Last month, a new Expo representing innovation in the hotel and hospitality industry took place in London. Hotel & Resort Innovation Expo saw global leaders from IHG, Yotel and Best Western set a vision for the shape of future innovation in our industry.
It was universally acknowledged that whilst the pandemic pause was painful, it was also an opportunity for business introspection and review. And what has emerged over the past 12 months is an accelerated adoption of new hotel technology and a fresh appetite to address operational challenges and adapt to changing customer needs.
At DocMX, we’re a business delivering technology that helps hotels save significant costs and drive sustainability. And our progression is driven by innovation and inspired by our fellow change-makers so we’re always excited to take a glimpse in the future.
Here are the top 5 innovations we’re expecting to see in hotels and hospitality in 2023.
A drive to digital
Perhaps one of the easiest adaptations that hotels can make is turning digital. Hundreds of our own customers including Hilton Worldwide, IHG, Kimpton and Holiday Inn have replaced outdated systems with DocMX solutions to reduce the cost and increase the efficiency of hotel operations.
Business costs and efficiencies can be significantly reduced by automating traditional labor intensive tasks. This digital transformation reduces stress and enhances employee wellbeing – enabling teams to focus on value led tasks instead.
What’s more, moving to a paperless future is sustainable and helps hotels perform well against ESG criteria and customer expectations. In a recent survey from the World Economic Forum, over 80% of global consumers say that they favor sustainable business and this affects where they spend their money.
The ability to collect, interpret, share and respond to data is critical for all hotels to optimize their performance. And this is particularly relevant for large properties and hotel chains that cater for thousands of guests on a weekly basis.
Through a combination of internal information sharing and what’s available online, hotels can use digital data to rapidly improve revenue management, operations and design better strategies for understanding customers through sales and marketing.
Through our own business, we know that moving to digital innovation positively impacts all hotel departments including finance, HR, kitchen and housekeeping. In fact, digital transformation will help any team with labor intensive inventory and record keeping.
The rise of robotics
Whilst the development of robotic technology in hospitality is still considered expensive, this is an area that is likely to see a huge leap forward over the next few years. One key reason is because robotics could help resolve one of the biggest challenges facing hotel operations right now; on-going staff shortages.
According to the Financial Times, the global hospitality sector is again warning of staffing shortages in the run-up to Christmas as they seek temporary workers in preparation for one of the busiest times of year. In the UK alone, more than 250,000 extra seasonal workers will be needed in the hospitality industry, according to estimates by trade body UKHospitality.
AI driven robots are emerging as a popular tech trend with automation and self-service playing an increasing role in improving the hotel customer experience. Robots can help with speed, cost-effectiveness and accuracy.
A pioneer in robotic customer experience is the famous Henna na Hotel, in Japan and last year, the hotel opened its 2nd location in New York. Described as quirky and futuristic, the entire experience from check in to check out is controlled by the customer through a variety of automated services and voice and touch recognition points.
In fact even prior to Henn na Hotel, Hilton launched a robot concierge called Connie, paving the way for enhancing AI driven services. Crucially, the system learns and adapts with each interaction, constantly improving the answers it provides.
From customer services to cleaning robots, Canon Solutions America and SoftBank Robotics America have just this month launched Whiz. This new device is a commercial robot vacuum that works to elevate the health and safety of varied work environments, including hotels. Cleaning robots are rapidly being rolled out across hotel chains and their adoption was reported to have accelerated during the pandemic for obvious reasons.
Whether cleaning, room service or waiting staff, we are expecting the use of hotel robotics to rise significantly, particularly whilst staff shortages continue to undermine operations.
Customers in control
Putting customers in control is a common theme in hotel innovation right now and as such, smart hotels are beginning to take their place in this new future.
So what is a smart hotel? Essentially its an experience that enables customers to operate devices through a range of technologies including AI, AR and digital connectivity. Smart room technology might include voice control, facial recognition, automation, energy efficiency and improved responsiveness. In-room technology may also be controlled through Apps and via the guests’ own mobile devices.
