Creating Value—and Luck—in Hospitality. Part I: Charting the Future of the Hotel Experience

I travel a lot for work, and the truth is that it can be a pretty painful experience. I spend a lot of time thinking about how travel and hospitality will be in the future, but perhaps I think about it most when I’m stuck in yet another airport, surrounded by screaming children, wishing I was anywhere but there. What new experiences are going to be available five or 10 years from now? From the moment I leave my house in the morning to the moment I order my guilty snack from room service at midnight, how will that whole process be made better? When you’ve just traveled half-way around the world, you’re dog tired, and waiting in line to check in to your hotel, there are no more important questions.

As luck would have it, these are just the sorts of issues Intel’s research team of trained ethnographers, anthropologists, and social scientists are exploring. And what they are finding is giving us a glimpse of an exciting retail, hospitality, and entertainment future distinguished by amazing convenience and control for guests and unprecedented opportunity for the hospitality industry.

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It’s All About the Customer

For hoteliers, the successful ones anyway, it starts with one overriding goal: Deliver the best possible guest experience. To do that means getting to know guests better, learning their likes and preferences, and then delivering high-quality services and experiences that are personalized to their needs.

Travelers are becoming savvier and more demanding. Only through that deeper relationship with guests can hotels expect to offer them the truly customized and personalized experiences needed to win and sustain our loyalty.

Customization vs. Personalization

Let’s start with customization. It’s different than personalization, which I’ll get to in a minute. When we’re talking about customized experiences, we are referring to the ability to deliver on the specific requests of customers: I like the top floor, I have egg white omelets and fruit each morning, I want my room kept at a steady 68 degrees. Based on those identified preferences, brands can tailor the experience to us.

By contrast, personalization goes one step further by anticipating what we want, and offering or providing it before we ask. Using data analytics to gather information, interpret it, and optimize the stay, hotels will be able to offer proactive personalization. That will mean providing a host of new experiences, as well as new and greater value.

A seamless, Integrated Experience

Once we start opting in to share our information, and allowing the guest to opt in to these kinds of services is critical, hotels will be able to not only deliver what we want, but also when and how we want it. By tapping into the Internet of Things (IoT), our entire journey and stay—from when and how we like to check in to running that videoconference—will be easily and seamlessly integrated into the experience without requiring that we recreate the wheel each visit.

Imagine checking in via your smartphone and avoiding the line, with way finding to help you navigate the property. The room is set to your ideal temperature and the TV to your preferred channel. You lay your tablet or laptop down and it immediately begins to charge wirelessly. Using a provided tablet, rather than the stained and cumbersome menu usually found on the desk, you order food in a single click. Your laptop then seamlessly connects with the TV, so you can use the larger screen to chat with family, prepare for your presentation, and then view your movies.

And that’s just the beginning. Ease and control will be the watchwords, and the new standards. Using technology and data, hoteliers will be creating what will look like luck or serendipity, but will really be the benefits of a deep understanding of you and your needs.

To see an example of what the future will look like, visit the Connected Room prototype Microsoft is unveiling, with Intel’s help, at the HITEC show (booth 2115) June 15-18 in Austin. If you want to read more about what’s coming in retail, take a look at the comprehensive white paper on The Second Era of Digital Retail which I authored last year.