Great technological expectations: Global Hotel Industry Survey24 September 2013
More than ever before, hoteliers’ understanding of new technologies is dictating market success. In ‘Global Hotel Industry Survey 2013: Emerging Trends in Technology, Sustainability, Health and Wellness Tourism’, Timetric – a leading provider of online data, analysis and advisory services on key growth economies and sectors – provides an overview of the current investment landscape.
Understanding the possibilities of the latest technological advances is imperative for modern-day hoteliers. In addition to fulfilling guest demand for wireless internet access and online reservations, technology acts as the gateway to improved operational efficiency and effective marketing techniques through the likes of social media.
But, while most operators are aware of this, the extent to which they are willing to invest in new technology varies significantly. Timetric has conducted a series of surveys on the subject, published in February 2013, which have revealed some interesting results.
When a selection of luxury hotels were asked how they expected technology budgets to change over the forthcoming year (see below), 62% of respondents predicted an expenditure increase, 35% of which predicted a rise of 3-10%.
Among hotels classed as 'other' (those outside the luxury bracket), however, anticipated investment levels were much lower. Just 38% of respondents expected a budget increase and 43% foresaw no change.
One of the most significant factors driving tech-budget increases is the relatively short lifespan of many technologies, along with the need for regular updates. The growth and use of consumer technology is also playing a significant role.
Burrowing more deeply into the specifics of where hoteliers are investing, there is a reassuringly strong correlation between what is on offer and customers' technological expectations. In the luxury sphere, Wi-Fi, online reservations and high-speed internet access are the most commonly offered services, the first two of which are also among the most in-demand facilities by customers.
The key discrepancy between what guests want and what hotels provide lies, intriguingly, in television facilities: only 77% of luxury hotels provide flat-screens, whereas 92% of customers expect them. Moreover, 70% of luxury guests believe hotels should offer additional services such as satellite televisions, which only 56% currently offer.
As a direct result, demand for satellite televisions is expected to rise across the luxury industry. Already this year, the Hilton group has opened its twelfth DoubleTree hotel chain in China's Fujian province, offering 337 guestrooms with 'advanced facilities', including LCD flat-screen televisions with international satellite stations, MP3 alarm clocks and in-room climate control.
In other hotels, the most significant discrepancy between service supply and demand lies in online reservation facilities, with 67% of hotel respondents offering them compared with a 90% customer expectation. However, while 100% of hotels surveyed offered flat-screen televisions, only 76% of customers thought they should be provided.
Top areas for investment
Along with pleasing customers, technological investment is also a chance for hoteliers to significantly improve operational efficiency. After Wi-Fi, the installation of eco-friendly products and efficient energy management systems were seen as key to achieving this, with 48% and 46% of survey respondents, respectively, saying they planned to use these technologies.
The key advantages of these systems are significant savings in energy bills and a boost to hotels' green credentials, helping to attract customers and meet corporate social responsibility targets. The level of sophistication available is impressive.
In December last year, Park Hyatt Chicago announced the installation of EcoInsight energy management thermostats, integrated with Telkonet's Recovery Time technology, in its guest rooms to control its heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems. Each of the 198 guestrooms, including 13 suites, is evaluated to determine its energy-efficient temperature based on internal and external environmental characteristics. Installed with software-based relay control and fan speed configuration, the technology helps to measure, verify and provide detailed analytics of the HVAC systems.
A senior executive from Park Hyatt Chicago said: "Our EcoSmart Recovery Time technology helps the hotel guest rooms maintain an acceptable temperature. Telkonet's EcoCentral management platform communicates seamlessly with our workflow management software, HotSOS, allowing the maintenance team to carry out repairs before a problem HVAC unit disturbs a guest."
Business intelligence and system integration were also seen as key investment areas, with 43% and 39% of surveyed luxury hoteliers, respectively, planning to use these technologies to improve efficiency.
For those hotels outside the luxury sphere, Wi-Fi access, efficient energy management systems, eco-friendly technology and system integration were also the most popular investment areas, although the number of hoteliers willing to spend was predictably lower. A surprisingly small amount of non-luxury operators, however - just 5% - said they planned to use business intelligence to enhance operational efficiency.
The burgeoning social media sphere is also attracting the attention, and money, of hoteliers. 66% of those surveyed said expenditure in social media and networking sites will significantly increase in 2013. Numerous owners and operators already use the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Digg, Delicious, Reddit, StumbleUpon, YouTube and Foursquare to attract customers.
Supporting the trend, a senior official from InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) commented: "Social media is growing in importance for many of our guests, and we have to make sure that we are including it in our larger marketing strategies. Of all industries, hospitality has the most opportunity when it comes to using social media. It is about building relationships and one-to-one engagement, which is what hospitality has been about since its inception. Therefore, even though the technologies are new, the ideas that they facilitate remain the same."
Online portals, mobile communications, and corporate and brand websites are also seen as key technologies, with over half of all luxury hotels surveyed planning to invest in these fields. Outside the luxury sphere, the figures are slightly less balanced; a whopping 76% of other hotels plan to increase spending on social media and networking sites, but only 48% would do the same for online portals and just 35% for mobile communications.
While such discrepancies in specific investment areas between luxury and other hotels undoubtedly exist, the survey's overall trend is clear. New technologies will continue to play an increasingly important role in the hotel sphere, strongly impacting market exposure, operational costs, guest satisfaction and environmental credentials. Those who are willing to fully embrace these new possibilities will no doubt be in a strong position in the years to come.