Saptha Maldives

Re-imagine Hospitality

It’s time to redefine the hospitality industry with the advancement of consumer-centric technology.

By – Saptha Wanniarachchi

Can you imagine what a cashless vacation would feel like? Can you imagine a seamless experience where there are no queues, no waiting and no confirmations during your business trip? Can you imagine your hotel’s custom offering to suit your preference? Watching your favourite local TV show while you are away? Seamless integration with your personal devices where your loved ones are one tap away? Welcome to the new face of the human-centred hospitality experience.

Hoteliers across the globe spend millions of dollars on upgrading their offerings in countless ways. Upgrading the facility, in-house service, branding and even investing in various communication channels. However, with the world’s increasing population of millennial travellers, do you think these investments are reaping the benefits as expected? Well in my experience of travelling the world across almost all the continents, I’ve not seen much difference in the experience now and two decades ago. Despite the sheer amount of investments, I fail to see a unified consumer experience that puts the millennial traveller at the centre of modern hospitality.

Migrating the IT department from a cost centre to a revenue centre is the responsibility of the IT manager, innovations and trends such as an IOT can be seamlessly integrated to add value to traditional hospitality.

The mindset of a millennial traveller is quite unique and in no way related to traditional leisure or business travellers. For example with the introduction of the services like Uber, which has a global footprint, one would easily use Uber to get a ride from Airport to the hotel. The digitalisation of hotel reservation systems has failed to tap into the opportunities that are presented here. Similarly, other such services which utilise the sharing economy model, as I see should play a major role in the lifecycle of a modern traveller. Integration with such services will help the hotels simplify the travel experience while amplifying these value-added revenue streams. Most importantly offer a connected experience, where one can forget about pretty much everything except the reason they travel.

Authorization protocols are such that a visitor requires moving into the reservation desk before checking in. We all know how that process is, especially at a hotel in a busy city. Maybe your flight is delayed and you were stuck in traffic on your way to the hotel. The last thing you want is to wait in the Queue for checking in to the hotel, which you may have already paid for. Not a good experience. Low-energy communication protocols, such as Bluetooth and RFID are available which can completely eliminate the reservation desk. These protocols provide and already been implemented in other industries for authorization purposes. Imagine your smartphone automatically checking you in as you walk into the hotel, with a personalised greeting message from the manager and showing you the path to the hotel room, and the door is unlocked as you walk in. That would be pretty amazing as you have to rush into that business meeting. Similarly what if all the in-house payments are authorised via the same mobile app where you will pay them all with a tap on your screen? Solutions can be invisible inside the traditional practice without making guest feels like they walk into a tech world where some guest will have a very negative impression towards high-tech complications, imaging having an RFID inlay inside a car park ticket or room key where guest will be amazed how the staff calling his name and how they are aware of his room number everywhere they travel inside the hotel, The application of such technology is already in use with the introduction of digital wallets and technologies such as blockchain.

Have you ever felt like a stranger during your trip to an unknown city? It does not have to be that way anymore. Artificial intelligence-backed chatbots are there to keep you company and help you get around the city and craft a memorable experience with your family. Mobile apps, the likes of ChatBots introduced by Facebook Messenger are available for reaching out to your visitors when they want assistance. Finding a travel partner or connecting with social travel groups can be integrated services via apps on your TV, Whether it’s reserving a dinner table or helping you explore the city these platforms are capable of personalising the experience based on your preference. They provide numerous ways to connect with your social life and offer travellers an unparalleled experience. Can you imagine the power of this connectedness and the possibilities of monetizing these opportunities into revenue streams that eventually create brand loyalty for global hotel chains? One would argue that services such as Airbnb, and Couchsurfing has already tapped into this market with zero ground presence. With the shift towards global mobile apps and eventually single-app mobile devices, the likes of WeChat and Facebook Messenger, creating brand loyalty has to be much simpler than spending large sums of advertising and marketing dollars.

Right now we do have a number of case studies online to study how the technology has been utilised to improve the hospitality industry, leading vendors are already in business with a range of solutions with API integrations, major hotel chains like Hilton. Starwood and Hyatt already use keyless entry in hotels, Opera PMS IFC8 interface announced that they will welcome IOT to connect with the PMS system.

At the forefront of the hospitality industry, leadership of the industry must identify that there is a rising tide that is driven by the millennial traveller. With advancement of the technology, hospitality providers are enabled with multitudes of channels to take the current where it leads, not to forget the fact that one bad guest experience on public websites such as Trip Advisor can have huge implications on the reputation of the hotel putting the millennial traveller at the centre of their service offering. When the trends favour the opportunity, will the hospitality industry be swimming against this powerful tide?

As a great philosopher once said, “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune . . . We must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.” I say we live in a world that is far more connected than ever before, which opens a whole new horizon of possibilities in the hospitality industry. Hoteliers must grab the opportunity and lead their ventures to prosperity before losing their ventures to those who do have the right technology.