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The modern hotel will increasingly look to compete on digital services and offering guests a home from home experience, according to partners working to digitise properties.
Quadriga and Phillips have been working together on supplying and developing hardware and integrating IT systems from over 30 years.
To date that has seen television, and then smart TV and Wi-Fi hardwired into hotels rooms, but the next phase will be to take this out into public areas.
Digital signage, information services on guest devices, interactive meetings and Skype booths all offer the hotel of the future service and revenue raising opportunities.
According to Mark Brooks-Belcher, Quadriga global sales director, this is being driven by a new generation of tech-savvy millennial travellers.
The inspiration for the future is the concept of the “lost guest”; the time-poor visitor who arrives for a meeting and hasn’t got time to join a long queue to ask where he needs to be.
“Gone are the days of walking into a hotel and being greeted by a concierge. Everyone wants things on their own terms.
“When you think about millennials, everything is on your device. Go back six years and it was bring your own device, now it’s bring your own home and content.”
Traditional hotels are concerned about the impact of the likes of Airbnb which, through its peer-to-peer model, offers guests the sort of personalised hosting hotels can’t match.
But Brooks-Belcher believes a more joined-up approach to technology can counter this threat.
“We see more and more hotel brands wanting to create a community.
“They have fantastic public areas, award-winning spas and restaurants, so let’s drive people into areas where they can socialise.”
And the services don’t necessarily have to stop at the hotel’s front door with local information apps capable of offering tips and advice for what to do in the locality.
The challenge for hotels is to decide which technology is worth investing in, what can help them drive additional bookings, or be monetised in some other way.
“There’s an element of education,” said Brooks-Belcher. “Hotel general managers are brilliant at servicing guests and that’s what they should focus on.
“They have IT teams but technology moves so fast. It’s taking the bewildering array of what’s out there and saying what’s a fad versus what’s going to put heads on beds.
“How can we help clients maintain brand standards they have spent millions of pounds trying to enforce?”
Quadriga works closely with Phillips on the hardware required to bring hotels into the digital age.
Peter Vinke, Phillips director of international key accounts, said he is seeing more and more hotel groups looking to bring digitisation into their properties.
“It’s becoming a far more digital environment and people are bringing their devices, and their content, and expecting to immediately to be able to connect with the world.
“And they expect a lot of things from the hotel. They want to know what’s around them. They don’t want to queue in long lines anymore to order a taxi or check in.
“We want to work with innovative partners like Quadriga who can bring that total solution to the industry.
“Hotels are looking for new revenue streams, new ideas and want to stand out from the crowd. Digitisation, in general, is helping that.”
Although new build hotels will be constructed with the digital infrastructure in place for the vast majority of properties digitisation requires a lot of hard work retrofitting the hardware.
This is costly, time consuming and inconvenient, but Vinke believes the market conditions are now right for this to happen at scale and at pace.
“It takes a lot of investment to get your hotel ready for the future. Hospitality has not had it so good in the last four or five years. The economic crisis hit the sector hard.
“Today the economy is changing and there is more money around so people are travelling again and also hotels believe we are at a turning point.
“There are brands that are really looking to be disruptive and really give the wow factor and guests are going to stay with them because of that. The sense of urgency is there.”
Although the march of technology would seem to be unstoppable there is always the possibility of a backlash, particularly from leisure travellers who want to disconnect.
Vinke agreed, but said having the technology available, subtly and integrated into the fabric of the hotel so it’s not “in your face” will be what the customer of the future expects.
Brooks-Belcher said: “We are seeing more and more innovative requests from heavyweight brands.
“We are currently talking to a very well established client of ours who you wouldn’t expect is looking at twenty first even twenty second century technology.
“The key thing is to be sympathetic to the environment, the architecture, and the ability to really delight the customer beyond their expectations.”