REDWOOD SHORES, CA—“People want more control and we must give it to them,” said Sundar Swaminathan, a senior director of marketing at Oracle Hospitality. “It goes beyond making sure the rooms are clean; guests want to see more investment in technology.”
Providing tools that give travelers more autonomy over their hotel stay is one of the key takeaways from a study commissioned by Oracle Hospitality and conducted by Phocuswright of more than 2,700 U.S. and European travelers. Technology has been established as a driver of guest satisfaction and paying attention to this growing expectation can help hoteliers to stand out amid traditional competitors and Airbnb.
“The main research shows that technology plays an important role on the experience the customers have during their stay. The expectation is that hoteliers need to invest more in technology and the experience made on property and in the destination,” said Dr. Peter Agel, global segment leader for hotels at Oracle Hospitality.
Highlights of the study show the most important area for consumers is not only pre-check-in and mobile check-in capabilities, but also the pre-assignment of specific rooms. The findings show 45% of hotel guests want the capability to select specific room locations, while 94% of business travelers and 80% of leisure travelers expressed interest in using smartphones to request service and message hotel staff.
While hotels have upped their game to extend their reach by improving brand websites, deploying new apps and connecting with travelers via social media, there’s more that needs to be done to capture the attention and loyalty of the consumer. Of those surveyed, travelers expressed that WiFi is still a pain point that needs to be addressed.
“For hoteliers struggling with consumer adoption of their branded apps, it was found that 73% of respondents would download the app if they were automatically connected to WiFi. If you can recognize them and get them automatically connected that goes a long way,” said Swaminathan. “It seems simple, but it’s an additional step to go through for each device. For people not as tech savvy, it’s too much and for those who are really tech savvy, they’re asking ‘Why are you asking me to do this?’”
• Nearly two-thirds of U.S. guests said it was “very or extremely important” for hotels to continue investing in technology to enhance the guest experience.
• Ninety-four percent of business travelers and 80% of leisure travelers value the ability to use their smartphones to request service and message hotel staff.
• Guests are comfortable sharing with hoteliers a fair amount of personal information—perhaps more than previously presumed. For example, 71% would share information about food preferences/allergies and 64% would share their entertainment preferences.
• Sixty-two percent of guests used non-hotel sources such as the internet for dinner reservations and activity recommendations, bypassing the concierge from whom guests say they would prefer to get such assistance.
• Eighty percent of business travelers returned to the same hotel for a vacation during the past 12 months.
In addition to allowing guests to gain more control over their stay, personalization is also a key differentiator that hotels need to consider. As hotels implement technological advances, there are new opportunities for staff to connect with guests and deliver personalization. Travelers are also willing to provide pertinent information about themselves to hoteliers if it means they will receive a customized experience during the stay. Seventy six percent of respondents are willing to share a preferred spoken language, food preferences and allergies, according to the findings.
“We’re seeing this coming off the custom survey in the U.S. and it shows that guests are willing to share more information, if guests can take it on. It’s an opportunity for hoteliers to offer more tailored recommendations in destination and on property,” said Swaminathan. “For example, if you know their favorite sports, you can tailor the entertainment. Hotels become the orchestrators of the destination. If you can use the data to provide targeted information, you’ll play a greater role in the guest experience.”