A lot is changing in the hospitality and vacation rental industries over the past decade. We’ve seen the advent of short-term rental platforms, smart home devices, the rise of guest experience, the importance of local recommendations, and so much more.
Technology in the hospitality industry continues to move at seemingly break-neck speed. At times, it can be overwhelming to understand what we as vacation rental managers should focus on in our business when it comes to new technology. To help, here are 6 trends you should keep your eye on for the next few years.
Trend #1 – Voice
“Okay, Google, wake me up at seven,” is something I’ve personally said more times than I can count. Voice search has changed the way we use technology, the way we ask questions, and the way we integrate apps into our lives. So, how do we use voice for travel?
A new report by EyeforTravel, dubbed Can Voice Change the Way We Travel? speaks directly to travel brands with some get ready advice. It may be that voice technology for travel is at an early adopter stage, but that doesn’t mean we won’t get to see it develop soon.
The report states “Some of travel’s pain points are ideal motivators for voice search: You’re on the move, a bag in each hand, trying to find a hotel. What could be more convenient than to talk into your phone and ask Google Assistant to help?
However, research suggests that although important, usage of voice is still at quite an early stage overall and even more nascent in travel.”
That said, there are some early innovators in the VRMC space when it comes to voice. For instance, RedAwning, one of the world’s largest provider of vacation properties, introduced Smart Concierge, an integration of Amazon and Alexa into vacation rental homes. Not only will this provide guests with smart voice devices, but custom-built RedAwning property skills enabled by Alexa for various hospitality functions.
There is still work to be done. We knew that. But how do we prepare for it? Well, other than making sure you’re coming up in search when people ask “What’s the best accommodation near me?” with the big three (Google, Alexa, and Apple), maybe implement some internal voice at your establishment. (A personalized butler for every guest?)
According to the report, Lola’s Paul English believes that “ultimately talking to your phone and saying I want a hotel tomorrow night and I am going to be in Chicago Thursday and then having it know enough about the context and enough about the personalization requirements that it does everything for you’ is the future.”
Trend #2 – Chatbots
So maybe you can’t implement a personalized voice activated butler for every guest at your vacation rental property or hotel. Maybe instead you can implement a chatbot.
I know what you may be thinking, chatting with bots can be exhausting. But the times, well, they are changing, and for the better. Chatbots have been used in the service industry for a while, so the leap to the hospitality industry is more like a quick hop.
Chatbots are now able to give customers specific answers to some basic questions. They provide a high level of personalization in real time, as most of them use artificial intelligence to be able to function. Some of the services the chatbots can provide for your property are:
- Reminders for your guests
- General instant customer service
- Upgrade and additional services offers
- Room service or other requests
- Continued communication
Trend #3 – Automated check-ins and check-outs
Three years ago I self checked-in into an Airbnb in Tirana, Albania. The owner of the Airbnb was living in a different country, and all of our communication was through the platform. I enjoyed the experience and now I hope every Airbnb I stay at will have automated self check-in.
Why does this matter to guests so much? Well, for one, it allows them freedom to check in at any time (after official check-in time). Which means they don’t have to depend on you being there to unlock the door.
Meeting your guests is important, but maybe not right as they arrive, tired and stressed out from their journey. Sometimes they just want to come in and crash.
Additionally, if you have self check-in, and also fast internet, a flexible cancellation policy, and laptop workspace, Airbnb will give you a business travel ready badge.
Trend #4 – Infrared sensors and robots
Infrared sensors are great. They are great for many reasons across many industries, but in the hospitality industry, they can be very helpful with housekeeping.
Not everyone uses the do not disturb signs when they do not want to be disturbed. Sometimes they forget. Sometimes they are asleep. You want your housekeeping staff not to disturb your guests. This is easily done with infrared sensors. Your staff can quickly see if there are people in the room without knocking.
Robots are exciting. Robots delivering food are even more exciting. The trend of having robots in the hospitality industry is definitely happening. They are able to bring guests room service delivery, but also other things, like towels or toothpaste. They generally interact with guests using a interactive screen, and if you ask me, it’s really exciting interacting with a robot.
Trend #5 – NFC and smart room keys
I have personally gone back to the front desk of a hotel many times because my magnetic card got demagnetised. With NFC, your guests install your app, and use their phone to unlock the their door. Harder to lose and will never demagnetise. It may be expensive to get NFC locks right now, but if you are looking into changing your locks, it may be a great thing to consider.
Trend #6 – Converged LANs
In order to support multiple services you may want to consider converged local area networks (LANs). Basically, you’d be able to find out the guest preferences ahead of time, and program their room at check-in. For example, if your guest likes their temperature at 70 degrees, and their lights at 60 percent brightness, you can have this done ahead of time and impress them.
This technology can also be used to enable interactive communication services, and greatly increase guest satisfaction.
So, what now?
Well, now you decide what’s right for you. Blindly following trends is probably not a good business model, but as a vacation rental manager you know what your clients and guests want and need. You may see the need to invest in automated check-ins, but can’t see the positive impact of converged LANs for your particular property. Do some market research, see what’s available, how it fits into your budget, and you’ll be ready to technologically advance your property. Good luck!