In recent years, hotel technology has accelerated rapidly, with the pandemic and labor shortages at the forefront of its evolution. This is especially true of technology used to elevate the guest experience. Today’s guest demands tech-driven experiences to speed up and smooth over what was once dealt with via face-to-face interaction. According to the 2022 Lodging Technology Study, 52% of respondents reported that guests increasingly prefer digital service encounters over encounters with staff. However, despite this preference, many properties remain entrenched in low-tech approaches. From an operational perspective, though, technology is helping automate tasks that directly address staffing issues.
During the coming year, hoteliers must fundamentally rethink their technology: digitize or risk falling behind. Those investing in solutions that automate management, drive guest loyalty, and enhance the hotel experience will emerge even stronger after 2023.
Over the next year, our industry will see the most rapid change in three key areas.
1. MOBILE CHECK-IN
The most significant development unfolding across the industry is the ability to check guests in without employees on site. As the staffing crisis continues to create challenges across the sector, the players who succeed will be the ones who can address 99% of check-ins through automated technology.
If you’ve been living under a rock, the process is fairly simple. When guests arrive at a hotel, they can check in and collect their key cards with a few taps on their mobile devices without having to visit and queue for the front desk. This streamlines efficiencies, reduces labor costs, and maximizes human resources.
Moving forward, one-tap operations will fuel guest stays. Contactless payments, digital identity verification, mobile room keys, and in-room voice assistants will become fundamental parts of the guest journey, enabling customers to breeze through a stay without relying on physical interactions with staffers to meet their needs.
2. DIGITAL IDENTITY VERIFICATION
A key part of that seamless check-in will be digital identity verification, a technology development that will see rapid change next year. Instead of using solutions that charge a fee to verify documents each time a guest checks in, hoteliers will tap into secure identity platforms (such as CLEAR) that are shaking up the market.
Once a guest scans their ID and takes a photo of themselves, any future stays with a hotel will only require a picture. This has huge potential benefits, not just in terms of staff resources and cost, but for safety too. Digital identity verification will help eliminate fraudulent misuse of hotels and chargebacks.
3. MOBILE APPS AND THE GUEST JOURNEY
With the continuing proliferation of mobile apps in all travel verticals, 2023 will see apps become an essential part of a hotelier’s business strategy. Historically, the creation of apps was often driven by marketing teams creating hotel loyalty programs, then evolved to enable check-in and checkout. In 2023, hoteliers will adopt apps that sync with the operational side of their management to address 100% of the guest’s needs and demands, eliminating friction across all touchpoints.
This tech will bridge the gap between the guest and the hotel, empowering guests to make requests, order food and beverages, raise a maintenance ticket, extend their stay, find local attractions, and even send messages directly to the hotel from their devices – the list is endless. As a result, hotels can recognize and anticipate repeat guests’ preferences before they even arrive – an invaluable tool that will shape guest loyalty and engagement. The industry also will shift to using web apps rather than mobile apps, which saves the guest from downloading something new each time they stay with a different brand.
REIMAGINING THE HOTEL EXPERIENCE
In short, each touchpoint of the guest journey will be reviewed in the future, and many forward-thinking properties already have a headstart. We’ll see the most change in mobile check-in, digital identity, and guest apps, but the theme is that everything is moving toward simplified hotel workflows.
The result? Improvements in the quality and quantity of face-to-face interactions. Hotels have been, and always will be, a relationship-based service industry; the implementation of technology need not threaten a hotel’s “personal touch,” but rather empower the industry to focus on the touchpoints that matter – rather than the ones that can be automated.