Like many people reading this, I often arrive at my overnight accommodation after a long journey, a challenging day or both. Whether the trip is for business or pleasure, the stresses of everyday life mean that I am keen to get to my room. While checking in online can spare us the inconvenience of having to queue up at reception, how else can guest technology make us feel at home and comfortable?
Recent guest surveys indicate that people most value cleanliness, safety and security as well as sustainability. Much of today’s in-room technology is focused on convenience, so if we are to improve the “techsperience” while aligning with guests’ core values, what technology should we be considering?
Smart tech solutions
Unsurprisingly, more than ever before due to Covid-19, guests seek technology that reduces contact points in their rooms or that provides them with the comfort of knowing the rooms have been cleaned to a high standard. Technology providers such as Hkeeper, the housekeeping app provider, have introduced Cleanliness Certificates into their apps to allow housekeepers to complete a Covid-19 checklist of tasks during the room clean. HKeeper provides the tools for the hotel general manager to announce daily (and in real-time) to guests via multiple distribution channels that each guest room and the whole hotel has met Covid-19 health and safety protocols.
Another consideration around cleanliness in rooms is how to provide your guests with access to the information they need. Until recently, many properties would place a printed compendium in each room. This guide would cover everything from fire safety to what time the pool opens and how to order food. In today’s world, digital compendiums are a more hygienic solution as well as being simpler to maintain. Hoteliers can invest in tablets, such as those provided by Intelity. With built-in docking stations, they can also provide sound and light options.
Each to their own device
Other providers are moving toward leveraging the guest’s own devices, which also reduces the capital outlay. Companies such as NexGenGuest and Nonius provide an app that includes concierge functionality, as well as that all-important option of being able to order room service. With guests using their own devices to curate their experiences, the humble QR code has become commonplace in many rooms. Companies like Alliants can provide a complete guest experience platform using QR codes to access messaging and services. While using personal devices is often seen as safer and more hygienic, another technology which further reduces contact is voice control. Companies like Digivalet provide solutions that utilize Alexa, Google and Siri to adjust room controls.
Technology allowing guests to cast their own devices onto the room TV is gaining traction. Companies such as Nevaya provide casting solutions for televisions, as well as Wi-Fi and mobile guest experience interfaces, so that guests have the convenience and security of using their own devices in the room, controlling their interaction with it. It also reduces investment in cable or streaming services as the guests use their own streaming accounts.
While many hoteliers have rightly focused on the guest “techsperience,” the hotelier’s largest asset and cost is the building itself. Many guests have embraced smart technology in their homes. For example, I have a Samsung SmartThings equipped home with sensors and automations that allow me to control lighting and other functions. Many of us now have domestic smart meters to help us manage and track our energy usage too. It is therefore unsurprising that we are now seeing many owners and operators investing more in facilities management. For example, commercial building management systems (BMS) are now smarter, allowing the system to understand if rooms are occupied and then adjusting facilities, such as heating, temperature and lighting. BMS solutions, such as Siemens, will manage that and more. However, if your building isn’t equipped with a manufacturer’s smart BMS then you may wish to look to a company such as Interel for your solution. Their solutions can provide you with lighting, curtains/blinds and temperature control, as well as aid in energy management. These systems are easier to retrofit and are focused on room control rather than control at the property level by the BMS.
Air filtration has become more important since the onset of coronavirus. Whether guests are self-isolating in hotels or on holiday, they want to know the air they are breathing is filtered separately from that of the other guests and communal areas. Some operators are overhauling their HVAC systems to upgrade filtration, while others are investing in individual filtration units for each room.
Sustainability smart tech
Although the global Covid-19 pandemic has brought much of the hospitality sector to its knees, a renewed focus on sustainability and the environment has been a positive outcome.
Many guests, including myself, have reengaged with nature. More than ever before, travelers are looking for rewarding experiences that either benefit the planet or at least help reduce their impact on it. While investing in guest room technology, we must not forget non-digital technologies that can help save money and the environment. One such technology involves fitments that can be added to taps and shower heads to reduce the amount of water used while increasing the pressure from the shower head. Companies like StoneStream provide shower heads that use technology to increase the pressure and hence reduce overall water consumption. Another such solution is a water aerator. These reduce water waste and energy consumption by limiting the flow of water. Perhaps one of the most well-known tools for reducing room operating costs and bettering your environmental credentials is to ensure that guest towels are only replaced when necessary. Although this isn’t a technological innovation, some operators have gone a step further to make it more technological by inserting RFID tags in their linen. Companies such as Richard Haworth in the UK will fit RFID tags to linen so that staff can use technology to track usage, stocks and the cost of the linen.
Converting to smart rooms
Turning your guest room into a smart room can be a minefield and the associated costs may seem daunting. When reviewing which technology to implement my advice is always to start with your guest. Have you reviewed recent guest surveys? Often, they can highlight areas where technology could be deployed to fix a specific complaint. Most owners and operators are unaware of the technological solutions available in the market and the innovation that is occurring every day in this industry. This is why investing in the services of a hospitality technology expert is both a cost effective and smart move.
founder and chief techspert
at Hospitality Tech Expert Ltd