What is travel technology?
Travel technology comprises digital tools and platforms aimed at streamlining operations and enhancing guest experiences in the travel and hospitality sectors. It encompasses advanced booking engines, property management systems, customer relationship management (CRM) software, AI-driven chatbots, and more. These technologies are designed to automate routine tasks, free up staff for personalised guest services, and provide valuable data insights for improved operations and guest satisfaction.
The hospitality industry is built upon face-to-face conversations designed to foster healthy relationships and trust between provider and patron. Some of the most successful business owners would likely not hesitate to call their regular customers friends, as it’s this attitude that delivers high-quality service on a consistent basis.
It’s interesting to note then that the hospitality industry is becoming increasingly dependent on technology systems that can limit the amount of interaction people actually have with each other, but in some cases can significantly enrich the opportunity for hotel staff to give guests their utmost attention.
Here’s how travel technology is changing the industry and the possible implications, negative and positive, for hotels.
Table of contents
Table of contents
Why hotels need to incorporate travel technology
Potential customers are increasingly looking to their mobile devices to solve their problems for them, and this is also the way they are searching for, and booking, travel and accommodation.
This creates a critical need for hotels to respond in kind, by implementing mobile-friendly booking engines and websites, collecting and using data more extensively, and investing in robust property management systems.
The technological progress around faster internet speeds, mobile technology, apps, and numerous intuitive online technologies like virtual assistants has given consumers an unbridled sense of freedom and convenience.
Once upon a time your guests would book over the phone, by walking into a hotel, or through a travel agent. Now online travel agents (OTAs), hotel websites, and social media dominate the travel landscape.
However, the convenience of technology extends much further than this for travellers. The desire for quicker transactions at hotels means features like keyless room entry and mobile check-in are trending. Again, this requires the hotel to install and manage the necessary technology.
Even at a more physical level, hotels are hiring specialists to manage social media, Wi-Fi and other IT services, in addition to retail components.
Travel technology solutions
Travellers now take for granted the service they receive will be authentic, personal, and instant; and they only want this to keep improving. Anything that falls beneath these standards is likely to garner a negative review or poor public feedback.
If a guest took out their phone and searched for a nearby hotel, they’d expect the offered information to be tailored based on their location, time of day, and even past interests and bookings.
This would remain so throughout the booking journey and their stay, whereby they’d require the hotel to maintain a constant level of communication and keep a record of travel preferences.
A survey by Amadeus reported 92% of respondents supported the idea that “…hotel guests will expect their stay to be personalised around a set of choices they make at the time of booking or prior to arrival”.
This means the guest of the future will be able to pick and choose all aspects of their experience including technology, hotel services, the room, the journey, pricing and communications.
Other data sources show 57% of US travellers think brands should tailor their information based on personal preferences or past behaviours. If they did, 36% would be likely to pay more for their services, including hotel rooms.
The advantages of travel technology
For one, it’s what guests want and it’s what they expect so by using technology you will be fulfilling a vital requirement of hospitality service; making the customer happy.
Secondly, technology is designed to simplify and accelerate specific tasks. By making it easier to book, quicker to check in, and more convenient to order amenities, the guest experience has been enhanced without the hotel manager or staff needing to do anything.
Similarly, social media provides a quicker and more accessible way to answer any questions travellers have. We now live in a world where a consumer is more likely to trust the implied perfection of technology over a human.
This creates a flow-on effect whereby hotel staff now have more time to dedicate to guests in the physical surrounds of the hotel and ensure every trip is one without hiccups for the traveller.
Smart hotels will do the following when it comes to travel technology:
- Move to faster-speed internet and provide increased bandwidth for guests
- Use technologies like mobile apps to create better ways to promote loyalty
- Implement technology like voice recognition or gesture-activated interfaces to speed up guest activities
- Adopt new guest-facing technology early to gain a point of difference over competitors
- Embrace automated marketing opportunities, and experiment with new features like including machine learning to unlock new customer insights
- Use hotel technology like channel management and online booking engines to streamline backend processes, allowing more time to be dedicated to guests
- Consider virtual technology to improve in-room guest service
Very soon the majority of new hotel technology will arise from guests’ desire, rather than pure innovation – so it’s extremely important hotels listen to what travellers want from a trip and a hotel stay as it’s happening now.
