Whilst some hotels are ahead of the technology curve, seeing early adoption as a competitive advantage, most are continually playing catch-up, or in many cases not playing at all. Today’s hotel guests are increasingly tech-savvy, and they don’t see in-room tech and free WiFi an amenity, but an essential, like pillows and hot water. Personally I can live without TV and bathrobes, but I must have free WiFi and an iPod dock (though even the latter seems somewhat old-school these days!), and many guests feel the same way.
As Southeast Asia’s leading one-stop shop for hospitality tech solutions, we’ve picked 8 technologies that hotels simply can’t afford to be without in 2016. So hoteliers, here is your tech shopping list for next year, hand-picked by the experts!
A Good Web Booking Engine
The relationship between hotels and OTAs increasingly resembles the classic 1958 film The Defiant Ones, in which Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier play two prisoners who escape whilst chained together. They hate each other, but grudgingly accept that they are stuck with each other and have to try to get along in order to succeed.
The chain between hotels & OTAs isn’t going to break any time soon, but hotels can at least lengthen it and decrease their dependence on OTA bookings by making sure they channel as much business as possible direct to their own websites. And that’s where a good web booking engine comes in. What are the hallmarks of a good WBE? It should blend seamlessly in to the hotel’s website. It should be simple and intuitive to use, both for your hotel staff and for website visitors. The booking process should be as streamlined as possible to avoid booking abandonment. It should offer upselling opportunities. It should offer a flat fee with no booking commission. And it should go beyond simply claiming to offer a best rate guarantee, and walk the talk by offering live price matching with the OTAs.
Our recommendation: Florence-based WBE Simple Booking. Designed with typical Italian flair, extremely easy to use, and covering all the above essentials (as well as channel management), Simple Booking is already being used by over 2000 hotels in Europe, and is now available in Southeast Asia via Representasia.
What’s that? GDS is the big loser in the war between OTAs and direct bookings? You couldn’t be more wrong. The latest research from TravelClick indicates that GDS is growing at a faster rate than its rival channels, with 4.9% year-on-year growth in 2015. Thousands of travel agents – and booking sites – get rooms from the big GDS networks and so your hotel simply cannot ignore this old-school sales channel.
Our recommendation: Amadeus’ LinkHotel solution specialises in GDS connectivity for independent hotels, connecting you to all the leading GDS networks and thousands of worldwide travel agents with simple set up and one all-inclusive fee.
A Revenue Management Solution
Revenue Management is one of the more arcane areas of the hotel business, as much an art as it is a science. But whether you’re an RM artist or scientist, the fact remains that juggling the numerous factors involved – past room rates, demographics, competitor set, economic factors, the weather, terrorism and more – is becoming increasingly complex. These days, good revenue managers are getting help from a revenue management solution, which crunches the data available to make predictions that assist hotels with setting future rates and allotments.
Our recommendation: Duetto Research claims to be a “game changer” in the revenue management business. A cloud-based platform developed by hoteliers for hoteliers, it uses predictive analytics to help hotels optimise revenue using its “open pricing” concept. Hotels using the solution are seeing rapid gains in revenue and ADR.
Mobile Check-in (and Keyless Entry)
Your guests queue to get into the airport, to get onto the plane, to get off the plane, to get their luggage, to get out of the airport, and to get a taxi to your hotel. Clearly the last thing they want to do when they arrive is to join another queue to check in! Thankfully help is at hand in the form of proxmity identification technology, which savvy hotels are using to enable mobile check-in. It works very simply. When the guest gets within a specified distance of the lobby, the front desk staff are alerted, enabling them to assign a room number and prepare the key, and ping a message back to the guest’s mobile. When the guest arrives, all they have to do is pick up the key from the mobile check-in desk and go straight to their room. And if the hotel has implemented keyless entry technology, they don’t even need to do that – they can go straight to their room using their mobile as a key.
Our recommendation: Award-winning Silicon Valley startup Proxce offers a really affordable entry-level mobile check-in solution for hotels, with optional keyless entry and white label services.
We’ve written at length about how guests now see free WiFi as an essential rather than an amenity, and any hotels that STILL don’t get this are pretty much beyond help by now. But there’s more to offering WiFi than simply setting up a free network and giving people a password. This passive form of WiFi isn’t working for you – it’s simply sitting there providing a free service and not really earning its keep.
Social WiFi, which asks guests to access your network via their social media accounts (eg “Like our Facebook page to get free WiFi!”), is one of the world’s fastest-growing internet technologies at present, because not only is it user-friendly for customer-facing staff and the customers themselves (no need to remember WiFi passwords or hand out little bits of paper), but also because it turns your WiFi network into a data collection and marketing tool. Those thousands of people who pass through your function rooms & F&B outlets every week? Now you can start collecting their contact info and marketing to them.
Our recommendation: UK-based Purple WiFi is installed in over 3000 outlets worldwide, offering social WiFi to, and collecting the data of, hundreds of thousands of users.
A Loyalty Solution
There seems to be a misconception that loyalty programmes are the preserve of big corporations or, in our industry, the big hotel chains, due to the cost and complexity of implementing them. Thankfully, the cloud has made previously super-expensive technologies affordable to small independent businesses, and loyalty is one of them. Now it’s affordable and simple for independent hotels to configure and implement tailor-made loyalty programmes for guests, corporate bookers, F&B outlet customers and more – and it’s essential too. Loyalty programmes and the accompanying rewards are probably the best way there is to generate repeat business and make sure your hotel is maximising guest mindshare.
Our recommendation: Based in Bulgaria, Loyax is a fantastic startup offering easy and affordable branded or white label loyalty solutions.
High Quality Visual Presence
These days, ensuring your hotel looks good online involves more than just paying a photographer to show your property in a good light. Guests are increasingly cynical and know that a good photographer, and a bit of Photoshop magic, can make even the shabbiest room look like a luxury suite. Many hotels are now using such hi-tech visuals as video (which also has great SEO benefits), 360-degreee virtual tours, and even drone videos on their websites, and again, the cost of these has decreased rapidly in recent years as the technology becomes more accessible.
Our recommendation: Founded by Italy-born, UK-trained photographer and videographer Stefano Asole, Video Promo Solutions is a Thailand-based imaging studio offering photography, video, 360 and drones, with a portfolio of clients including Sheraton, Sofitel, Four Seasons and Centara.
Yes, robots. 2015 was the year in which robots finally made the move from science fiction into the real world, as many hotels employed their own service robots. OK, so they’re not all going 100% robot, like Japan’s already famous Hen-na Hotel, and it’ll be a while before you’re greeted by a robot receptionist, but the technology already exists to enable robots to perform simple tasks such as delivering items to guest rooms. Not only is the technology affordable and easy to implement, it’s also guaranteed to delight guests and get early-adopting hotels plenty of publicity.
Our recommendation: Silicon Valley-based robotics startup Savioke has installed its Relay service robots into several US hotels, and the little fellas have already clocked up over 3000 error-free deliveries.
Representasia partners with all of the above solution providers to offer their technology to hotels across Southeast Asia. To discuss how we can help your property implement these solutions, email us on firstname.lastname@example.org!