ORLANDO, FLORIDA—Hotel operators are embracing technology innovation with a greater sense of urgency as online travel agents (OTAs), personal digital assistants, room-sharing services, and shifting consumer expectations disrupt the $500 billion global industry.
That was one of the big takeaways from a panel session of hotel industry innovators at Oracle Industry Connect, where Oracle released the results of its Hotel 2025 survey. Conducted with 150 hotel operators and 702 consumers in February 2017, the survey found that guests are willing to engage brands that offer new technologies if they feel they’re in control of their experience. It also found that hotels should be wary of implementing automation without personal service.
“Hospitality will remain service-based based on personal connections,” emphasized Mike Webster, senior vice president and general manager of Oracle Hospitality.
Among the specific findings of the Oracle Hotel 2025 survey:
- Personalization rules. Some 72% of the hotel operators surveyed said they will use facial biometrics within the next five years to improve their recognition of guests at check-in and other contact points. Meanwhile, 41% of the hotel guests surveyed said they’ll be more likely to book a given hotel if the hotel’s associates and servers recognize them without their having to give their name or show a loyalty card. Separate research has shown that younger generations in particular care more about receiving personalized service than collecting loyalty points. Still, the hotel operators on the Oracle Industry Connect innovation panel emphasized the importance of loyalty programs in incentivizing consumers to book directly with them, rather than through third-party OTAs, so that they “own” the customer relationship.
- Artificial intelligence is a natural. Some 47% of the guests surveyed agreed that hotel usage of artificial intelligence (AI) to suggest food items and other services based on past purchases would improve their experience. Among hotel operators, 72% said such AI-based systems would be mainstream by 2025.
- Hoteliers are warming to voice-activated features. Some 78% of hotel operators said that allowing guests to manage room controls and ambiance via voice commands will be a widespread feature by 2025—70% said as much for ordering room or hotel services. Meanwhile, 68% of hotel operators said they would use voice recognition within the next five years to gather customer feedback. One Oracle Industry Connect panelist suggested that “people-less hotels” might become a trend, because self-service appeals to younger generations. “That’s where we’re headed,” he said.
- Virtual reality is…a reality. Among the guests surveyed, 66% said that virtual reality (VR) tours of hotel properties would improve their experience, while 44% said the same about VR lounges for entertainment. Hotel operators, meanwhile, said they’re likely to use VR technology by 2025 to train staffers (68%), provide guest entertainment on property (64%), and allow consumers to preview meeting rooms (63%).
- Robots won’t replace hotel staff anytime soon. Some 37% of hotel guests said being served by a robot wouldn’t improve their experience, and 22% said they’d visit less often. However, 58% of hotel operators said they like the idea of using robots for cleaning.
- It’s a wearable world. Some 63% of hotel operators said they’ll monitor staff activities, and 78% said they’ll check their employees into work via wearable devices within the next five years.