Words by Richard Valtr, Managing Director at Mews Systems,
Every year, the colour experts at the Pantone Colour Institute read the proverbial tea leaves and proclaim a colour of the year. For those that missed it, this year it’s Pantone 18-3838, also known as ultra violet, and, according to the company, it alludes to the mysteries of the cosmos and the unknown…
But before you decide to repaint your hotel in neon purple, have a look at our shortlist of hotel tech trends to watch in 2018. We have ruminated on an exhaustive number of themes and technologies — many of which we have heard before from the Internet of Things to Big Data to Biophilic Design — but we settled on a handful of future trends that you can actually act on immediately. Investments in tech improve hotel profitability and Hyatt CEO Mark Hoplamazian put it best - “focus on functionality that enables colleagues to actually better engage with guests and simplify their interaction with hotel systems.”
Door locks are some of the oldest - and worst - technologies used in the hotel industry today. But they are finally transitioning from being isolated and mechanical to interconnected and electronic and we shall soon be unlocking our doors using the smartphones we all carry in our pockets. We recently wrote a guide with all you need to know about hotel door locks and how to prepare for a world with mobile key access.
2. Tokenized payments
Do you have any credit card data stored in your back office? If so, then, like many hotels, you may be at grave risk. The threat of data fraud is real and using clunky payment terminals or asking guests to fax or email card details is like leaving your back door open for hackers and fraudsters. The seamless automation of payments using an online payment gateway is becoming essential for both an excellent guest experience and robust cyber security and tokenized payment methods ensure complete security of guest card data.
We delved into the science of it all in our most read article of 2017. With the rapid rise in cybercrime and the increasing focus on improving guest experiences, switching from a manual offline payment processor to an automated online solution is more important than ever.
3. Instant messaging with hotels
Guests often don’t know what they want so helping them book by communicating with them and answering their queries via live chat will be key in 2018. Responsive mobile websites are not a panacea - it's better to plug in to the instant communication apps guests are already using, like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, via a single dashboard to easily send out those messages. Furthermore, instant communication is best for time sensitive and personalised potential guest purchases such as a bike tour on a surprisingly sunny day.
We were listening intently at the Hotel Technology Revolution Forum as Benjamin Devisme of QuickText showed us how QuickText facilitated a guest’s birthday in Holland with a beer ordered by a friend in Australia using the hotel’s Facebook messenger.
4. Artificial intelligence comes to hotels
Despite doomsday scare-mongering by the likes of Elon Musk, artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming increasingly important within discrete areas of industry, including within hospitality. From booking engines to chatbots to room allocations, AI is gradually being deployed to improve optimisation and the guest experience. Concierges and customer facing AI robots tend to get much of the press - the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, for example, recently launched its own AI concierge named Rose replete with a spicy tone of voice to match her environs.
Nonetheless, our view about AI at Mews is more nuanced. “Anything that removes the fetching of items or data input is great for robots,” said our CEO Richard Valtr in an interview last year about the future of the guest experience. "But what makes us distinctly human is when we go above and beyond for others and give them a unique experience.”
We recently spoke with the founder of hotel tech startup Pace about using artificial intelligence, or augmented intelligence as they prefer to call it, to improve revenue management for hotels. Benjamin of QuickText’s instant-messaging-for-guests app sang from a similar hymn sheet when reflecting on artificial intelligence: “AI will be increasingly useful for hotels as most queries, which guests tend to want answered immediately, are basic and easily answerable,” he told us.