What does the hotel technology of the future have in store for us?
Technology, as applied to the hotel industry, is evolving so fast that making predictions about could be risky. The digitalisation of physical spaces, the use of robotics as a tool to improve management processes and the creation of immersive virtual spaces are, in all likelihood, the trends that will define the application of technology in the hotel sector in the coming years.
After the changes brought by the Internet explosion, the hotel sector has entered a new phase, dominated by tactile screens, robotics and virtual reality. By using their phones, customers will have total control over their room, from lighting to atmosphere, temperature and sound, while digital marketing companies will prepare reports, providing hotels with the data they need to ensure that the tourist services they offer are increasingly more closely tailored to the needs and tastes of each individual customer.
The Internet of things will increase the availability of information and data on which to base decisions and improve every customer’s experience. New technologies such as virtual reality or 3D printing have huge potential for hotels, which will be able to offer more options in their range of services, broadening communication channels and mutual comprehension between guests and hotel companies, which will focus on satisfying customer needs in this new, user-centred economy.
For as long as hotels have been around, the guest register at the front desk has been the heart and soul of any establishment. The reception itself is the essence of hospitality. It’s the first point of contact for guests and the source of everything we know about the business. Not even the rise in Internet bookings or the development of smart technologies have had much impact on the concept of “the reception” in a hotel. But all this is beginning to change, and although its sounds like something from a sci-fi movie, the most advanced hotels in the world have already started to put services in place that will define the way forward for the hotel of the future.
For example, 5-star hotels now have the capacity to eliminate waiting times at reception, allowing guests to sign in by tapping a couple of buttons on a tablet, and with a QR code that links to a video explaining everything they need to know. When they get to their room, guests can unlock the door with their phone and check email on the TV screen. Although many still prefer the human touch, the success of these “self-service” terminals, like those at a supermarket, suggests a victory for convenience and speed.
Another benefit is the way they free up space for other activities and areas where guests can interact or work. It may sound contradictory, but many hotels are beginning to respond to the rise in the number of freelance and self-employed workers, and the evolution of shared workspaces. More and more people work outside the office and are looking for flexible alternative workspaces. The line between leisure space and workspace is no longer as clear as it once was, as witnessed by the flood of laptops in many cafés. The good news is that hotels are in an unbeatable position to capitalise on these trends, by offering Wi-Fi connections, restaurant service or office space to rent by the hour, the day or the week.
For the time being, it is the large hotel chains that have shown the greatest interest in technological innovation as applied to the tourist industry. The hotel of the future will be an interactive, adaptable space that can be customised to meet the specific needs of every individual. An experience full of unique sensations, in a future that is just around the corner.