Which Way Now for Hospitality?

Author:Rabah, Joe

The times they are a-changing for hospitality. A couple of years ago, industry commentators highlighted the inexorable rise of Airbnb, warning with strategic vision it could become serious competition for traditional hospitality--and so it has come to pass. Airbnb has signalled its intention to move into (extremely) luxury accommodation with the accompanying risk that the clientele that it first attracted as penniless students, but which is maturing into increasing wealth will follow it.

Meanwhile, the proliferation of technology and the 'internet of things' is really changing the rules of the hospitality game: brands such as Marriot and Hilton are set to launch specifically tech-focused rooms this year, with smart speakers that can adjust room temperatures and order hotel services from verbal instructions being just some of the options available. Many guests are likely to prefer this, for reasons rooted in privacy, convenience and entertainment, thus the fully-connected hotel stay is set to take over from traditional provision. It's not only in the hotel sector that this shift to incorporating technology further into the customer offering is evident though. Technology is also being used to great effect in the restaurant entertainment and leisure venues within the hospitality sector as a whole. From providing personalised customer experiences to ensuring stock levels are maintained and route-finding visitors through their journey to name a few.

One clear and fundamental message has emerged from the recent disruption of the sector though; if hospitality brands are to stay relevant and able to compete they must offer not just great hospitality, but hospitality as an experience.

This may sound daunting, particularly to smaller businesses, but in fact it offers a wealth of opportunity. With some thought, innovation and careful deployment of technology, hospitality providers--even the smallest--can find almost limitless means by which to stand out from the crowd. Here are some of the best.

Augmented Reality (AR)

While virtual reality, or VR, has yet to take off in a big way for hotels (although experiments are ongoing), its close relative AR is proving a real game-changer. With AR, digital information is presented in immersive forms within the environment, so rather than presenting an entirely new and often fictional context (as in VR) it simply enhances and deepens what the customer is already experiencing--it quite literally, and perceptibly...

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