“Sorry, your room is not ready,” hotels might have said in the recent new past, as you’re checking in following a long trip.
Well, sorry just won’t do it anymore.
Forget COVID-19. This is a new age and hotels that don’t book their journey into a new digital future and reality are virtually signing their own death warrant.
A total transformation is needed and leaving pieces of the puzzle out is akin to asking for trouble.
An increase in digital-savvy travel consumers has underscored the importance of interacting with customers across every touchpoint of their digital journey.
Contactless technology, upgraded hotel software systems, integrated guest applications, and smart guest rooms are just some of the top technology trends Middle East hoteliers must adopt to attract new and existing customers, according to Joseph Fayad, IT Corporate Director of UAE-based TIME Hotels.
With research by eMarketer revealing travel consumers spend more time on digital media to the tune of 6.41 hours a day compared to 5.30 hours a day for all other media, hoteliers now have to implement more defined digital corporate and marketing strategies, as well as more technologically advanced amenities within the hotel room, to stay ahead of the curve.
“The implementation of immersive technologies that provide guests with virtual 3D tours, apps that allow them to enter their hotel room, change the temperature, call the elevator, book excursions and order room services will be vital in helping hotels recover and stand out from their competitors,” said Fayad.
Some relief from EXPO 2020
Last year, Dubai saw the sharpest population decline in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC): 8.4% versus the regional average of 4%. Expo 2020 will now take place from October 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022, after a delay due to COVID-19, and should provide a platform for a recovery in activity, according to a recent S&P Global Ratings report.
S&P expects domestic demand to increase but not sufficiently to compensate for the loss of international tourism.
Beachfront and tourism hotels should fare better than business hotels, it opines and adds, “Expo 2020’s rescheduling to 2021 to temporarily ease pressures on average daily rates and occupancy.”
A roadmap for hotel digital transformation
Hotel owners know there are many goals a digital transformation can help achieve. But it comes fraught with risks.
Imagine a scenario in which a hotel decides to increase digital revenues across its properties. One obstacle toward gaining digital revenue is a high volume of overbookings.
It’s true that hotels often overbook to mitigate losses from no-shows, cancellations, however, overbookings also indicate poorly run operations.
In this scenario, one potential digital transformation initiative could include the adoption of a new property management system (PMS), one that includes an intelligent accommodation management tool.
This tool avoids overbookings of specific room types and ensures that rooms are cleaned and maintained in a timely manner.
A PMS can also play a significant role in improving customer outcomes. For instance, it allows staff to check-in guests via any smartphone or tablet.
Hotels must also have the right digital-savvy leaders to steer the establishment forward and empower teams to work in new ways.
Many hotels have implemented contactless solutions that include apps for guests, online check-in, smart upselling, electronic locks, and chatbots.
But there are other concepts such as artificial intelligence (AI) and Big Data that are already on everyone’s radar, but few people know what they are or how they are used.
Below are four technologies in which hotels must invest in to not end up being invisible or dependent on big online travel agencies (OTAs).
1. Big Data
An example of Big data would be the volume of data collected by the PMS or CRM of a large hotel chain. It is very difficult for an independent hotel to generate Big data by itself so it must resort to specialized software.
2. Artificial Intelligence
AI analyses Big Data to identify patterns and trends. By combining the hotel’s historical data with AI, you could know if there is a rising or falling pattern of reservations.
3. Machine Learning (ML)
ML is a type of Artificial Intelligence that thinks and learns like humans, continuously and autonomously analyzing and studying new data, thus identifying new patterns. This technology is essential to making predictions.
4. Business Intelligence (BI)
BI is the practice of transforming Big Data into usable information. In other words, it refers to the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning to translate your hotel’s Big Data into reliable and manageable information.
A new UAE hotel app: MYBEA
The French company MYBEA has developed and unveiled in the UAE a new tablet and smartphone application for hotels and restaurant owners which allows customers to manage their own place in hotels and private beaches, such as booking private sunbeds or a private swimming pool or viewing the menu online.
The MYBEA app enables hotel and restaurant owners to optimize the occupancy rate of their swimming pool or beach. The application immediately tells customers which sunbeds are available. They can also pre-order their beverages from the online menu.
The app is active 24/7 and customers can even make reservations from their home before they arrive at their holiday destination. MYBEA sends notifications about flash sales based on consumer behavior data generated by its algorithm.