Smart hotel technology is an important development, because it can personalize the customer experience and through AI machine learning, remember a customer’s preference for even greater personal care and comfort. For example, smart room controls allow guests to adjust the ambience of their room through temperature, lighting and air conditioning without having to manually adjust devices or ask for staff support.
A smart hotel might offer entertainment, reservations or room service controlled through customer voice commands – replacing frustrations caused by waiting in a queue or hanging on the phone. These enhancements all add to overall convenience. By personalizing the experience, a hotel can double down on better customer knowledge, making it more likely that customers become loyal returning guests.
With a huge global focus on climate change, hotels must play their part in driving more sustainable solutions and no doubt this will become a major direction for 2023.
Indeed many are taking those important steps already and we’re proud to be supporting leading global hotel networks like Hilton and IHG Worldwide to deliver automated sustainable financial and administrative operations.
The good news is that we’re not alone. According to Business Travel News Europe just last week, Siemens has partnered with lodging platform HRS to make environmental impact reporting a mandatory part of its global hotel program.
The company will integrate HRS’ Green Stay Initiative (GSI) as part of its travel policy and has developed a “global, traceable, and standardized criteria” by which the carbon footprint of each individual hotel can be tracked and compared with others. According to HRS, this is the first global standard using traceable criteria to compare hotel sustainability.
Hotel providers will be required to provide data about their environmental impact, including information on energy and water consumption and waste per occupied room night, in order to calculate their carbon footprint – and prioritize accordingly – in the company’s internal booking tool.
From 2023 the company will select its preferred hotel suppliers according to sustainability criteria defined by GSI and adjusted according to Siemens’ own sustainability framework. Prior to the pandemic, the company booked more than two million room nights annually.
According to Booking.com’s Sustainable Travel Report 2022, 81% of global travelers said that travelling sustainably is important to them, with half citing climate change as a major influence on purchase choices. It is clearly vital for hotels to implement more environmentally-conscious processes into their services and operations and make these visible to their customers.
Behind the scenes
Whilst many innovations are being delivered front of house and across the realm of customer services and customer expectations, many are unaware that behind-the-scenes hotel operations are also on a journey of transformative technological change.
We know that great customer experiences require great back office operations and it’s essential to give front office staff the right tools that empower them to focus on what they do best, rather than getting distracted with repetitive administrative tasks.
DocMX is revolutionizing traditional lengthy and disconnected data sharing processes, often incumbent in finance, HR and even sales and events.
We have developed software to solve specific operational challenges for hospitality including: staff shortages, streamlining key information to one location, clustering and resource sharing across all departments and reducing lengthy processes through digital automation.
With a future that’s likely to see less staff and increased costs, we’ve made operational processes simple. For example all documents – whichever department – are easy to retrieve anytime but protected by world class security compliance. And as part of this data organization, we’ve developed structured processes to route key information to operational and senior management. The process is standardized across all departments.
Manual repetitive tasks are minimized and automation removes menial human processes to reduce staff wastage. with our electronic approvals and central information repository, front office teams seamlessly collaborate with reservations and finance teams to resolve day-to-day issues and drive continuous improvements.
Teams can track the end-to-end operations and status of any particular task on a centralized Control Centre dashboard. And team leaders can rapidly intervene before the situation becomes problematic. The process is fully auditable: each document, approval and payment is traceable, to ensure compliance with internal policies and best practices of data security.
Technological innovation that improves both operations and hotel services will ultimately lead to excellent guest experiences. In our view, that future has got to be the best outcome for everyone.
Aaron Belton is Head of Global Hospitality at DocMX. With over a decade of experience working with global hospitality brands such as Marriott, Hilton and IHG and more than 20 years of first-hand experience working hand in hand with hospitality professionals in Asia, Oceania and Europe, Aaron says his goal is to bring the latest technology to the hotel sector community. Aaron is passionate about innovation and currently leads the DocMX digital transformations team in London. They drive efficiencies and tangible savings to hotels affected by the pandemic whilst also developing “DocMX Wellness Chatbot” with leading Psychology professionals to support employees with their journey through Covid-19 recovery.
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