As we begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel with COVID many of us are having an itch to get back to traveling. When the pandemic hit many hotels, restaurant and casinos suffered immensely from reduced business, some even temporarily closing their doors to be able mitigate impacts. As consumers begin to imagine their next trip hotels will begin to see an uptick in booking. With so many options for consumers and websites like Travelocity, Kayak and Expedia that easily compare prices and customer ratings brands in the hospitality industry are looking for the best ways to stand out and get ahead.
As we have discussed in class the pandemic as really sped up the adoption of digital technologies across all industries. As I started doing some research on Hotels, I began to see that over the next few years there we will begin to see a lot of changes in our stays- making things better for both the customers and employees. Two trends that I found very interesting was the use of IOT and Robotics.
Internet Of Things:
The internet of things are physical devices are embedded with technology & sensors that are connected to the internet allowing the device the ability to interact with other devices & systems. For guests implementing IOT makes a much more comfortable stay. This will see with rooms with the ability for all controls to be managed through mobile devices, such as changing the temperature, turning off the lights, changing the tv station and accessing the room (mobile electronic key cards). There is also technology that is called tray trackers so as room service carts and placed into the hallway a notification is sent to house keeping so it can be moved right away.
The use of IOT will also have benefits and cost savings for the hotel itself. New technology allows for smart energy systems which can manage the temperature in rooms that are not booked and automatically raise the temperature as guests are checking in. It helps save energy reducing the power of light bulbs during the daytime. Also, as others have discussed hotels are implementing predictive maintenance so it is able to tell when an item such as an air conditioner is going to die in a hotel and can be fixed in advanced. This can prevent the last-minute shuffling of rooms or over booking issue if some rooms are out of service.
Another trend that we will begin to see more in hotels is the use of Robotics. To start off big here there is already a hotel in Japan called the Henn-na Hotel in Nagasaki that is staffed with robots from areas from check in robots at the front desk, to concierge robots who can provide you with exciting things to do and see in the area to cloak robots that store your luggage and use facial recognition to remove it and only allow it to be given to the correct person. Check out the video below for a quick video!
Aside from that use we are also seeing robotics being used across many mainstream chains today such as the Hilton- they currently have a smart robot named Connie in some of their hotels. This robot was developed by IBM and can answer questions a typical information desk can answer about specific about what to visit, where to dine and how to find specific things on the property. This will reduce lines for employees but also allow for employees to spend time on other valuable tasks.
Another cool use I stumbled upon is room service delivery. With robotics a bot can be sent up with the food/ items reducing wait time- elevator buttons can be pushed over WIFI and beacons are used to direct the bot to the correct room. The tub where the food/ items are stored remains locked until the door of the room is opened so it makes sure that items are delivered to the correct people.
The benefits of using robots in a hotel is often they are more efficient and can do jobs more quickly than human counterparts, robots do not get tired and can work 24/7. They are also programmed for specific reactions- so if a customer is being rude, they may have a better response than an employee who could get emotional or act annoyed or mad towards and employee.
The first downside for hotels is obviously the initial investment in these technologies is expensive. Over time it will pay off, but it is expensive to invest in from the beginning. Also, sometimes too much robotics or tech could take away some of the feel or being pampered when being in a hotel. In some places people really do value the human interaction and connection. In some instances, also robots are unable to adapt and if they are not programed to do a certain thing, they may be unable to adjust for certain circumstances in which ways a human can.
The other issue which we often face with tech is the need for security and privacy of customers. There is always the potential for cyber-attacks and security breaches. With things being linked to IOT and using robotics there is always the possibility things could go wrong- so the hotel must take extra precautions to guard the customer data.
But overall the benefits of the use of these technologies in hospitality outweigh the faults. Over the next few years we will see many more major chains implementing a lot of these tools to be able to make a customer’s stay more efficient, personalized and relaxed.