Over the first half of this year, I have been able to network and brainstorm with senior executives in the hotel, travel, and technology spaces. Although the conversations all came from slightly different angles, there were many similarities that all drove toward one core topic — the experience. Interestingly, "the experience," as we have deemed it, didn't just relate to the forward-facing guest or customer, but also to the employees and their needs and wants. The other common denominator, and this is not surprising, was the need for all-things-tech-related to be mobile-friendly. As we move into the year 2020 and beyond, 5G networks will be the new normal; speed, responsiveness, and immediate feedback will be at the forefront of every experience for the guest and employee.
When thinking about mobile technology, one of the first things that comes to mind is mobile or keyless entry into the room. Although this is a reality, the cyber security and cost involved with the product —mobile systems such as an app and the actual installation of the door hardware — are still a few years out from being considered the norm. Technologies available today at a price point, as well as user-friendliness, that is more palatable are available via mobile phones. These systems work through online platforms and integrate with existing back-of-house systems.
What we will continue to see is the automation of services. This will range from automated check-in to service requests such as fresh linens, ice, and in-room dining. Online platforms can be linked with hotels' existing systems to handle these requests in which all parties are notified of the required actions. Even if a hotel outsources in-room dining to a third-party restaurant based off-site, these platforms can still facilitate and execute the orders.
Additional mobile-friendly ideas include incorporating mobile payment options, such as Apple and Google Pay, into hotels' POS systems; expanding an F&B mobile service from in-room dining to lounge to outdoor services; and controlling room functions such as do not disturb, shades and curtains, and even temperature. Finally, connecting guests directly to a concierge, internal or third party, will allow mobile bookings of excursions, activities, or even some local history and background.
With the larger integrated resorts, we will continue to see this evolve with the expansion of location-based services. At first glance, this may sound odd and even a little scary, but when we talk about anticipating the guests' needs, let me provide the following example:
The F&B Manager sees that a VIP guest has checked in and has settled into a chair in the lobby lounge. It's a busy Thursday at the hotel. With his CRM, the F&B Manager knows this VIP enjoys sparkling water and a certain type of cocktail. The Manager immediately orders the two drinks via his mobile app and walks over to the VIP to greet her by name. There is some banter in which the Manager also refers to a few other details he noted in the CRM, and, before the VIP is able to order, a server comes over with the water and drink. "This is on me," says the F&B Manager, "have a wonderful stay with us."
As 2019 continues to progress, I look forward to sitting down, one-on-one, with some of these thought and tech leaders to provide more specifics to the industry, technology, and what they are focused on doing next.