Hoteliers are smartening up their act and future-proofing their properties by investing in innovative tech solutions like AI and robots.
The future has arrived, with the innovative use of artificial intelligence (AI) and technology in hotel spaces birthing automated experiences such as contactless check-in and check-out, facial recognition room entry, mobile controlled in-room services, as well as robots delivering housekeeping amenities and in-room dining.
What once was science fiction is now helping many hotels to improve the guest experience. Hilton’s Connected Room, being piloted in the US, for example, allows occupants to utilise a smartphone to control the room temperature and lighting, and even sync Netflix shows on the TV set.
Ben George, senior vice president and commercial director, Asia-Pacific, Hilton, said: “What I enjoyed most (about the Connected Room) was the fact that I was empowered and could control everything around the room swiftly and seamlessly without taking away the warm service and hospitality.”
That, he said, freed the concierge up to recommend and curate local activities, and for the hotel barista to better engage with guests about coffee preferences.
But even if travellers of the future have higher digital expectations, Ong Wee Min, vice president of conventions and exhibitions, Marina Bay Sands, believes technology will only remain an enabler to help companies improve operational efficiency and enhance guest experiences.
Ong stressed that it still boils down to the emotional bonds forged to retain guest loyalty.
For Pan Pacific Hotels Group (PPHG), its Guestroom Management System leverages smart devices and the Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity to provide an integrated and seamless automated solution to enhance operational efficiency and guest convenience.
Cinn Tan, the group’s chief sales and marketing officer, elaborated: “When rooms are vacant, the system sets the air-conditioning to an energy-efficient temperature.
“When a guest checks in and the room’s PMS (property management system) status changes to occupied, the system lowers the temperature so the room is comfortably cool when the guest enters. As the room’s motion sensor detects occupancy, lights come on automatically.
“When the guest leaves, the system switches off the lights and saves his/her preference, so the guest’s favourite ambience setting is launched the next time he/she returns.
“If there is a malfunction in the room, or when guests request for the make-up-room service, engineering and housekeeping staff receive real-time updates on their mobile, ensuring quick response time. The occupancy status on the system also allows them to service the room when it is vacant, minimising guest disturbance.”
Tan shared the system would be rolled out at the renovated Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay when it reopens in 3Q this year, adding that the system contributes to the hotel’s energy conservation efforts.
Looking ahead, Hilton’s George envisaged mobile-first experiences becoming the new normal. He noted digital services on the Hilton Honors app would continue to evolve and become more sophisticated for guests to personalise their experience.
He said: “By 2030, we will see these high-tech features being implemented widely around the world, potentially with added elements of VR (virtual reality) or AR being integrated into the rooms to provide personalised travel insights and recommendations.
“We are always excited to test-bed novel solutions that help to address guests’ needs and pain points. We launched our Innovation Gallery in 2017 to pilot new technologies, incubate, and prototype cutting-edge products – like noise cancellation and sleep improvement devices – to offer more options to enhance the travel experience.”
In the case of World Hotels, Melissa Gan, managing director, Asia-Pacific, said trial proof of concept for an AR experience was being carried out at member property, The Garden Hotel in Guangzhou.
Gan explained: “This hotel is extremely historical with many amazing stories and artifacts. AR (augmented reality) was used to enhance the guest experience to learn about the stories and artifacts (via) the guest’s personal smartphone and also to capture and record the experience.”
Gan predicts evolving technology will give rise to a-la-minute in-room cooking and housekeeping, health and wellness value adds.
“I envisage hotel rooms of the future in health and wellness resorts being able to use technology to plan individual experiences and goals on a great scale and with greater accuracy,” she said, adding that AR experiences and memories would be captured with AI.
In addition, PPHG’s Tan believes voice activation service would become more common.
“We already see the likes of Apple Homepod, Amazon Alexa and Google Home, where AI is leveraged to allow us to search and activate services through voice commands,” she remarked.
“In time to come, this will become more widely accepted with technology advances, lower costs and greater security, and we will assimilate this into our lifestyle.”