Innovation is often talked about as being crucial in the hotel industry, and the business world in general, because it’s all about creativity, originality, and experimentation.
That’s not to say you should change anything for the sake of it. If guests are loving your customer experience, why upset the status quo? However as the motivations, expectations, and behaviours of guests change, you need to adapt along with them to keep them satisfied.
This blog will tell you everything you need to know about innovating at your hotel and provide some handy tips to get you started on the right track!
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What does hotel innovation mean?
Hotel innovation is defined by undertaking new processes, adopting new technologies, or implementing creative new ideas to achieve better outcomes for the business and its guests.
This might mean finding a new way to impress and satisfy guests, opening a new amenity, or finding better ways to manage your revenue for example.
Often you’ll want to innovate because it will improve your efficiency, profit, and customer satisfaction. It’s well worth the effort too, with a study from Deloitte finding that when hotels understand their guests, stay frequency increases by 13%!
Top ways to innovate at your hotel
In theory it’s easy to innovate – new ideas are always being discovered and shared. We just have to take notice and gravitate towards what captures our imagination and inspires us.
When you innovate at your hotel you should think about what kind of goals you are aiming for. Are you trying to create a truly memorable experience, find an extra revenue stream, make life easier for your staff, or use cutting edge technology to help your hotel succeed in all areas?
The best way to make your hotel will depend on your specific location, target market, brand, and resources. Here are some ideas for different areas of your business on how to innovate.
Guest experience ideas
It goes without saying that anything you can do to create a stronger emotional experience for a guest during their stay is a good idea. The same goes for making their stay easier and more convenient from check-in to check-out.
If you aren’t already, consider exploring these ideas:
- Hotel apps – Using apps that plugin to your existing systems can greatly increase your capacity to deliver great service. For example, you might be able to offer guests mobile check-in and check-out, allowing them to skip waiting times and remove the hassle of dealing with the front desk.
- Self-service automation – With self-service technology, guests feel like they are in control and not being pushed to make any particular decision. This gives them a comfortable sense of freedom and flexibility. Of course, traditional staff can always be on hand to lend assistance and help with requests.
- Keyless experiences – Having to remember a key, or even a keycard, can be annoying for guests and it’s something that is easy to forget. With facial recognition technology, or mobile door entry, you can make the simple act of getting into their room much easier – as it should be.
- Smart amenities – Just like using a physical key, getting up and down to adjust lighting, heating, or their alarm etc can break the mode of relaxation guests are looking for when they take a holiday. With smart amenities, guests can control everything in their room from one location such as a tablet.
- Repurpose your spaces – If you make it so much quicker and easier for guests to check-in and self-service, then do you really need a traditional front desk? Perhaps instead it could be a bar that gives guests a complimentary drink on arrival, or it could be a lounge area where guests can relax, or a space for local musicians or performers to ply their trade.
- Personalise – Any new way to tailor the guest experience is a great innovation. It requires you to collect guest data, via the booking process, pre-stay communications, and post-stay communications. Once you know their likes and dislikes, you can surprise them during their stay by having their favourite drink waiting, or their wake up call and breakfast already scheduled.
Housekeeping can make or break both the guest experience and the overall efficiency of your hotel. If it goes right, guests will barely ever notice it. If it goes wrong, you’ll be receiving many complaints and negative reviews.
Knowing that sleep quality is still the most important factor in whether you’re able to offer a positive guest experience or not, finding ways to make your housekeeping as efficient as possible is vital.
Automated housekeeping software
In large properties especially, bringing your housekeeping schedule online and allowing real-time updates and adjustments will help significantly in terms of keeping track of every room and also communication between staff. You can also incorporate digital checklists to ensure that all staff can see what needs to be done and that everything gets done on time.
You need to keep in mind that any new tech you give your staff, you should give it to your guests as well. This might mean implementing a system that also allows guests to use digital housekeeping requests and notifications such as ‘Do not disturb’ or ‘Request extra towels’.
How else can housekeeping be improved?
The challenge for hoteliers is always to find more cost-effective ways of doing things. So what about laundry? Looking into the latest machines and chemical providers might give you ways to use less water, less detergent, and less time to wash bedding and towels. The added bonus is that you’ll also be able to market to guests the sustainable practices you’re undertaking.
Restaurant and menu ideas
The food and beverage experience is a huge part of the reason why people travel, and if they can get that at their hotel then they’ll reward you with their loyalty.
With technology and manufacturing capabilities increasing, so does your ability to serve better food and deliver a better dining experience. Some ideas might be simple, while others are more complex, such as:
- Introducing 24-hour room service
- Using cutting-edge tech to cook with precision and efficiency, giving guests and staff greater flexibility
- QR codes and online ordering so guests don’t have to leave their table or the poolside etc
- Move away from a standard restaurant to satellite kitchens and pop-up dining areas that you can move around various parts of your hotel
- Or, on the contrary, play into the strengths of your established restaurant and build it’s brand in its own right – give everyone in the community to visit your hotel because of your incredible dining experience
- Rotate your menu often to align with seasonality, events, or special occasions
Just like most aspects of customer service, if guests perceive a lack of quality or consistency in their food and beverage experience, they’ll be vocal about it so you should always be looking for new ways to make that part of your business better.
