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Friday , March 24 2017

What millennials are telling us about the future of hotel technology

For all the amazing advancements in the hospitality industry, it’s hard not to miss the old days – back when rooms had metal keys, televisions sets were the size of dishwashers, and a big dusty book was used to register guests. People could pay by cheque. Small time crooks could get away with using an alias. And if a hotel had a pay when you check out policy, the lobby staff kept a close eye on anyone who travelled light. Dramatic chases were just part of the business.

All of that is gone now, never to be seen again – except perhaps in remote corners of the earth, or in old movies. There are aspects of hospitality that will never change, of course. Impeccable service. Good beds. Clean rooms. Effective pricing strategies. But these days, keeping your business healthy is all about adaptation and prediction. Not only how things have changed, but how they will change. One example is my recent post the evolution of the hotel lobby, and how technology is both informing and transforming its design.

A broader, more in-depth example is a recent study by Oracle Hospitality, which takes a highly analytical view of how millennials use (and want to use) technology in hotels today. The results may not surprise you, but they can offer fresh ideas for any hospitality professional looking to stay on top of things. Here is what millennials want most, according to the study:

1. Connectivity to hotel services

Tube sets with basic cable no longer suffice, and a majority of millennials want to connect to the hotel’s wifi network in order to access content on their own devices. This is hardly a shocker. What is surprising is that 36 percent still want the option to access and pay for content from the hotel. In other words, those in-room movies aren’t going the way of the dinosaur just yet. But there’s a twist. Guests may want access to the screen and sound system in the room while using their own entertainment accounts. Platforms like Apple TV, Roku and Chromecast are the answer. They’re also surprisingly affordable—but your internet service must be fast enough to handle standard definition – if not high definition, streaming.

2. Layout and workstations

Millennials are all about dismantling preconceptions about where people work. You’d think that 10 years from now, the majority of all work will be done on a smartphone with your feet up. But we’re not there yet. Whilst 87 percent of millennials use smartphones, 72 percent use laptops. In other words, they’re going to want a decent workstation in the room, or at least a comfortable chair – even a standing desk option would add huge potential benefit. The enormous number of guests that connect to wifi during a hotel stay (within seven minutes of arriving) shows the importance of thoughtful layouts that take on-the-fly work habits into account.

3. Online booking

Almost half of the millennials surveyed in the Oracle study have booked hotel rooms with their mobile device before, and will do it again. The numbers for mobile booking are only moving in one direction (up), and if your website isn’t mobile friendly, you’re missing out on an increasingly large slice of the pie.

4. Loyalty programs on mobile devices

The proud traveller with a plump wallet full of rewards cards is another museum exhibit from years gone by. Today, over half of all millennials want to manage their loyalty programs from mobile devices. Why wouldn’t they? Vinyl records may have taken off, but loyalty rewards cards are unlikely to follow suit. And it’s not just millennials, either. I have several loyalty programs on my phone, and my wallet is blissfully lighter for it!

What happened to the good old days?

Hospitality professionals are certainly wise to take this kind of research into account – but they’re wise to take it with a grain of salt.

When TFE Hotels in Australia recently canvassed a TEDx audience for feedback on the ideal hotel of the future, people indicated three key components that hotels had to get right.

Technology was one – and it’s obviously a big one. The other two were authentic experiences (an opportunity for the hotel to be the location host) and personalisation, wherein guests want hotels to get to know them better.

It’s tempting to technologise these last two. So much of what we read and hear today is all about technology and how it’s driving the industry forward. But there will always be a place for the old fashioned. Without authenticity, local flavour, friendly service, and person-to-person contact, even the latest technology will be an empty offering.

About Dean Minett

Dean represents Minett Consulting

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