Investing in Hotel Guest Technology

Hotel Guest Technology
Contributor: Paul Leybourne, Director at Vodat International

Paul Leybourne, Director at Vodat International spoke with Modern Hospitality about the ways in which the Hilton brand has introduced stand-out hotel guest technology to wow guests and stand out from competition.

It seems only yesterday that comedian and national treasure Sir Lenny Henry starred in an advert waxing lyrical about a certain hotel chain’s comfy pillow. How things have changed in the past decade.

The latest Hilton advertising campaign, starring Hollywood actress Anna Kendrick, suggests hotel guests should ‘expect better’, and Ms Kendrick’s definition of ‘better’ is unashamedly high tech.

During the series of Hilton ads, the Pitch Perfect star praises among other things the ‘utter delight of free Wi-Fi’ and ‘the magic power of unlocking your room with your phone’. According to the adverts, these digital delights are second only to Hilton’s ‘Price Match Guarantee’.

The new battleground is tech

Hilton’s glitzy marketing strategy gives a clear indication that the new hospitality battle ground will not be fought over how well-appointed rooms are, the food or beverage offering or even the standard of onsite fitness facilities. The new point of hospitality differentiation is technology and connectivity.

In fact, Hilton’s flagship Honors loyalty programme app was engineered as an enabler of guest tech.  Guests need the app if they want to pre-select their room from a digital floorplan, download a digital key before arriving so they can unlock their room with their smartphone, access free in-room and lobby Wi-Fi connectivity during their stay and check in before they arrive.

The Connected Room

Hilton has also launched its ‘Connected Room’ product – hotel suites where the TV, room temperature and lights can all be controlled from the same Hilton Honors mobile phone app.

Guests in a Connected Room can:

  • Click on “favourites” – and their preferred viewing channels and streaming apps will appear first in the Hilton Honors app.
  • Set their preferred temperature, so when they return to their room, they’re not too cold or too hot.
  • Access their favourite streaming media brands from their in-room TV to continue watching the show or movie they were streaming before their trip, for example.  

So far, Hilton has converted nearly 500 rooms across four hotels near the US city of Memphis, and it is planning to extend this to thousands more rooms across five more of its brands globally.

The chain says it is carefully monitoring the demands of guests and plans to roll out more functionality, which will ultimately scale to Hilton’s global operations across more than 100 countries and 14 different brands.

Future tech updates

The company says this could mean giving guests the ability to upload photos and art to display digitally in their room, stream music, connect to new devices or even use voice commands to control their environment or access their content.

Due to the fact that Hilton’s Connected Room concept is built on a platform (much like an Apple or Android device) it is possible to push new features, apps and functionality to existing devices without the need for new hardware. This is also good news for Hilton franchise owners, because they can keep pace with the rapid change in technology without associated high costs and operational challenges. 

But where next for hotel guest technology? For starters 72% of hotel operators believe that biometrics will be widely used in the luxury segment within five years, with fingerprint scans and facial recognition making the ‘straight-to-your-room arrival experience’ a reality. This technology is already in use at three hotels in Singapore; the Ascott Orchard, Swisshotel The Stamford, and Grand Park City Hall.

Meanwhile 79% of hoteliers and 45% of travel brands reported voice-enabled technology investment plans this year. Devices from Amazon, Google and Smartbeings are competing for a spot on the bedside table as more and more hotel brands and independent boutique hotels work with solutions providers on new ways to use these smart speakers to engage guests, drive revenues and improve operational efficiencies.

With Vodat’s recent ‘Time to get Personal’ report highlighting that hotel guests spend an average of just 10% of their stay in their accommodation, the case for using in-room technology to better monetise and personalise the guest’s stay has never been stronger.

Contributor: Paul Leybourne, Director at Vodat International
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