Simply changing your decor or introducing a new design can have a huge impact on the way guests perceive and experience your hotel. It can be as simple as changing the wallpaper or as extravagant as opening a whole new amenity.
Here are some creative kickstarters:
- Theme your rooms or suites – Having themed rooms or even theming your entire hotel gives you the ability to take guests to another world entirely, and if you pick themes that are popular, you’ll never be short of guests wanting to come check you out.
- Turn under-utilised spaces into attractions – Do you have an accessible rooftop? An accessible basement? Why not plant a vegetable garden on your roof and put a games room in your basement? Ideas like this can give you extra resources and your guests something extra to enjoy.
- Be homely – While many guests go to a hotel for escapism, many also still want it to feel like home as they explore the outside world. Avoid cookie-cutter designs and decor and bring some warmth and authenticity to your rooms.
- Create more outdoor areas – Guests are still getting over being cooped up during the COVID-19 pandemic so give them a chance to spread their wings with outdoor dining, spaces to enjoy natural views, outdoor entertainment, outdoor social events, and outdoor amenities.
- Go eco-friendly – Travellers are much more eco-conscious now than ever, so play into this with sustainable and environment-inspired designs. Think about solar panels, recycled products, locally sourced handcrafts and products, energy saving features and more.
- Use a concept – Similar to a theme, basing your hotel around a concept can help inform a creative design at your hotel. For instance, the concept of wellness might inspire soft and calming colours, relaxation amenities such as spas and massage rooms, tranquil gardens, and a fresh and healthy menu.
While many marketing strategies are tested and proven at this point, there’s always new frontiers that allow you to get your message across in a different way. And in some forms of marketing, you are only limited by your imagination.
Some things you might not have tried include:
- Virtual reality – VR is a great way to let guests ‘try’ before they buy. They can take a full tour through your hotel and the rooms they are interested in to make an informed booking decision.
- Engage influencers – Tying in with the above, imagine if guests were treated to a virtual tour from a celebrity or known influencer? Or, failing that, simply working with influencers who have a large reach can let you attract guests who wouldn’t have known about you otherwise.
In both of these cases you’ll be receiving guests who already have positive feelings about your hotel even before they arrive, increasing the chances of them being satisfied with their experience and leaving stellar reviews.
- Prioritise video marketing – The explosion of TikTok and Instagram reels are a clear indication that consumers want to engage with super creative and short-form video content. It’s easy to digest and allows you to showcase a variety of content.
- Mobile-marketing – Soon, nearly all of the US will be accessing the internet on a mobile phone – which means more people researching and booking travel on their mobile device too. You need to ensure all your marketing material is optimised for this experience.
Sometimes the simplest and most effective innovations are through your messaging. Try to stay positive, or playful, or quirky – whatever will most appeal to your target audience. Just don’t be boring. You want guests to be intrigued and excited at the prospect of a stay with you.
Best examples of innovation in the hotel industry
So, do hotels actually run some of the ideas we’ve mentioned? The answer is a lot do, and many do a lot more!
Here are just a few examples of hotels with innovation at the top of their minds.
Svart is the world’s first energy positive, off-grid, hotel that aims to inspire travellers to take up the fight for preserving nature. Located just above the Arctic circle in Norway, the views and surrounding environment are truly stunning for guests wanting to explore. The design is also incredibly inventive – take a look for yourself here.
While modern hoteliers need tech to succeed, it can be healthy for guests to switch off during their stay. Wyndham Grand is trying to inspire this by offering a 5% discount to guests who are willing to undertake a ‘tech detox’ for the duration of their visit. The desired outcome is that guests who are not distracted will be more aware of their surroundings and the company they’re in – leading to a more fulfilling experience.
Looking to bridge the divide between hotels and hostels, BUNK hotels utilises former churches to create hybrid properties that attract both types of guests. Compact private rooms are accompanied by shared wooden pods, with all historical elements preserved to create a unique stay.
Technology innovation: What solutions should your hotel invest in?
While guest-facing tech can make a huge difference, back-end technology is just as critical when it comes to hotel business success.
Guests are demanding more, competitors are forging ahead, and the digital age continues to strengthen. Modern hoteliers need to think about how they get more done in the same amount of time.
- How do you gain and utilise additional guest data?
- How do you continue to sell maximum inventory for maximum revenue?
- How do you expand your distribution without being overwhelmed?
These questions and many more are valid. Keeping up in today’s complex marketplace certainly isn’t easy – but it is made much simpler by using a hotel commerce platform.
A hotel commerce platform enables your hotel to integrate all of your online operations into one central location. This gives you powerful data, automation, and control that ultimately leads to success in selling, marketing, managing, and growing your business in a way that suits you.
Want to see how a hotel commerce platform works? Watch a demo now.