The global pandemic has changed the way we do everyday things. Video conference calls have become a necessity, online grocery shopping is more popular than ever, and finding alternatives to public transport has seen people in cities across the world embrace cycling and other socially distanced forms of commuting. In a similar vein, tech has helped hotels adapt to the new normal we find ourselves currently living in. Once viewed as a luxury, guest-facing tech has now become a necessity for hoteliers that want to provide their guests with something that resembles a normal hotel experience. But guest-facing tech isn't just a flash in the pan, it's something that's here to stay even once the pandemic is over.
Hoteliers understand the need to go digital, but until now there has been little incentive to do so. This has changed recently with guest-facing hotel tech companies focusing on the importance of ROI for hotel businesses, making solutions more attractive for the business owners. But, with so many options on the market, which guest-facing tech solution will the industry gravitate towards as the industry standard? Right now, the two most popular platforms are guest-room tablets and hotel apps. Apps have proven effective as a short-stop during the pandemic as contactless check-in and room entry are a priority for many hoteliers. Once things get back to normal, however, the limitations of hotel apps are likely to be exposed. Hotel apps are rarely downloaded by customers. In an article by hospitalitytech.com, they highlight that only about 19% of guests actually download hotel apps. Not everyone that downloads the app will use it, meaning that when usage rates are taken into account, the percentage of guests that use hotel apps is more likely to be closer to 10%. This is far from ideal if many of your hotel's vital functions rely on an app! While this wasn't a cause for concern in a time before guest-facing tech became a necessity for hoteliers, an increasing need for tech solutions that provide hoteliers an ROI has revealed the shortcomings of hotel apps.
Hoteliers need a solution that's accessible, reliable, and multifunctional—which is why guest-room tablets are the best long-term solution on the market for hotels seeking effective guest-facing tech. At SuitePad, we see a usage rate of 86% for our tablets. This is significantly higher than the usage rates of hotel apps, proving that the major problem with hotel apps is accessibility. Our tablet don't require guests to download anything, and they're already in the room waiting to be used with a built-in hotel room phone and TV control feature. This is why more than 4 out of 5 guests are happy to pick up the tablet and use it straight away, whereas less than 1 out of 5 guests will use a hotel app for its intended purpose.
When the global pandemic first began, we soon realized that our guest-room tablets offered hoteliers an opportunity to keep their guests up to date with the quickly changing local rules and regulations. We offered to implement a COVID-19 safety page to all our customers that would allow them to keep guests informed on the latest news in their area regarding the pandemic. The safety page also informed guests of the proper etiquette for staying in a hotel during the COVID-19 pandemic—showing them how to wash their hands properly and the correct way to act in the hotel to minimize the spread of the disease. While hotel apps can be updated to show this information, that's not much use if guests can't or are unwilling to download them.
Hoteliers need a platform that they know will reach ALL their guests, not just a few. Digital guest-room tablets offer this in a way that's both practical and affordable.
Guest-facing tech has benefits beyond simply impressing guests. Where hoteliers once saw it as a differentiator, it's now valued for its return on investment more than anything else. The global pandemic has highlighted the potential that guest-room tablets have as revenue-generating tools for the future of the hotel industry. While we saw a decrease in the number of sessions taking place on our SuitePad tablets since the beginning of the pandemic due to lower hotel occupancies, we've actually seen an increase in uses per reservations. The room service function, in particular, saw a major boost, with guests preferring to dine-in rather than take their chances elsewhere. After the pandemic is over, hotels can leverage this new technology to give their in-room dining services a long-awaited boost, generating increased revenues and helping them rebound more effectively from the economic downturn.
The global pandemic has also exposed just how vulnerable we are to infectious disease and the need for proper cleanliness. Advances in guest-facing tech in the next few years will see guests being able to control all the rooms' functions from one device. They'll be able to control the lights, open and close the blinds, operate temperature control, and control the hotel room TV from the comfort of their bed using a touchscreen device on the palm of their hand. Reducing the number of touchpoints in hotel rooms will lower people's anxieties about the spread of infectious diseases—especially if COVID-19 is here to stay. In addition, guest-room tablets are much easier to clean and keep clean than paper collateral, helping reduce the spread of viruses and bacteria. Integrations will drive the expansion of functions for guest-room tablets, bringing more and more cutting edge technology to the hotel industry. Our recent integration with Interel is a clear example of how the internet of things is coming to hotels.
Guest-facing tech in the post-COVID era will not only grant guests a heightened experience but also offer hoteliers multiple new streams of revenue and ways of increasing already existing streams of income. But to maximize its potential, hoteliers will need a solution that reaches all guests, which is why guest-room tablets will slowly but surely emerge as the primary frontrunner in the tablet vs. app debate. That's not to say that apps won't have any place in the future of hotel tech. As solutions become more advanced and developed, it's likely that apps will be used to complement tablet-based solutions, offering guests a holistic digital experience when away from home.
SuitePad is a leading provider of in-room tablets in the hotel industry and an expert in digital guest communication. The Berlin company was founded in 2012 and now has over 60 employees. In January 2022, SuitePad was awarded first place at the "Hotel Tech Awards" in the categories "Guest Room Tablets" for the third time in a row.
The SuitePad, a tablet for the hotel room, replaces the traditional guest directory by taking digital communication between hoteliers and guests to a whole new level. In addition to general information about the hotel, the surrounding area, gastronomic offers, and an entertainment menu, the SuitePad also serves as a booking tool for spa treatments and restaurant reservations and also combines the hotel TV remote control and hotel room telephone in one device. SuitePad has equipped more than 1,000 hotels in 30 countries and over 60,000 hotel rooms with its in-room tablets. The portfolio also includes a BYOD solution - Bring Your Own Device, for the use of guest devices - the SuitePad lobby screen and SuiteCast, an easy and flexible streaming solution for the hotel TV.