One of my very favorite winter industry-reads is the annual Lodging Technology Study, a co-production of the UNLV College of Hotel Administration (Go Rebels!), iHITA and our good friends at Hospitality Technology. This comprehensive study is immensely valued by most in our industry. In addition to the study’s impressive scope, what I find compelling is the group that created the study…a partnership of academia, trade association as well as one of the industry’s leading media organizations…all working together to provide a holistic view of last year as well as projections for the upcoming year of the North American lodging technology market.
KEY STUDY TAKE-AWAYS:
- The #1 Challenge is Meeting Guest Expectation Around Technology: Surprise! Your guests have been trained to expect convenience and experience-enhancing technologies from other industries who have simply been quicker than hotels to adopted, leverage and gain the associated margin improvements. Banking, Airlines, Retail…all have taught consumers the advantages of a connected experience where they have “Command & Control” via their smartphone or tablet. Heck, even Amtrak has an awesome integrated mobile app. I can book and pay for my train trip, check schedules and loyalty points in real time and deliver an e-ticket via QR code to Mr. Conductor. Sweet! Hotels are playing catch up big time…which in turn, plays into the next point.
- The #1 Priority is Guest-Facing Mobile Solutions: See 1st bullet above. Lets face it…guest-facing mobile apps are not new. The first “hotel apps” came out years ago when smartphones crossed into the mainstream…2003? That said, the v1 or v2 hotel apps haven’t done much to improve the guest experience…rather, they have been little more than e-brochures for the hotel. Guess what? Nobody used them. The difference available today? The good guest-engagement platforms are actually integrated with the PMS and/or the POS. This makes all the difference in the world, allowing guests to speed by long lines at the desk, communicate service requests to staff and soon…use the smartphone as the room key. And because of this, because the solutions actually are finally useful, guests are using the solutions which in turn give hotels a wonderful platform to drive guest connection (and perhaps gain some ancillary revenues…yippee!)
- 21% of Hotels Plan to Put Mobile Enterprise Solutions in Hands of Employees: Apple Stores have all staff members carrying mobile POS terminals…no standing in line for their customers! Nordstrom Rack…ditto. Have you checked into a Enterprise Rental Car location recently. 0.0% paper…all tablet. A quicker, more engaging service experience. When will the hotel industry stop making guests stand in line to check-in? Really. Costco gets you out the door faster with staff-facing technology than some luxury hotels during busy times. Really.
- Hotel Technology Budgets Grew Even Faster in 2014: Hotels spent on average 4.9% of revenue on technology in 2014. This is up from 2.81% of revenue in 2013, per the 2014 Lodging Technology Study. This should come as no surprise…the industry is still recovering (occ%, not so much rate) from a deep trough. This generally leads to pent up demand as capital purchasing is trimmed to meet depressed demand during tough times, leading to a solid rise during recovery.
- 43% of Hotels Plan to Upgrade Wifi In Public Spaces: THANKS!! That is awesome and overdue. In addition, a December ’14 LA Times article states “A Wi-Fi war has broken out among the nation’s biggest hotel chains.” Hyatt recently announced all guests get free wifi regardless of membership in their loyalty program. Marriott and Starwood will soon follow…just watch. Like running water and mobile phone service, WiFi is a utility and expected.
I, for one, am grateful for the dramatic strides forward the economy and our industry made in 2014. Everyone, please raise your glass….HERE’S TO 2015!!
I welcome your feedback…leave a comment below if the mood strikes you. Thanks for reading!