All signs point to the ever-growing need for individually customised guest experience.
The disadvantages of travel technology
Some technologies do present a double-edged sword to hoteliers who aren’t vigilant. For example, social media is a very powerful weapon in the wrong hands. Any disgruntled guests can quickly and publicly air their concerns or complaints, potentially damaging a hotel’s reputation in the process. Travellers more often trust their peers than they do the defence of a hotel.
For this reason, reputation management has become even more critical.
Another potential pitfall is mobile check-in and check-out. If guests are arriving and bypassing the front desk, the hotel has a reduced opportunity to establish a rapport, offer advice or assistance, or sell extras, additional packages, or amenities. While this can be done via email, mobile app, or at other times, it’s still one less chance to influence a guest.
The same applies to departing guests when the hotel is trying to gain a positive review or induct a new member to its loyalty program.
It’s an interesting and challenging situation for hotels to be in as they work to implement the best technology while preserving what has always been their greatest value; friendly and personal service.
Best travel technology solutions for hotels
A channel manager is a crucial tool for hotels to effectively manage and distribute their inventory across various online travel agencies (OTAs) and booking platforms. It automates room availability and rates across all channels in real-time, eliminating the risk of overbooking and ensuring rate parity. By centralising the distribution process, a channel manager saves time, reduces manual errors, and optimises the potential for increased bookings and revenue.
Property management systems
Property Management Systems are the backbone of hotel operations, managing everything from reservations, check-ins/check-outs, billing, room assignment, and housekeeping schedules. A robust PMS can streamline daily operations, enhance guest satisfaction through quicker responses, and provide useful analytics for data-driven decision-making. Integrating a PMS with other systems like channel managers and booking engines can create a powerful tech ecosystem within a hotel.
Revenue management systems
Revenue Management Systems (RMS) employ data analytics to predict demand, optimise pricing, and maximise revenue. They analyse market trends, competitor prices, and historical data to suggest the best room rates at any given time. By automating the dynamic pricing strategy, an RMS helps hotels stay competitive and profitable, especially during peak seasons or special events.
Booking engines facilitate direct reservations through the hotel’s website, providing a seamless booking experience for guests. They help hotels reduce dependency on OTAs and improve profit margins by eliminating commission fees. A user-friendly booking engine with a secure payment gateway can significantly enhance direct bookings and overall guest satisfaction.
Review management software
Review Management Software helps hotels monitor, respond to, and analyse guest reviews across various platforms like TripAdvisor, Google, and Yelp. It’s vital for maintaining a positive online reputation, understanding guest feedback, and making necessary improvements to enhance guest satisfaction.
Future travel technology trends
Augmented Reality (AR) offers a blend of the digital and physical worlds by overlaying digital information onto the real world. In the hospitality sector, AR can enhance guest experiences by providing interactive hotel tours, local area information, or even virtual menus. Guests could point their smartphones at a nearby historical landmark to learn more about it or view a hotel room virtually before making a booking.
Adoption of biometric authentication, using unique biological traits like fingerprints or facial recognition for verification, could bolster security and streamline processes in hotels. This technology can speed up check-ins and access control, enhancing guest convenience while reducing operational hassles. Moreover, it provides a robust level of security, ensuring that only authorised individuals gain access to certain restricted areas within the hotel premises.
Modern travellers are increasingly seeking eco-friendly options. Hotels can leverage technology like carbon accounting software to measure, manage, report and reduce their environmental footprint through energy management systems, waste reduction technologies, and water conservation measures. This will help them show potential guests that they walk the talk around sustainability through reliable data and meaningful climate action.
Smart speakers and voice-activated assistants are making inroads into hotel rooms, offering guests a hands-free way to control room settings, request services, or get local recommendations. This technology enhances guest comfort and convenience while enabling hotels to provide personalised services and recommendations.
AI in hotels
From chatbots that provide instant responses to guest inquiries, to predictive analytics that help hoteliers make data-driven decisions, AI is poised to drive operational efficiency and guest satisfaction to new heights. AI can automate routine tasks, freeing up hotel staff to focus on delivering exceptional guest service. The insights garnered from AI can also inform strategic decisions, helping hotels to continually improve and innovate their offerings.