This question was at the heart of my study. General Managers said traditional guests are still attached to the old practices… but all the experts highlight the urgency of implementing innovation to welcome the new customers and get a significant differentiation with competitors. The challenge is to be flexible and get quickly adapted to each guest, giving a larger choice to satisfy all the needs and go beyond the classical welcome of today.
This article describes the main technological practices that could provide a better welcome. We will see later that these trends induce profound changes in the organization and the management of Luxury hotels. Only technology focused on more humanity could enhance this fundamental issue.
In today’s “webbed” world, Internet access is increasingly viewed by guests as a basic utility, and guests want comfort and convenience with fast, reliable wireless internet access. The hotel should deliver free and high-speed Wi-Fi in all the rooms and common spaces.
Luxury hotels used to charge their customers for Wi-Fi and they couldn’t always get a good connection because of the ageing infrastructures. The internet connectivity should be smooth, superfast and free for every guest, with no distinction of status or purpose of trip, and available everywhere in the hotel.
This also means refurbishment works to get uninterrupted Wi-Fi access in all areas, with no loss of connection from the room to the lobby, and even outside (cars, boats…). With easy to access electrical outlets and a strong Wi-Fi signal, guests can work, charge their devices and stay connected everywhere inside the hotel and during the transfers. This welcome practice is generalized with devices (connection boxes, smartphones lent…) for foreigners to get a Wi-Fi easily with no additional fees and rooming.
Digital Check-in and check-out
Many travelers may wish to avoid the front desk for hotel check in. The solution is using software which allows guests to open their hotel doors using their smartphones. Instead of using a key, they register online, download the software application, and then type in a confirmation code for room access. They can also book at distance and get the key at a kiosk at the arrival, or go directly to the room with the digital key on their smartphone (or even on a digital watches). The idea is to bring innovation and fluidity in the hotel for business travelers and tech savvy generation Y, hyper-connected and wishing to avoid the front desk for hotel check-in. These tools should also bring more latitude to personalize the room and get customized services.
Smart mobile app platform, or iPad, or on TV Screen and digital terminals, the concierge recommendations for food, drinks, attractions, tours and other useful services are given, exclusively in the hands of the guests with the easiness of customization and direct booking. These platforms allow guests to make reservations and can add value and efficiency for customers’ additional service needs. They are also means to interact at distance with the concierge (e-concierge) if needed or for any requirement. This technology will not replace the concierges, but take the pressure of their jobs with the regular inquiries. Concierges will have more time to be efficient for specific demands, bringing a real added-value.
A new lobby design
The study revealed that hoteliers should increasingly rethink this place to get a more warm welcome, more friendly; also more flexible and adaptable for a variety of uses. This especially as customer behaviors evolve. Customers become more independent and receptive to new technologies. They also ask for more lightness, flexibility and ease when circulating in the lobby. And because the first mission of the lobby is to create a positive first contact and impression with the hotel and brand. The objective is to use the same space for several features, a practice which in principle allows guests to satisfy all their needs and desires in one place and the hotel to optimize the space.
The lobby could evolve to be the tech center of most hotels, with strategically designed seating areas offering an optimal setting for meetings, networkings or just to chat. The layout could also be a hybrid instead of the traditional lobby and the room. The innovative lobby design is the result of a carefully thought layout of the reception area. Furniture placement, decorations and space design are tracks to get a positive first impression the minute the guest step through the door. In particular, the lobby area is moving to have the following key elements: a comfortable layout where the guests can sit, relax and get work done.
It should also reflect a sensory design where all five senses are addressed in a space (sight, sound, smell, taste and touch) as emotions are the basis of thoughts and fuel the welcoming experience. It should also become a place for social media and connections, to relax and divert. Finally to contemplate art and design, opening on the city and destination.