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Hotel Technology: Upgrades to Ensure Customers Enjoy Their Stay

August 31, 2016  - Hospitality Financing
hotel technology upgrades
When you were a child and stayed in a hotel during your family vacation, the hotel quality might have fallen into two categories: those with a pool, and those without. Your parents' criteria might have been a bit different. Their criteria might have been based on whether there was a restaurant on-site or if the place was clean. Hotel technology was not top of mind – it basically amounted to an alarm clock and whether the television had cable or movie channels.

Fast forward to today. The hotel industry has been transforming, through tremendous in-room and on-property technology upgrades, to keep up with today's tech savvy consumer's requirements and expectations. That simple hotel room of our collective past with a television, phone, alarm clock and mini-fridge is becoming far more sophisticated and now kids might not rate the hotel on its pool, but rather the download speeds of the Wi-Fi.

Not only is this vital for business travelers, but increasingly for leisure travel as well. These technology upgrades start with more advanced software for online reservation systems and go through the entire in-room experience including improved LED or HD TVs.

Hotel Industry Size and Trends

The overall global hotel industry revenue is expected to reach $550 billion USD in 2016. The U.S. hotel market has shown continued growth and in 2015 was at $189.5 billion. According to the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) Lodging Trends Report 2015, the total number of U.S. properties grew by almost 1,500 sites; and the number of rooms grew by almost 180,000 rooms, in just one year while occupancy remained in the mid 60% range. AHLA estimates that the increase in visitors will reach 96.4 million by 2020, which amounts to an increase of 29% over 2014.

Hotel Technology and the Customer Experience

Competition has always been a main driver in this market, and with both business and leisure consumers more active on smartphones and expecting their hotel rooms to be equipped similar to their homes, investments to improve business operations and the in-room delivery of options and upgrades is critical.

According to HT's 2016 Lodging Technology Study, 54% of hotels will spend more on technology this year. Let's take a look at where the investments are being made to attract and build loyalty amongst travelers:

Online Booking Software: Hoteliers want to make a positive impression with guests and a good booking system – one that easily interacts with customers at their initial touch point and their preferred access method – is key. eMarketer's latest estimates of digital travel research and booking forecast 51.8% of travelers who book trips via digital means will do so using a mobile device, up from 43.8% in 2015. Investing in this first contact will help with assuring a good customer journey. There are also add-on software components that could be considered such as concierge software that can allow frequent travelers to order up the type of pillow they prefer to have ready for check-in.

Mobile Offerings: Mobile bookings are almost expected – but there are new technologies leveraging people's reliance on their mobile devices. Investments for self-service options such as mobile check-in, check-out and mobile keyless entry. Collecting mobile data like location-based services and combining that data with reservation software can increase revenues by offering upsell opportunities such as early check-in or late check-out for additional fees.

Wi-Fi Service: One of the biggest and probably most requested and expected areas of focus has been in providing better and more secure Wi-Fi service for guests. This is important for guests while in their rooms working, uploading photos, or surfing the web as well as supporting usage while outside on the property.

POS and IT Network Upgrades: Network upgrades, improvements to support mobile payment security, and bandwidth for increased Wi-Fi all take a sizeable investment and have become a critical line-item for hotel budgets. A shift from on-premise to the cloud, as hotels contemplate these network investments, is sure to be one area of focus as well. Although hotels have been slow to adopt cloud computing, it can significantly improve operational costs. Another major change on a global basis is that the U.S. in the last few years is installing new POS systems that accept chip-based credit and debit cards. This will improve security for guests and reduce financial liability for the hotels.

In-Room Technology Upgrades: Besides Wi-Fi bandwidth, hotel room upgrades are the most visible to the average traveler. Large smart televisions, mounted on the wall with 100 cable channels, in-room movies, check-out service, etc. are the norm. Oftentimes you can find alarm clocks with built-in sound systems and smartphone chargers in the room. The mini fridge has become a mini bar that can tell which snacks or drinks you consumed and automatically charge your room, and smart panels near the bed allow you to adjust lights and open or close curtains.

Cloud, mobile, Wi-Fi bandwidth . . . these are all things the savvy hotelier needs to consider to stay competitive with today's traveler. These are just some of the technology-related upgrades being made to ensure the ultimate customer experience for hotel guests. This will build brand loyalty as people travel more.

If you don't invest in your hotel's technology – what will your future hold? Ascentium Capital can help with quick and flexible financing and business loans to help you see your hotel's future come to life, today.


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