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06 June 2024

Mar de Miguel (AEHM): "The new trends in the hotel industry are based on experience, sustainability and safety".

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Mar de Miguel, executive vice-president of the Hotel Business Association of Madrid (AEHM), states in the following interview that the new trends in the hotel sector are based on three fundamental pillars: experience, sustainability and security, interconnected with common links in the field of technology and the new emerging business models that enhance them.

What changes and new trends are being observed in the hotel sector?

We are seeing significant changes and new trends in the hotel sector. The Covid-19 pandemic posed one of the greatest challenges for hoteliers, yet it also provided an opportunity to reinvent the sector and adapt to a new reality. Evolution and innovation in the sector are not only desirable, but essential for its survival and prosperity.

The digital revolution, demographic shifts and socio-economic and geopolitical transformations have profoundly altered the way people travel, where they stay and what they expect from those experiences in our establishments. In this context, I believe that the new trends in the hotel sector are built on three fundamental pillars: experience, sustainability and security, interconnected with common links in the field of technology and the new emerging business models that enhance them.

How have these three pillars evolved in recent years?

Sustainability is no longer a trend but a demand. Guests are becoming increasingly aware of their impact on the environment and local communities. They seek options that minimise their impact and maximise their positive contribution. Therefore, we must integrate sustainability into every aspect of the hotel experience. New business models are being developed to innovate in this regard and meet these expectations.

Regarding experience, in the digital age, data is the new gold. In-depth analysis of the behaviour patterns and preferences of hotel guests allows us to offer tailored experiences, adapted to their tastes, interests and needs. The modern guest is looking for unique experiences that perfectly reflect their personality and values. Innovation will be key to achieving this, allowing us to offer personalised and memorable experiences rather than standard package tours. Virtual and augmented reality, the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence in personalised recommendation, translation and virtual assistants are just a few examples of what is to come in terms of experience in the industry.

Health and safety have become the main concerns of travellers, both due to the pandemic and also because of various geopolitical and social situations. It is essential to offer effective solutions that guarantee safety and increase the perception of a ‘safe haven’ in our hotels. This includes everything from health measures to protection in destinations, ensuring that our guests feel protected and valued. This will bring innovation in the field of infrastructure security, data protection, AI personalised policies, Insurance-as-a-Service, 24/7 virtual assistance, to name but a few.

How could home automation and artificial intelligence influence the future of the hotel sector?

As I have just described, domotics, or the Internet of Things, will undoubtedly be one of the key pieces of technology that will radically change the sector. Firstly, they will improve the guest experience significantly. AI will enable unprecedented personalisation, as hotels will be able to collect and analyse data on guests' preferences and behaviour. This makes it possible to offer bespoke experiences, such as recommendations for activities and services tailored to their personal preferences, as well as automatic room configuration (temperature, lighting, entertainment) according to their previous tastes. In addition, AI-powered virtual assistants and chatbots can provide 24-hour customer service, resolving queries and handling bookings quickly and efficiently, improving customer satisfaction. Domotics will also facilitate the automation of routine tasks in rooms, such as opening curtains or adjusting the temperature, providing a more comfortable and hassle-free stay.

What effects will they have on the optimisation of operations?

In terms of optimising operations, domotics can increase a hotel's energy efficiency by automatically adjusting heating, cooling and lighting based on occupancy and environmental conditions. This not only reduces costs, but also contributes to sustainability. AI systems enable more efficient predictive maintenance by continuously monitoring the condition of hotel equipment and facilities and detecting any potential breakdowns before they occur, minimising downtime and repair costs. In addition, AI can improve inventory and resource management, ensuring that the hotel is always well stocked without overstocking and optimising staff scheduling according to actual demand.

And what sustainability benefits will they generate?

In the area of sustainability, domotics and AI can significantly reduce energy consumption. The smart systems can automatically switch off lights and appliances when rooms are empty and adjust energy use in common areas according to footfall, contributing to more efficient and sustainable management. AI can help reduce food waste by optimising the supply chain and accurately predicting demand, adjusting the purchasing and production of food in hotel restaurants. Domotics also allows efficient management of water use, detecting and alerting about leaks and optimising garden irrigation and room use, promoting sustainable practices.

In fact, the Hotel Business Association of Madrid (AEHM) has launched the 'BI Green' project with the support of the General Directorate of Tourism and Hospitality of the Madrid Regional Government and the collaboration of the Institute for Hotel Technology (ITH). The project, which includes ten leading hotels in Madrid, focuses on digitising and analysing the participants’ electricity, natural gas and water consumption. It uses a collaborative Business Intelligence (BI) tool for energy efficiency, a scalable platform that provides detailed information on energy consumption and management, allowing to identify patterns and points of improvement at both individual and hotel chain level.