Remember when robots and virtual reality were fantasies of the distant future? Well, that’s not the case anymore. We’re currently living through a very exciting time, where the technology previously unique to our favorite science fiction movies is being realized. It seems like new tech is popping up every day and it’s hard to keep up. So here are a few hospitality tech trends of the very near future for your property to get ahead of, in order to start planning for the guests of tomorrow.
Virtual reality (VR) technology has been around for a while but has only just begun to really take off commercially. With a new wave of VR products becoming available, a myriad of possible applications are being proposed and the hospitality industry is no exception. Everything from sales and marketing to a guest’s on-property experience can be enhanced by VR technology.
Currently VR headsets are a bit of a novelty, but as more people begin to use them there will be huge marketing opportunities. Prospective guests could take virtual tours that showcase the unique charm of your property and diversity of available amenities. The effect, size and scale of a space are much better understood through an immersive VR experience than a slideshow of photos. A well done VR tour could be just the thing to boost your sales conversion rate and turn more browsers into bookers.
Offering VR technology for entertainment (think in-room games and videos) as well as guest information (perhaps offering an overview of hotel facilities or nearby attractions) could also improve customer satisfaction and set you apart from the competition.
Ever interacted with a chatbot? Chances are yes (even if you didn’t realize it). Chatbots are artificial intelligence software (like Siri) that are programmed to engage with people in an interactive manner. With Facebook Messenger (which boasts one billion active users!) embracing the technology last spring, tens of thousands of chatbots have been created and brands have been working on integrating the technology into their sales and marketing strategies. In fact, 80% of businesses have expressed intent to roll out chatbots by 2020, which means you might want to consider jumping on board in order to stay current.
Chatbots have a wide array of possible applications in the hospitality industry. To start, a well programmed chatbot on your property’s website can help usher prospective guests through the booking process. A chatbot can ask for further details about the booking and navigate the guest to the appropriate pages, all while answering any inquiries about the property. Having a chatbot engage with potential customers in real time should help reduce booking abandonment online.
The use of chatbot technology does not end at the booking form. Once a reservation has been made, chatbots can be used to engage with the guests pre-arrival as well as on-site. Before a guest arrives at the property, a chatbot can instigate conversation to offer additional booking options and amenities. On-resort, chatbots can be used to answer basic questions and update guests on facility availability (freeing up time for front-desk staff to attend to more important matters).
No talk of future tech is complete without mentioning robots, and just like VR and chatbots, they are on the brink of becoming the new normal in hospitality. In fact, a few properties have already introduced their first robots. Most notable of these include Henn-na Hotel in Japan, which is manned almost exclusively by robots, and The Ghent Marriott Hotel in Belgium, whose robot employee, Mario, has become a local sensation.
The robotics company Savioke produces a delivery robot (known as Relay) which is currently being tested by a number of hotel properties. When a customer requests delivery of food or goods, a hotel employee places the appropriate items inside Relay. The robot then navigates to the appropriate room, calls the guest to inform them of the delivery, and returns to its charging station. In addition to increasing efficiency and freeing up valuable time for staff, Relay is also a novelty that delights guests and is sure to end up on their social media pages.
Eager to cut down on workplace injuries? That was the inspiration for Maidbot after CEO Micah Green realized that housekeepers have one of the highest injury rates in the hotel industry. The robotics company’s first product, Rosie, is designed to clean all types of floors in order to reduce the workload of housekeeping staff. Pilot programs with major hotel companies are currently underway, so keep your eye out for this cool, cost-saving robot!
The hospitality industry is all about maintaining a competitive edge, so it’s important to stay on top of industry trends. VR, chatbots and robots are on the horizon. Start thinking about how they will affect and enhance your business now, so you aren’t playing catch-up tomorrow.