10 things hotel chains need to do to crush Airbnb

How technology can help reinvent the business hotel experience

Flights are really good for thinking. You are seated and you don’t get interrupted by emails and push notifications. Besides working, eating and watching movies, I like to let my mind wander and think about user experience. This time, on my way to Bangalore, I started thinking about what would be the best hotel experience for business travellers. This is a list of 10 things that would make me happy.

1-Mobile check-in

Already available with some hotel chains, the mobile check-in will soon become the way people check-in at hotels. The concept is simple: you check-in when you arrive at the hotel like on the old Foursquare, the hotel IT system verifies that you have a reservation in a matter of seconds and you get your room number and an NFC code pushed to your mobile.

You don’t see any clerks, you don’t get any keys, your smartphone is the key. With the support of NFC by Apple on the latest iPhones, the market for this technology is finally ready to take off.

2-Automatic Wi-Fi configuration

The problem with the first point is that you have to use mobile data to check-in. If your are on an international trip, it means data roaming. Well, this could also be solved by offering a fantastic Wi-Fi experience. As soon as you get to your hotel, the hotel app should tell you exactly which Wi-Fi to connect to, a simple click should connect to a guest mode allowing you to connect to the check-in page. Once checked-in, instead of entering your name and room number (which is not so secure), really secure credentials should be pushed to your phone to access the wider Internet.

That would be a much better experience than Wi-Fi access in hotels today, faster and more secure.

3-Unlocking the door with your mobile

As the smartphone is your key, it should unlock your door. What this could also do is automatically put a “Do not disturb” sign in front of your door. As your room becomes aware of your presence, the status is automatically changed based on your location.

4-Reinvent the mini-bar

Let’s be clear, I have never seen a mini-bar which didn’t suck. I may have used one twice or thrice and for the record, I travel at least once a month. The whole thing is a joke: you have this tiny stupid fridge in your room filled with small bottles: 2 cans of coke, 1 can of Sprite, 2 vodkas, 2 whiskeys and typically no price tag on any of the bottles, which means expensive.

A businessman needs to know how much it is going to cost — most businessmen expense their drinks and they don’t want to have any surprise. There must be something better than this. Nespresso machines are much better than traditional coffee cookers for instance. I don’t know how to reinvent it but if you just want to improve it, just put the price tags and larger cans than 20ml.

5-Movies service for free !!

We are in 2015! Everybody has laptops with Internet access which means that you can logon to Netflix, choose a movie and watch it. If you want to provide a movie service, don’t ridiculise yourself with an expensive “a-la-carte” entertainment system. Make it free like on a long-haul flight! Provide choice and let the content be streamed over tablet, smartphone or computers on the local Wi-Fi. Are hotels really making money from it?

6-Personalised TV service

I am not a big TV watcher but when I travel I like to wake-up with Bloomberg. Some people might prefer CNN or whatever channel. Since human beings are people of habits, it is not so hard to keep a tab on the customer’s preferences and make sure that the the right channel is selected when you turn on the TV. The preference could actually be stored on the hotel app and sent to the TV system during check-in.

7-Work calendar integration

This is a lot trickier and would require a much deeper integration but it is definitely possible. The hotel app can have access to the mobile calendar to know what time is the most appropriate to put a wake-up alarm. Of course, before setting it, please ask the guest first.

8-International and USB adaptor

I saw that in some hotels. For international traveller, it is always nice to have international outlets for your computer, not just the local power sockets. A USB connector is even more desirable for your smartphone and everybody, I mean everybody has smartphones to charge. I am seeing that more and more often and this one is a very good idea.

9-Airline-style alliance loyalty plan

Maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea to partner with other chains and provide a high-value loyalty service like the airline alliance. People don’t need 10 hotel loyalty plans, 2 or 3 is the maximum.

10-No survey please

Or to be more precise, either I liked the experience or I didn’t like. Don’t send me a long survey which I won’t fill. Just do a Uber-like experience with a number of stars and a comment and do that on the mobile after the check-out. You will be able to know if you are on the right track or not.