Will tech continue to change the way we travel?
Technology has dramatically changed how we travel in the past decade. 10 years ago, only about half of hotel reservations in the United States were made online. Today, that number is upwards of 90%. But other than the convenience of internet bookings, how has technology shaped the way hoteliers do business? There is no short answer to this question. Internet speed and access, tablets, mobile phones and increased communication are changing travel forever. Everything from the reservation process to paying your bill has been streamlined and revolutionized. Guest expectations are changing and the average hotel operator is sprinting to keep up.
Whether you realize it or not, technology is shaping the way you stay from beginning to end. Before you even book a reservation, online travel sites are monitoring you. They track your search terms, internet browsing habits and previous bookings to optimize which hotels are being shown to you. Sites like Expedia and TripAdvisor know if you have been searching for mid-priced family-friendly lodging. They then serve you up reviews and ads for properties that match your needs. Whether you think that sounds creepy, (“Why are they watching me?”) or great, (“Awesome, they are showing me exactly what I want!”) – it’s happening.
Furthermore, social Media is shaping the way travel content and destination photography are influencing traveler plans. Hashtags, location data, photography recognition and online reviews are taking “unknown” out of adventuring. This encourages a broader base of travel enthusiasts to visit places they have never been. It allows them to preview first-hand what other real people are seeing and thinking. Advertising slugs and hyper-touched up industry photography are no longer what travelers want to see. Instead, a call for honest and raw content of guest facilities and staff interaction is sweeping the industry. We now travel in a world where a live-stream of a hotel property can get more traction than a stylized, polished professional video.
If you travel frequently, you are probably a member of a rewards program with your preferred hotel brand. Technology has allowed for your rewards profile to be stored online. It enables for you to have a saved method of payment, and record of your preferences. It connects you with hotel staff well before your stay to communicate your needs. You can even check-in to your reservation and get a notification of when your room is ready. You can do all of this without stepping foot into a hotel or picking up a phone to speak to a hotel agent. Many luxury and high end properties already have the technology on hand for you to use your mobile phone as a room key!
Imagine that! Safely and quickly accessing your guest room without speaking to a single associate in person.
Larger hotel brands are also rolling out request features on their mobile apps. Extra towels, late check-outs, room service and more, are literally at your fingertips. Theoretically speaking, you could stay in a hotel without having a single physical interaction with a hotel employee. While some express concerns that technology is taking the “hospitality” out of the Hospitality Industry, this is simply not so. Technology frees up hotel associates from mundane responsibilities, like making keys and swiping credit cards. Tech allows associates to spend their time personalizing your stay and delivering an exceptional guest experience.
Imagine interacting with a Guest Services associate, not to check-in, but rather because they are delivering a bottle of champagne and chocolate covered strawberries to your room to help you and your spouse celebrate your 10th Anniversary! After all, the preferences on your online portal informed us of your favorite brand of bubbly. Not to mention, your Facebook check-in post said you were #blessed to be #celebrating your #anniversary #vacation.