How hotels can be high touch in a high-tech world

Making guests feel special is what hotels do best, and hospitality providers should use technology to provide the high-touch connection. Take it from Roman Milisic – who made clothes for Gwen Stefani and Lady Gaga out of X-rays and zip ties – and today applies his creative and forward-looking vision in a world of boutique hotels as creative director of the mobile hotel curation, booking and experience platform, Porter & Sail

We are moving into a future of highly designed, hyper controllable environments. Technology can make spaces and moments more user-friendly and personable; and no one is better placed than hotels to shape that human-centred approach.

But hotels can’t just throw technology at guests that has nothing to do with the guest experience just to check the box. They need to find human-centred technologies.

Some technology-enabled hotel services, such as mobile concierge chat or the ability to order rooms service via a smartphone, are no longer innovations but mandatories, enabled to cater to the way people interact today. If we order our dinner via a mobile app at home, it may prove a barrier to pick up the phone at a hotel, especially if there is a language gap.

With the help of data, Porter and Sail connects guests relevant and timely content


Collect data to understand the overall guest behavioural patterns and offer personalised experiences. For example, Porter & Sail user data shows that guests start to look at restaurants for the evening at around 15.00. Our solution – provide useful information on the onsite restaurant at around 14.45.

Never take a guest’s data for the sake of it, if you aren’t providing a direct benefit to the guest. Let them decide whether the information-benefit exchange is worth it.

Sleep is the new frontline. Today more than ever, people want a good night’s sleep. Hotels can be consulting with scientists on air, light, aromatherapy oils to promote relaxation. For example, ITC hotels are already doing high-tech “sleep programming” by not only offering curated menus of pillows, sleeping masks and aromatherapy oils, but also a selection of ITC sleep music and providing a list of relaxation and breathing apps.

A new take on a hotel gym? Instead of investing into more high-tech equipment in the physical gym that guests loath to go to, replace it with tech-supported mirrors that can bring the workout in-room, or provide running routes on the hotel app – it’s a great way to showcase the hotel neighbourhood too!

Embrace the online retail growth. Hotels can be amazing liveable showrooms with everything available for purchase (but not explicitly presented as such). You’ve sat in the chair. You’ve lain in the bed. If you want that same luxurious experience at home, tap your phone to it, and everything you need to know is beamed straight to you. Many hotels offer this service already from beds to towels and totes available for purchase, but technology can further enable a memorable shopping experience that brings the travel mementos to the next level.

Refrain from using technology itself as a retail opportunity and make a guest pay for the use of ready-available services such as Wi-Fi.

Virtual reality is rising, but hotels don’t need to be The Millennium Falcon to be an escape. Hotels are doing that right already providing a real sensory environment. The trend of presenting a VR experience of a hotel as a pre-stay research opportunity is, in mind, questionable, as it can strip out the important aspects such as the quality of the design materials and human interactions that amount to how a hotel environment makes you feel.

Instead use the immersive media to put guests in the position to live the hotel fantasy longer, whether it be Instagram, video or audio. On a wet Wednesday afternoon in the office, if I want to escape to a gorgeous hotel, I can. That’s immersive technology serving you, not competing with you.

Luxury hotels can be seen as more wasteful than regular hotels. That’s a problem. And the solution: Technology, which is inherently sustainable. The luxury traveller will drive the new paradigm in hotels, even more than in their homes. The future is not about how much you can offer your guests, but how little.

Is it really on-brand for your front desk to hand out another obsolete thing such as a plastic room key?

Offer keyless room entry technology, to not only save on plastic but enhance the guest experience by reducing the anxiety of remembering to pack that plastic key in your pocket every time you leave the room.

Solar panel blinds, rooftop hydroponics, air conditioning that turns on automatically when it detects you are 10 minutes from your room. This is the next decade in hospitality.

With technology, hotels can know and shape their guest’s city experience, as much as the hotel experience. You don’t have to hold guests so close to keep the conversation going. Use technology to help guests uncover the local community and a connected network of art galleries, cafes and retail that enhance the overall guest experience.

Don’t keep guests on property – encourage them to go out into the neighbourhood for authentic experiences, not simply curated offerings in the hotel. Hotels can use technology to remain a support for their guests far outside their doors.

Overall the hotels can be high-tech, but they are always high touch. Technology that makes us more connected, more personable. In other words, technology to further the mission of hospitality.

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