this information, they will also need to invest in data security and privacy protection.
“In delivering Big Data-fed solutions, the most successful hotel tech companies will stay laser-focused on solving the hotel industry’s challenges in the simplest and most innovative ways, providing technology that’s adopted across hotels’ commercial teams,” says Thierry Collard, Global Commercial Manager at OTA Insight.
Hospitality tech is developing quickly, and hoteliers today have new and exciting ways to run their properties, engage with their guests and generate revenue. With the many new opportunities, it will be interesting to see which ones take hold and how they will shape this ever-changing industry.
“Future hotel tech is all about automation. In that quest, access to fresh and reliable data is key. Technology will have the same effect on the hotel industry as the dishwasher had to kitchen routines. I mean, who is doing their washes manually these days?”, says Alexander Edström, CEO of Atomize.
Meet with Atomize at WTM/Travel Forward, stand TT248