The hotel industry is a barometer for the innovation and changes taking place in the world of tech. If you want to see what’s happening with new technology, take a look at hotels.
Virtual Reality? There’s Marriott and Best Western, to name a few. The Internet of Things? Marriott again, as well as Virgin, and Peninsula Hotels. Uber’s ride-sharing app? Try Starwood, Hilton, and IHG.
Even with these innovations at a guest’s fingertips, the sharing economy’s vacation rental model, embodied by AirBnB, is still a threat to hotels. It’s easy for travelers to sidestep the rising rates of hotel rooms and snag a cheap night’s stay at somebody’s house.
Homeowners and renters are motivated to share their space because they can make an easy dollar. Although the ubiquity of the AirBnB model is enabled by technology—in the form of the internet and apps—hi-tech accommodation isn’t the first thing on a vacationer’s mind. People are looking for a good old-fashioned stay in a comfortable place for a minimal price.
One of the advantages to vacation rentals is that booking a stay for a week can cost a third of the price of a hotel. Additionally, guests have more locations to choose from, and houses come with inherent privacy and security.
Guests can take advantage of the amenities—such as laundry and kitchen facilities—at no extra charge. A downside, however, is that guests don’t get the cleaning services provided by maids. And there have been inappropriate incidents at AirBnB homes, which may make travelers uncertain as to what type of situation they’re getting into.
Still, hoteliers need to be equipped with technologies that can give them the upper hand against vacation rentals. The following technologies are changing the conversation, making way for a brand new level of hospitality.
Cloud-based Property Management Software (PMS)
Also known as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), this type of PMS enables guests to check-in through their mobile device, among other conveniences. Guests who have used a vacation rental app in the past (they went straight to the rental property and settled in after arranging it online) will be happy to find out they can go straight to their room without having to check in first.
The Fontainebleau Miami used cloud-based PMS and saw 20-40 percent of guests select mobile check-in. In the first 30 days, the Fontainebleau was also able to achieve 141 percent ROI from late check-out offers.
Mobile PMS also lets guests communicate with staff wherever the staff member is in the facility, and allows the hotel to collect data on guests for personalization during their stay.
Social Listening Software
Guests who frequently use social media are bound to talk about their experience at your hotel. Likewise, potential guests will express their likes and dislikes when it comes to hospitality. NetAffinity offers a list of social media monitoring tools for hotels:
- Hootsuite: Allows you to manage all your social media accounts in one place via streams
- Social Mention: A free tool with which you can find out what people are saying about your hotel on over 100 networks
- Mention: Input keywords related to your offering, and Mention will send you alerts from “billions of sources in more than 40 languages”; this is great if you’d like to make international inroads
- Curalate: Lets you listen to the image side of social media by filling you in on the images your audience engages with most
- Sproutsocial: Connect all of your social media accounts in one place with this tool’s ‘Smart Inbox’
- Tagboard: If your hotel has a branded hashtag, this is the tool for you; also lets you monitor competitor tags
- Radian6: For enterprise-level hotels, this tool analyzes 650 millions sources and presents you with curated insights
- Buzzsumo: Find out what the most shared content is on social networks
Through social listening, you’ll understand what your target guests want before they arrive. Paradoxically, if they’re looking for a low-tech, comfortable hotel, you’ll know that because of technology.
Imagine a guest is pretty much hooked on a Netflix program, and quite frankly, they’d like to be able to continue watching it on the big screen while they’re on vacation. It’s not uncommon to see a WiFi-enabled TV in someone’s home—that includes vacation rentals.
Why can’t this be available in a hotel room? Marriott has already partnered with Netflix for streaming HDTV, while Starwood did it with AppleTV and Amazon. Imagine free WiFi and streaming big-screen TV in all of your hotel rooms. Now that’s a game-changer.
If guests can check-in via mobile PMS, why not enable them to sidestep the front desk entirely and access their room with a smartphone? In June of 2016, 160 Starwood Hotels in 30 countries were offering SPG Keyless entry, and chains such as Hilton and IHG have also created their own keyless options.
Three out of four Hilton loyalty members who use mobile check-in also request keyless entry, and Leisure travelers who use Hilton’s Digital Key rate their overall experience 5 percentage points higher than those who don’t.
Texting Concierge Service
When someone stays at a vacation rental, let’s just say their concierge is nonexistent—the closest thing is a personal assistant on a smartphone. With texting concierge you can set yourself apart by giving guests the option to text their questions and room service requests. In Philadelphia, 30 percent of the guests at Four Seasons Philadelphia use Zingle—a “mobile concierge service”—to communicate with staff.
The software routes all texts to a webpage, from which a central dispatcher expedites service. If the dispatcher can’t respond to texts within a set period of time, urgent messages are automatically routed to the manager on duty. This type of technology ups the ante of communication at your hotel by giving guests yet another option to satisfy their needs.
It’s important to think like a customer who is deciding between a vacation rental and your hotel. Social listening will help you get into their headspace, while the other tech on this list will help you improve communication with your customer and offer maximum convenience.
In the end, if it’s clear you’re operating on a different level—you’re fully attuned to their needs—it will be tough for any vacation rental to beat your offer.