Hey, Airbnb. Hotels aren’t scared of you — and here’s why.


W Hotel Chicago

In today’s age of technology and innovation, what are we really looking for in a hotel stay?

Guests want more than just a place to lay their head — they are looking for an experience. With more hotels offering new technologies such as customized mobile apps and keyless check-in, consumers have come to expect an efficient, personalized hotel stay. And why wouldn’t they? Other industries — banking, healthcare, retail and more — have embraced advances in technology. When it has become the norm, it is what you come to expect as a consumer.

Many hotels are providing these experiences through the use of new technologies. These innovative hotels are more than just a place to drop your bags while you head out to explore your surroundings — they are a part of those surroundings, enhancing your trip.

Hotels are offering customized experiences via technology.

Companies like Airbnb and VRBO, which allow users to book a room or even an entire house in the city of their choice, are giving hotels are run for their money. According to The Economist, a Boston University team reviewed Texas hotel revenue and found that if Airbnb grows at its current rate, it will cut into 10% of budget hotels’ takings by 2016. With these competitors in the fold, it’s more important now than ever for hotels to make a lasting impression and give their guests a stay tailored to suit their needs.

Take the SLS Hotel & Casino, for example. Their app, available on iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, allows you to make a dinner reservation, order room service and request luggage pick-up, among other features.

At the Hotel 1000 Seattle , guests select preferences such as artwork, music and room temperature before their arrival.

At theWit Hotel, you can schedule a wake-up call in a voice of your preference, with choices like Ann Landers, Al Capone and more, using a touchscreen in your room. On top of that, a voice offers you a personal greeting when you enter the room in the morning, afternoon and evening.

According to the 2014 Lodging Technology Study by Hospitality Technology, hotels spent, on average, 4.9% of revenue on technology in 2014, which is up from 2.8% in 2013, showing that hotels are shifting focus even more on the technological advances that provide a range of tailored options for guests. And with these advances in hospitality technology, each hotel guest can have a unique experience and stay, tailored to their needs.

Hotels are utilizing automated technology.

Are you tired of losing your room keys while traveling? We all are, and it looks like Starwood Hotels & Resorts knows this. They worked with Assa Abloy, a lock and security company, to create a keyless check-in feature, using Bluetooth-enabled software to get your room number and unlock the door using your smartphone.

Or, skip the front desk altogether and head straight to your room at Nobu Hotel Caesar’s Palace, where you can quickly and easily check in via tablet.

At New York’s minimalist Yotel, the resident luggage concierge is a robot — aptly named Yobot — who is controlled via touchscreen. Yotel also offers self-service kiosks at check-in, so you can check into the hotel yourself at any time, with no need to wait in the lobby or walk around the city until your room is available.

As mobile technology and the “internet of things” become more prominent in our daily lives, it’s no surprise that hotels are using alternatives to the front desk check-in and luggage handling. Guests are looking for a quick, seamless experience when they arrive at their hotel; eliminating road blocks they may encounter upon arrival help ensure their service expectations are met, keeping them on par with the hotel alternatives that companies like Airbnb offer their guests.

Hotel technology is focusing on the mind and body.

While technology no doubt provides convenience to hotel guests, many hotels are also taking a more artistic and holistic approach to innovation. With such a current cultural focus on health and wellness, it’s a smart move for hotels to stand out from the online rental services and keep a satisfied (and repeat) customer base.

21c Museum Hotels have put a focus on technology in art and design. Each hotel includes a museum with dynamic group and solo exhibits, sharing innovative new art with its guests. At 21c Museum Hotel Louisville, artist Camille Utterback created Text Rain, an interactive installation in which participants use their bodies to lift and move falling letters which do not actually exist. This unique installation is just one way that technology and art can work together to create a memorable experience for each guest.

The MGM Grand Las Vegas has implemented Stay Well suites in conjunction with the Cleveland Clinic and Dr. Deepak Chopra, which include air purification to reduce allergens, microbes, smoke and toxins from the air. Even the lighting and water are designed to energize and rejuvenate — the lighting is designed to reduce symptoms of jet lag, while the water is infused with vitamin C, neutralizing chlorine to keep hair and skin soft.

Hotels are looking toward the future.

While the hotel industry has made progress in the technology space, opportunities abound to enhance and impact your future hotel stay. Trends for 2015 and beyond include some existing hospitality innovations, as well as new ideas that will help customize and automate some aspects of your hotel stay.

  • Front Desk Elimination: Front desk elimination is a hot topic in hotel design. Virgin Hotels unveiled their first hotel in Chicago on January 15, with no formal check-in desk. And this year, Trump International Hotel & Tower Toronto is giving guests the option to check-in via smartphone, removing the need for a front desk check-in.
  • Mobile Payments: According to Frederic Gonzalo, 25% of hotel bookings will come from a mobile device this year. And, the Hotel Lodging Technology Survey states that 28.7% of hotels say their top tech priority in 2015 is preparing for changes in payment technology. With this information in mind, it’s more important than ever to give consumers an efficient, easy way to pay for their stay — and hopefully hotels are prepared.
  • Wireless Technology: More and more hotels are offering free Wi-Fi to their guests, which enables them to be more connected to guests and paves the way for more elaborate advancement in wireless technology. According to the 2014 Lodging Technology Study, 43% of hotels plan to upgrade their Wi-Fi in public spaces. The hope is that wireless technology continues to grow, including technologies such as wireless speakers in hotel rooms.

While the competition in the hospitality industry may be fierce, today’s hotels are constantly evolving, growing and implementing new technologies to provide a unique experience to each guest. As long as there is innovation in technology, hotels can not only separate themselves from Airbnb and VRBO — they can truly stand out from the crowd.

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