“When a tourist arrives at the hotel, the first concern is usually simple things like quick check-in and fast Wi-Fi,” explains Carlos Domínguez, head of New Technologies and Hotel Operations at the Instituto Tecnológico Hotelero (Hotel Technology Institute, ITH). “But they may also be looking for a chatbot that can provide services and solutions around the clock,” he added. Perhaps these are the first steps towards a future when there are robots in reception or providing room-service, although for Domínguez these are still only in the future.
But the changes brought about by technology in the hotel sector go much further, although not always so visible to the public. On one hand, they affect management, where they are increasing efficiency. For example, “There’s a lot of work being done in biometrics, not only to speed up procedures and check-in but also in security; there’s even talk of a future biometric passport.”
According to the PwC's Annual Global CEO Survey, in the hospitality & leisure sector “technology can be key for realising savings on back-end administrative processes, to free up staff so that they can spend more time on guests.” Although only 25% of H&L CEOs expect AI to significantly change their business over the next five years, the survey shows that "data systems that incorporate AI can be used to upgrade customer relationship management (CRM) systems in ways that improve guest experiences".
Smart Buildings & Comfort
According to Carlos Domínguez, more and more “technologies involving smart buildings and guest comfort in the hotel are also being developed that allow guests, for example, to interact with the different systems in the room through their mobile phones to regulate temperature, lighting, etc.”
For the ITH expert, another major block of technologies has a lot to do with customer satisfaction and loyalty. On one hand, “using big data provides knowledge to anticipate the guests’ needs and offer personalised solutions, even before they ask for them.” And, on the other, “online marketing makes it easier to sell the hotel’s product. In this field, tourism businesses are doing a lot of things and investing heavily.”
KPMG’s Luis Buzzi said that the tourism sector must adapt to new consumers who are more aware, more online and more demanding, and to cope with this change successfully, technology and innovation will be key. “We have to bear in mind that these new travellers do not want to spend their time on complex transactional processes, but rather want their experience, from the moment they think about a trip to the moment they make it, to be exciting, unique and unforgettable.”