In recent years, the hospitality industry has undergone a remarkable transformation, driven by the rapid rise of contactless technology. Today's guests have come to expect digital hospitality experiences, such as contactless check-ins, digital concierge services, and other self-service technologies, with a staggering 73% being more likely to return to a hotel that meets their technology needs.
But within this technological revolution, a common misconception persists amongst operators: the belief that contactless hospitality technology results in a humanless experience. In reality, the essence of hospitality has always been the human touch – the warmth, empathy and personal connections that create lasting memories for guests. It’s important for hospitality businesses to navigate this delicate balance between technology and the human touch, even in an era where guests seek control over their experiences and human interactions aren't always face-to-face.
As technology has advanced, it has significantly reshaped hotel management and operations. Automation has become an integral component of back-of-house productivity, with 80% of hoteliers reporting increased efficiency in basic operations after implementing cutting-edge technologies. Today's hotels have changed immensely in just five years, with technology being essential in automating tasks like accounting, reservations, check-ins and check-outs, payments, housekeeping and night audits. This shift towards automation has not only boosted productivity but has also reduced the reliance on staff, resulting in a seamless guest experience with less reliance on human capital.
However, it's crucial to underline that technology should not replace the human touch entirely, as it remains a vital element that 75% of customers desire.
So, how are hospitality businesses successfully striking the right balance between technology and the human touch?
Adopting a hybrid approach is key. This approach leverages technology-driven efficiency while maintaining genuine human interactions, allowing guests to enjoy the best of both worlds. For instance, Schani Hotels seamlessly combines technology by enabling guests to check in and out via an app, using their mobile phones as room keys. As a result of self-service check-in, the hotel has transformed its reception area into a bar, offering guests a complimentary welcome drink on arrival. These seemingly small touches preserve the feeling of personalisation while offering a digital-first experience.
Teleport Hotels is another prime example of the hybrid approach. The hotel allows guests to check themselves in via a self check-in area, which has not only eased the administrative burden for staff, but also allows them to be more present, helpful and approachable to guests as they arrive.
Teleport Hotels’ fully digital experience for guests is also supplemented with touches of personalisation throughout the guest journey. For example, a 'meet the family' page that allows guests to learn about the individuals serving breakfast and cleaning their room, and a monthly event where a staff member cooks a meal representing their country.
In both cases, technology is employed to create a seamless experience, while the staff focuses on being 'hosts,' providing personal, unique experiences to guests. The result is reduced administrative costs, increased guest satisfaction and augmented ancillary revenue.
Using technology to learn more about guests and foster personalised brand interactions is also essential. A well-connected tech stack ensures a seamless experience for both guests and staff, while also enabling businesses to gain valuable insights into guest needs and desires. This, in turn, allows businesses to create comprehensive guest profiles within their CRM systems, leading to a more personalised experience.
Connectivity between tools and technologies further facilitates strong and personalised brand interactions. An example of this is Yours Truly, which, through the integration of Apaleo and Make.com, employs WhatsApp as a digital concierge, proactively reaching out to guests to provide assistance and address any queries before they arrive. After check-in, Yours Truly leverages WhatsApp to send essential hotel information, providing a convenient and fast way for guests to communicate with the hotel.
After check-out, the hotel uses the pre-created WhatsApp channel to offer loyalty discounts to returning customers. Yours Truly even allows guests to rebook by simply requesting the room via WhatsApp, rather than through the hotel website, creating a truly personalised and convenient booking experience.
Leveraging technology to provide unique experiences for guests is yet another facet of the balanced approach. While technology paves the way for a seamless guest experience, it can also be used to provide guests with entertainment.
For example, the citizenM app offers guests the opportunity to 'live like a local’. Not only can guests manage reservations and control their room through the app, but they can also access local tips and recommendations and even participate in scavenger hunts around the city. Similarly, The Base, offering co-living apartments, inspires residents to discover new hobbies by providing instant access to cooking classes and live performances.
The hospitality industry is at an exciting crossroad where technology and the human touch can coexist harmoniously. Instead of perceiving technology as a threat to the human element in hospitality, operators should seek innovative ways to leverage technology for creating highly personalised guest experiences.
Those who embrace a hybrid approach are better positioned to provide guests with a seamless digital journey while retaining the essential warmth and empathy that defines hospitality – whether it’s personal WhatsApp interactions, a free drink at the bar or an in-app scavenger hunt across the city.
Apaleo empowers hospitality businesses to craft their ideal tech stack through our API-first open hospitality platform. With various tools and technologies seamlessly integrated into a central platform, operators can strike the perfect balance between a tech-forward guest experience and personalised service.
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