High-Tech Hospitality: What Does Tech Do For Hospitality?
Loren Learny | 4 min read
Technology has always been an integral part of the customer experience for tourists, diners, and travelers. And while tech is always on the move, it has never moved quite as quickly as it has in the last two years. The pandemic forced many businesses and customers to overhaul their plans and ideas about what hospitality means — and how it can function.
As customer expectations change in the post-COVID economy, newer and better technology is finding ways to meet those expectations, all while improving the ability of businesses to function more efficiently. Tech in the hospitality industry helps businesses improve the hospitality experience for customers and the work experience for employees. Businesses can focus on lowering costs, increasing revenue, managing staffing issues, improving accuracy, enhancing convenience, and reducing the risk of human error.
Smartphone applications allow customers to book flights, hotels, and restaurant reservations, as well as seek out entertainment or tourist destinations in virtually any place they visit. Travel apps collect user data to help companies create and analyze customer profiles for targeted advertising. The internet of things (IoT) — a network of physical objects embedded with sensors, software, and other technology — allows customers to do almost anything from their phones, from ordering food to opening a hotel door.
Behind the scenes, the hospitality industry makes use of learning management systems (LMS) and learning experience platforms (LXP) for training, learning, and development of employees across the board. Hotels and restaurants, both heavily affected by the pandemic, are finding ways to use improved technology to keep in line with government mandates, survive during shutdowns, and thrive as their communities reopen.
What’s new in restaurant tech?
Even before the pandemic, restaurants were turning to tech to streamline their services and deliver faster, easier results. Restaurateurs faced with staffing shortages are finding more alternatives with automation and artificial intelligence (AI) powering everything from kiosks to robots. Patrons report a liking for restaurant tech as well; 79% say they prefer a kiosk to a server because they feel safer with contactless service. In 2020, many restaurants used “igloos” (i.e., covered outdoor seating) out of necessity, but they soon discovered customers enjoyed the experience and the privacy. Many brands continue to use them to create unique, desirable dining experiences.
Contactless ordering was once a novelty, but it’s clearly here to stay as well, and contactless payment options are available at almost every restaurant in the United States. Dining apps, including DoorDash and Uber Eats, flourished during pandemic shutdowns, and continue to be popular even with dining rooms reopening. And having had the experience, more than half of adults surveyed now describe the ability to purchase takeout or delivery as “essential.” Drive-thrus, always popular for fast-food purchases, enjoyed a boost during the pandemic, and they still exceed previous activity levels. Restaurants have responded by making their drive-thru lanes more efficient.
What’s new in hotel tech?
The hotel industry also deployed a host of high-tech solutions aimed at both improving the customer experience and increasing the bottom line during dramatic industry disruption caused by COVID-19. Travelers enjoy more tech-enabled conveniences, including robot bellhops, ultraviolet room sanitization, and digital keys, room selection, and check-in procedures. As remote work becomes the norm, more leisure resorts are offering accommodations for “nomadic workers,” those who carry their office with them and perform their jobs with mobile phones, laptops, and internet access. Rooms and suites have been updated to feature furniture that can double as a workspace, more outlets, and free Wi-Fi, and hotels offer work pods or casual meeting areas for employees to work together in teams.
Self-care has proven to be a major motivator for travel, so ambitious hotels are enhancing their services to cater to guests seeking immersive programs focused on holistic nutrition, exercise, and wellness. Guests can expect to find pet care, expanded fitness facilities, and local education adventures to enhance their travel experience. Hotels are increasing their focus on sustainability and finding ways to redirect their business costs and profits back into the community in support of local social and environmental needs.