The travel industry has always been open to new technological developments, from the telephone call box in the 1900s to automated bookings and in-room pay-per-view in the late 1990s. But while many new technologies have been introduced into the Hotel room, technologies for booking and keyless entry haven’t really developed beyond their earliest iterations.
Starting in the 1970s, 24-hour telephone booking and other early forms of service automation allowed for off-time transactions; but these transactions tended to be arduous and frequently incomplete. This means that after booking and confirming a hotel room, the traveller would still have to attend a check-in procedure at hotel reception that could feel like much repetition of the steps already taken through the automated system. Even with the ability to research and book hotels online some tasks remain unfinished, resulting in longer waits and more face-to-face transactions at the hotel.
Technology and the Pressures of Waiting Lines
Partial automation and the accompanying disjunctive front desk transactions lay at the heart of one of the main struggles of the 1970s-90s service industry, the psychology of the queue.
Studies and reports like this one showed that even as early computer systems started to speed up travel booking, queues remained in force at various desks, gates, and wickets throughout the travel experience. In fact, the new demands for speed in business were constantly falling short of customer expectation due in no small part to the continued mechanization of most supply chain design, and because new communications technologies hadn’t yet demonstrated an ability to alter, minimize or disable them. In the travel industry, this tech inertia kept old paperwork procedures in place past their natural expiry date, and pushed competitive in-room features and upgrades, each with accompanying charges to the guest. The effect was that the Hotel lobby changed from a quiet, restful lounge to a marketplace, selling in-room features and internal or associated promotions to guests.
Use Tech to change the Lobby from Marketplace to Social Space
Today, high speed wireless Internet and mobile data has placed more control in the guests’ hands, rendering many traditional in-room offerings obsolete; in fact, many Hotels have already replaced telephone systems and pay-per-view with Smartphone activated room control and Netflix, and more are moving towards smartphone-controlled keyless entry systems.
The new, technologically autonomous guest now has the power to control their own journey, travel silent if they wish, or purchase any upgrades they desire at their leisure. In order to capture the attention of these guests, hotels should simplify their pricing structure, allow new booking technologies to work in the background to streamline the guest journey. Allowing the guest to have the power in their hands means the reception desk doesn’t need to have a vendor atmosphere, doesn’t need to compile transactional paperwork, but can now offer the sort of comfort and service that entices the new spate of empowered travellers to return time after time.