How Technology is Transforming Hospitality

By Anil Goel, CTO, Oyo

The impact of digital technology can be felt during the booking stage itself. In the days of manual bookings or through landline phones, customers booked weeks in advance. Without Internet technology, they had little idea about the quality of rooms being booked. Often, travellers were bitterly disappointed on seeing the rooms reserved for them.

Sea Change
Today, online content such as photos, videos, and reviews helps provide customer information about what to expect. There is added convenience with multiple payment options. In fact, the advent of apps and digital technology has meant customers can make last-minute bookings or travel on impulse. On arrival experiences have also undergone a sea change with the emergence of smart technologies and the Internet of Things. Just as stand-in-queue check ins are no longer mandatory at airports, guests are expecting similar services at hotels via technology-based check-ins. So digital arrival and departure registers are gaining ground. Not surprisingly, traditional metal keys are no longer thrust into the hands of guests. Instead, digital key-cards open doors. These oversee security at all levels. Inside elevators, guests need to swipe their key cards to reach specific floors. Without them, access to rooms and other areas may not be possible.

"Technology has disrupted every industry globally, turning things on their head. India’s hospitality sector is no exception. Technological innovations have transformed not just customer experiences but those of hotel owners too"

Freebies have also caught on with the spread of technology. Wi-Fi services were once an added attraction but travellers now take this for granted. As a result, hotels are investing in high-density Wi- Fi services, ensuring the connectivity experience is seamless and enjoyable.

The other game-changer has been the advent of digital apps. These have emerged as a boon for travellers as well as hotel owners by facilitating speed of turnaround, convenience, and cost-efficiency. From hotel bookings to check-ins and checkouts, room service and allied services, apps can be used for all. Customers no longer need to depend upon the reception or the travel desk for a cab booking. The hotel’s app can do this in a jiffy.

The use of apps and online technologies has meant the speed of services has increased and delivery times have decreased. Speed being the operative word, room bookings that once took many minutes - if not hours  is currently undertaken within a few taps and some seconds only.

360-degree Benefits
While most of the above cater to the comforts of customers, hotel owners are also happy since technology permits real-time updates. Today, in case of last-minute calls, a single glance can tell hotel owners whether a couple of rooms are still available or not, rather than checking with the reception or a register. Consequently, hotels are in a position to deploy dynamic pricing based upon the present demand and the available supply.

But India being an extremely cost-conscious country, the dynamic pricing model has to be balanced against an actual on-the-ground assessment of a customer’s willingness to pay the tariff or premium rate.

Given the above scenario and the change in customer behavior over the years, hotels are relying on crunching big data to acquire a comprehensive overview and decode customer choices and trends. By analyzing customer data, it becomes possible for hotels to drive win-win bargains and services. Usage of apps and other digital technologies mean hotels are better placed to offer the discerning travellers an extremely personalized experience.

Once a customer’s choices are captured in a hotel’s online database, these remain available for quick perusal and future use. In this manner, hotels obtain a 360-degree view of repeat customers, which ensures services that can augment customer loyalty.

Presently, the steady growth in smart technologies, the IoT (Internet of Things) and Artificial Intelligence are all poised to become prime drivers in the faster transformation of the hospitality sector. As these technologies advance, guests may no longer need keys of any kind to enter rooms. This is because their smartphones would serve as keys. That would indeed be the beginning of the ultimate personalized hotel stay experience and the icing on the traveller’s cake.

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