The Internet has changed the way that people look for hotels, and it has also changed their level of expectations. Now that everyone has easy access to the reviews, prices and amenities list of every hotel in the area that they will be visiting, it is easy for travelers to ensure that they get the best room for their money. Websites like Hotels.com and Expedia.com have been game changers, and their popularity is expected to carry over into other similar websites in the future.
Almost every traveler will have a smartphone in their pocket, and the increasing popularity of specialized apps represents a solid technological advance for the hospitality industry. Enterprising chains have already begun developing useful apps, but those who have not should definitely take advantage of this technology. Some good examples for utilizing smartphone apps include letting people book a room and checkout from a room via an app.
It is a given that people expect more from expensive hotels, but even the most basic travelers are beginning to place high expectations on their hotel room. For example, it is quickly becoming a standard within the hospitality industry to offer iPod docks, and any hotel that does not offer Wi-Fi is rapidly losing business. Some hotel chains still charge a premium for Wi-Fi usage, but this is not going to be tolerated for much longer. If a hotel’s business model requires charging for this service, then they should consider rolling the fee into the total quoted price of the room.
There are some televisions available in the marketplace that are equipped with the ability to connect to the Internet, and some of them even come loaded with popular programs like Skype. Higher-end hotels can expect to see a push towards incorporating this technology into their rooms. Skype is quickly becoming one of the most valuable business and personal tools for communication, and luxury travelers will expect to have this technology available to them even if they decide not to bring their laptop with them.
No one likes to wait in line, and setting up tablet kiosks can help eliminate this issue. Higher end hotels are likely to begin using iPads and other tablets to allow people to check in and even pay for their hotel rooms. This same technology can be used to allow guests to order room service or to ask for additional supplies such as extra towels.
Technology has a direct impact on how people expect to interact with everything, including snack machines. Most airports replaced the traditional dollar bill slots with credit card readers a long time ago, and hotel guests are looking for the same experience. Enabling guests to swipe their hotel room key card and charge their snacks directly to their room would be a great way to incorporate this technology.
The Future of Hotel Room Keys
Smartphones make it easy for people to pull up a barcode that can be scanned, and this presents an interesting potential future for room keys. Since keys are constantly being lost, and their production is not environmentally friendly, trendy hotels may latch onto the possibility of installing bar code readers on their doors that will allow guests to wave their smartphone in front of the scanner to unlock their door.
As technology and the resulting trends continue to grow, the hospitality management industry is certain to keep an eye on potential opportunities. The industry needs to be selective because it is difficult to implement programs on only a short-term basis. Each time a technology proves that it has staying power, however, the industry leaders will find a way to incorporate it into their business model.
Sam Winterbourne is an international hotelier consultant, and he contributed this post on behalf of Zion and Zion advertising agency. You can click here for information on the vast array of innovative marketing services that they offer.