The year 2020 will see a new breed of highly sophisticated and ‘digital native’ hotel guests who will be better informed, seek unique experiences, have higher expectations and also expect recognition.
However, while hoteliers anticipate such future guests their plans for industry technology remain stuck in the early 2000s.
The study’s results were from a survey of leading hoteliers around the world, and from a ‘visioning’ session with experienced hoteliers and consultants at last November’s World Travel Market, London.
“The combined research explored anticipated hotel guests of 2020, as well as the technology needed to cater to their needs,” said Dr O’Connor. “We wanted to hear directly from hoteliers about how the future traveller would look, and the measures needed to prepare for them.”
According to Dr O’Connor, participants anticipate highly-sophisticated guests who seek unique experiences, have higher expectations and also expect recognition.
As ‘digital natives’ they will rely primarily on mobile devices to engage with hotels before, during and after their hotel stay. Key differentiators such as flexibility, value and control are predicted to play a larger role in the guests’ buying decisions than human interaction.
Fabian Specht, managing director EMEA at IDeaS, added: “The collected data reveals predictions of a more demanding customer, with greater choices and access to information.”
The combined research also looked at the technology to cater to their needs.
When asked which technology hotels could not be without in 2020, respondents named those already implemented in many hotels, including revenue management systems, customer relationship management systems, property management systems, channel managers and e- marketing solutions.
“These results reflect the high degree of conservatism within the hotel industry, particularly when it comes to technology. It is as if the industry is still preoccupied with the same issues as ten years ago,” noted Thomas Landen, EMEA marketing manager at Revinate.
By contrast, operational managers and consultants from UK and European hotel properties and technology industry listed middleware, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning systems, predictive analysis tools and management dashboards as essential tools in 2010.
To drive deeper engagement with guests they added messaging solutions and Bluetooth beacons to drive deeper engagement.
The panelists suggested a key roadblock to implementing these systems industry-wide was highly-siloed customer data, which prevents a single 360-degree guest view.
Other roadblocks included data protection and privacy issues, as many countries limit guest information storage; and industry conservatism with few hotels pushing boundaries and most tending to stick with well-established systems in the marketplace (see results of the full study in infographic below).
Dai Williams, managing director EMEA at SiteMinder, said, “It is clear we operate in an industry that continues to look to outdated and often-costly legacy systems for technological support. The resistance among hotels to change and innovation hurts the advancement of our industry, which, in itself, recognises the need to keep up with current and future consumers.”
To break the cycle, panellists advocate for the rise of a new breed of hotel management that include applying a different set of skills and mindset capable of pushing technology forward – a process already successful within industries such as retail and banking.