Product Design

Dec. 19, 2018

/ business & Agile

Backend 'n' Breakfast: Is there a room for new technologies in the hospitality industry?

Michał Lisewski

Platforms like Airbnb, Trivago or Booking.com completely rearranged the hospitality industry. Revolution took place not only in reservation process but also hotel management and most of all in guest experience. The modern hotel provides much more than nice views and swimming pool. Travelling equals experiencing, and so the user experience is the greatest challenge of hospitality providers. How to harness the power of technology to deliver an unforgettable impression for guests? We took a look at some of the hottest trends and solutions taking place in the industry.

Ok Google, find my destination

A significant part of all reservations online is made today by using booking platforms. Modern technologies implemented in them are simplifying the traveling-related activities and make them more accessible - but this is only a final user perspective. From the business owners point sof view, booking management systems, cloud-based databases, IoT solutions are to attract visitors and increase their revenue by becoming a competitive provider.

Every visitor of a booking website and potentially interested in going, let's say, Manchester, is considered as a lead. Thanks to following the best User Experience practices, each leading platform is designed to speed up the decision-making process of the visitor. The goal is to encourage the visitor to make some decision (and purchase the service) before making up its mind. 

For many visitors of AirBnB, the two most important decision-making factors are price and location. Airbnb designers combined them on the map. Source: Airbnb

Booking a room on the other side of the globe has become a bit more difficult than liking a Facebook post. After scrolling down several offers, we finally choose the right one; in many cases, the fear of missing out (aka last room left) is often underlined to encourage the user to book the room. But behind intuitive and user-friendly functionalities there’s hidden a giant engine using machine learning to run terabytes of data, allowing the user to compare the prices, seek for most attractive location, rent a car, or book a TAXI to the airport. 

FOMO (Fear of missing out) is a commonly used practice among leading hospitality platform designers. Source: Booking.com

Booking platforms deliver another functionality contributing to the hospitality industry’s rapid digitisation - massive and easily accessible base of online reviews. A hotel or hostel with many negative opinions can expect serious trouble. Modern accommodation provider must combine high-level service with additional investment in the reputation management with a strong consideration of internet and social media reviews, as manipulative fake opinions are becoming a common practice.

Front desk? I think there’s a Python in my room… 

21st-century accommodation facility is managed just like every high-tech industrial plant, A-class office building, or scientific research laboratory. The hotel management software platforms belong to the most complex and sophisticated in the industry. No matter what kind of accommodation we’re taking into the loop, 6-room hostel in Malaga or Waldorf-Astoria, managers of each will undoubtedly require tools and solutions that will help them in everyday management.

Hotel management tools allow the managers to:

  • manage the bookings and schedule room service,
  • control the supplies, mostly for the kitchen but also for the other departments,
  • oversee the Human Resources related aspects, such as payments, shifts, annual leaves,
  • take care of the books and accountants,
  • analyse the statistics of consumption, turnover and the revenue to seek cost cuts and loopholes in the daily based spendings

Source: Shutterstock.com

Property Management Systems (PMS) are using most up-to-date technologies and frameworks mostly open-source solutions not only because of the lower cost of development and implementation but also the ability to convert and customize them. With a strong and active community over programming language like Python, it’s easier to update and alter the software due to changing needs and technology evolution. Those pros have a substantial influence on the increasing demand for cloud-based platforms like Mews - called "Slack for hotels" by Techcrunch, Guesty, or Berlin-based Smoobu

Guest experience by design

To get more spotlight than the others, accommodation provider must run an extra mile, and ensure that all visitors will leave the place with unforgettable experience (and let other people know about it on TripAdvisor or Google Maps). Modern technologies serve in many ways, from filling the rooms with sophisticated Digital Signage to IoT systems and advanced custom software. 

Keyless solutions such as developed by Starwood Hotels and Resorts mobile app enabling to open the room by scanning the smartphone are considered to be almost must-have service not only in premium spots. AI application like chatbots helping to make a reservation in Marriott hotels or Rose - robot concierge at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas seems like the wind of the future. 

Source: Techcrunch

And there’s still so much room for new technologies in hospitality. Founders of the 9-million backed startup - The Guild found another way to make the accommodation experience unforgettable. Platform aimed at building owners provides such digital services for guests as food ordering (e.g., UberEats) or check-in. Another example - WhyHotel, a 4-million backed startup from Washington DC, offers alternative lodging service, operating pop-up hotels in newly built, luxury apartment buildings.

A great model of modern hospitality comes from Poznań, Poland, where Blow Up Hall 50 50 hotel serves busy travelers. The hotel opened its services in 2009, and according to The Guardian’s Benji Lanyado, it is “the most futuristic in the world”. Blow Up Hall 50 50 has no reception and rooms have no numbers. Instead of keys, guests receive an iPhone, which in conjunction with the screens in the corridors shows the way to the room and opens the door. 

Source: Wikipedia

Hospitality - a room with great views for IT  

According to the Deloitte's 2018 travel and hospitality industry outlook, factors like intense airline competition, spending shift from products to experiences, and healthy economic indicators for consumer spending will result in significant growth of the whole tourism industry and secure over 10% share in the world’s economy GDP. Generally, tourism is becoming accessible for a bigger percentage of the world’s population, combining competitive pricing with customizable service. 

Source: Deloitte

The constant growth of the market results in expanded investment. The Guild and Mews are good examples of modern startups, receiving significant investment thanks to the proper understanding of the market’s demands. The risks associated with investing and developing services for the tourism and accommodation industry are mostly caused by external conditions.    

Risks and challenges 

Recently, I had a chance to speak with a product manager from one of the leading mature accommodation startups in the DACH region. During a long conversation, he expressed that the majority of talented software developers are absorbed by big corporations, leaving lack of skilled workforce to the new-born startups and SMBies

The other risk for the whole industry is strongly related to unpredictably of trends and human behavior. Our habits seem to change every few seasons. For some of the providers, this might be very difficult to find out how to attract a wider audience. Another aspect, mentioned before, is the manipulation of comments, notes and opinions and scamming some providers by others.  

Modern tourism, accommodation and hospitality industry are strongly based on big data delivered by several sources. Wrong recognition of the new trends and demands might be caused by data-protection laws like GDPR, which on the one hand secures the privacy of individual users, on the other limits the knowledge regarding preferences.

Despite the risks mentioned above, it seems like the future of the accommodation industry shall remain bright. With new channels of sales, devices, and services, modern accommodation gives a great field for both hardware and software development providers to deliver guest an incredible experience.  

 

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