How Technology Can Improve the Guest Experience

To provide a more customer-centric experience, hospitality companies are using technology to design hotel rooms that give guests the ability to personalize their stays to their individual needs.  Many hotels offer guests ways to control their environment, such as allowing them to use their mobile phones as hotel keys and to simply adjust the thermostat in their rooms, which is convenient, saves time, and increases comfort for hotel guests.  Hilton is taking personalization a step further by introducing opportunities for guests to control other aspects of their rooms, such as  the lighting, blinds, temperature, and television, as part of their ‘Connected Room’ mobile app.[1]  Marriott also recognizes guests’ needs and desire to personalize their hotel stays.[2]  Through its new Marriott Mobile app, guests can chat with hotel staff before, during, and after their visits to ask questions or give special requests for their rooms, such as more pillows.  They can also browse local travel content based on travel experiences of other Marriott Mobile app users.

Based on the latest results of the National Technology Readiness Survey conducted by Rockbridge, U.S. adult travelers have moderate interest in using new technologies when traveling and staying in hotels in the future.  Thinking about more recent technological developments, few adults have utilized such innovations (see chart below).  However, many desire these features in the future, as a third or more of adults who have not used these features are interested in doing so.  The most interesting features include personalizing hotel rooms based on preferences, using a mobile app to send requests to hotel staff, staying in a hotel with smart features, using a mobile phone to control elements of a hotel room, and traveling with smart luggage.  About three-quarters of all adults own and use a smartphone[3]; and given the prevalence of smartphones among travelers and their interest in using them to further their experience in hotels, hospitality companies should continue to innovate using smartphones as the hub of the guest experience.

Younger travelers are even more interested than their older counterparts in new technologies designed to personalize the guest experience (see chart below).  Adults younger than 55 (particularly those aged 18-34) are somewhat more likely than older consumers to have used or would consider using new hotel technologies in the future.  This is of particular importance given that within the next few years, Millennials (and younger Gen Z-ers) will represent more than a third of all travelers.[4]  These two generations tend to be tech-savvy, rely heavily on smartphones, and use various social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) for travel inspiration and to review and document pictures of their travels and hotel stays.[5]

Smart technologies have the potential to further improve the travel experience for consumers.  More than half of adults believe traveling with smart devices (i.e. smart luggage with Wi-Fi, GPS, USB ports, scales, safety locks, charging outlets, etc.) is somewhat or highly desirable.  In addition, more than a third of adults believe smart services (i.e. pre-programmed Amazon Echo or Siri in a hotel room) are somewhat or highly desirable.  Only a tenth of adults (9%) have used a smart service in a hotel room though.  Among them, the majority believes smart services save them time and are convenient.

There is great opportunity for hospitality companies to improve the guest experience through the introduction of new technologies.  Guests desire personalized services and apps that put them in control of their stay, resulting in greater efficiency and convenience for them.

About the Study: The National Technology Readiness Survey (NTRS) has tracked consumer technology trends since 1999.  It is authored by Rockbridge Associates, Inc. and A. Parasuraman, and is co-sponsored by the Center for Excellence in Service, Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland.  The most recent wave is based on an online survey conducted in November 2017 with 1,004 U.S. adults ages 18 or older sampled at random from a national consumer research panel.  Results are weighted to match census characteristics.  The margin of error is +/- 3 percentage points.

Written by: Kristen Garrett, Director and Gina Woodall, President