Developments in the Hospitality Industry and the Technology Inspiring Change

Hospitality and technology

As technology evolves, so does Marston’s Telecoms and the hospitality industry. We are perfectly placed to have an accurate bird’s-eye view of the sector and discover the trends that will influence the market in the coming years, and in this article we’ll be taking a look at eight technologies that are inspiring change in the hospitality industry.

This year, according to analysis by the Office of National Statistics, the total industry turnover will reach £102 billion, an increase of 4% on the previous year.

The average UK family commits 22% of its weekly budget to leisure spending, almost double what British homes spend on housing each week. Consumers place high demands on their internet connection; they expect speed, reliability and flexibility at all times. People want to settle bills in an instant, avoid queues and are even beginning to expect to place orders without human interaction.

This is supported by the findings from Apica, which highlighted that 77% of people surveyed expect websites and apps to perform faster than they did just three years ago, and with Cisco’s VNI Forecast estimating that global traffic will grow to 3.3 trillion Gigabytes by 2021. Given this is three times greater than all the internet traffic in 2017, the message gleaned here is that technology is going to become an increasingly powerful differentiator for businesses as data usage increases and becomes an integral part of the industry.

Artificial Intelligence

One in four IT professionals believe that among emerging technologies, artificial intelligence (AI) will have the greatest impact on business.

AI is the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines and computers, and is becoming more common as AI can be used to help streamline customer service, ensuring it’s faster, more reliable and can also be personalised to meet specific requirements.

AI technologies can improve upon traditional data analysis for performance-measuring tools by analysing vast amounts of data quickly and efficiently. This allows companies to draw conclusions about customer satisfaction and experience significantly faster, thus helping to guide and prioritise improvements.

Another key capability of AI is its ability to help keep your data safe. The Spiceworks 2019 State of IT Report revealed that almost 30% of enterprises with over 1,000 employees are currently using AI-powered security solutions; a figure which is expected to grow more than 60% by 2020. With major hacking stories in the news approximately once a month, a breach can cause serious loss of revenue and customer confidence. We expect the use of robust AI solutions will increase given their success at preventing untoward attention and increasing data protection.

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Intelligent User Interfaces

Intelligent user interfaces (IUI) are systems that involve an element of AI or computer intelligence, enabling interaction between humans and computers whilst replicating many of the traits present in human communication. Often the computer intelligence will possess a complex model of the user and can therefore react intuitively and predict their behaviour. This allows the interaction to be personalised to the way a particular user navigates around a system, the method in which they communicate or how information is presented to them.

We are seeing human-centred design techniques merging with innovative technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and virtual reality (VR) to revolutionise engagement and enhance operational efficiency.

There are several benefits this can bring within the hospitality industry. For example, in public areas within hotels or pubs, cameras, sensors and computer vision can allow customers’ movements and behaviour to be tracked and analysed.

This provides a means of recording pleasure and displeasure, identifying regular customers and assessing the way individuals respond to a particular environment. Understanding customers at this level will allow companies to personalise products and services. Businesses can share relevant promotions in real-time to customers’ mobile devices – within corporate hospitality this could see sponsors pushing promotions to the guests they are most interested in targeting.

Speech Recognition

A Voice-User Interface (VUI) enables verbal human interaction with a computer and the voice-based market is on the rise, especially when it comes to giving voice commands to virtual assistants. Individuals are becoming used to interacting with technology in this way, and Gartner estimates that by 2020 30% of web browsing sessions will be done without a screen.

Within the hospitality industry, voice messaging brings a whole host of possibilities including improving customer service and reducing employee workload. Within hotels, in-room smart speakers will allow guests to benefit from a 24-hour assistant providing a quick response on anything from check-out times to available spa treatments. In restaurants and bars, consumers will soon find it commonplace to use voice-enabled technologies to order from the menu, call a taxi or request the bill.

Thanks to the likes of Alexa and Siri, this method of communication is becoming easier for end users to acclimatise to, given that it’s such an unnatural interaction. Reliability is of course something to be considered, as interpretation can be inaccurate depending on how a question was asked, accents and background noise; but looking at the improvements of common VUIs since their launch, the market looks strong for development over the coming years.

5G Mobile Connectivity

With EE’s marketing already in the wild and Three, Vodafone and O2 all confirming a plan to launch before the end of 2019, 5G will create a significant increase in the speed and capacity of wireless networks. Initially running alongside the existing 4G system, stand-alone 5G networks and devices will be available as consumer demand increase.

This development will bring speeds that are 10 to 20 times faster than those that currently exist, as well as wider coverage and lower latency, thus supporting a Qualcomm survey that estimates that 5G will support the production of up to £8.5 trillion worth of goods and services by 2035.

The rollout will offer numerous benefits to businesses, from enabling ‘smart’ office spaces and tailored networks where businesses can purchase their own slice of the 5G network for private use, to rural innovation which will present firms with more opportunities within remote locations and pop-up venues.

Edge Computing

Edge computing works by bringing data processing closer to the source or end user. It is vital for enabling the successful implementation of IoT devices. Many applications such as industrial automation, virtual reality, and autonomous decision-making require high graphical computation capabilities with no lag-time, so having the data processed in a data centre thousands of miles away wouldn’t be viable.

This technology is useful in highly distributed industries, such as those within the hospitality sector that have multiple sites across different locations. In this case, edge computing would allow real-time data analysis even in remote locations, and can help with everything from energy management to improved staff allocation.

It is also beneficial for those firms who wish to reach their customers quickly, for example a restaurant or bar that wants the ability to track connected customers the minute they walk through the door and use push notifications to send them special offers of interest. Improving responsiveness in this way will help to boost sales and build relationships with customers.

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The Internet of Things (IoT)

Possibly one of the most important technological trends within the hospitality industry is the Internet of Things. This enables internet connectivity for the products, devices and appliances we use daily thus allowing them to operate in a ‘smart’ way.

Gartner predicts that by 2022, IoT will save consumers and businesses $1 trillion per year globally in maintenance, services and consumables whilst the total spending on IoT solutions is expected to grow, exceeding £25 billion in the UK in the same timeframe.

Internet-enabled thermostats, for example, are a key example of how the hospitality industry is embracing this trend, primarily as a cost-saving tool. These thermostats can adjust automatically to meet the requests of a business. Within a hotel they can tailor bedroom temperatures at check-in and check-out times, or in bars and restaurants respond to changes in temperature caused by the weather or windows being opened.

Across the industry, this technology is also being utilised for lighting as an energy-saving measure by automatically lowering lighting levels as required.

The focus here is on utilising multiple IoT products as part of an efficiency solution, rather than a single connected device that must be continually controlled and adjusted by the end user.

Customer Tracking and Targeting

With more complex technology comes the ability to collect more data about customers and a given target market. This information is invaluable for businesses as they can use the data to implement more targeted marketing. By looking at a customer’s interests, for example, individuals can be sent relevant information that is tailored to their personal wants and needs, which is far more likely to receive a response than those from less targeted marketing.

Text messages and push alerts are specifically useful to the hospitality industry to cross-sell products and services and update customers about news and offers that are of interest.

For larger events, like live music festivals, attendees can be sent text notifications about event details, such as who is performing at what time and which bars have a shorter queue. In addition to mobile connectivity, visitors will expect to be able to pay for food and drink by card and as such, the event location may require high-bandwidth connectivity to allow for an uninterrupted connection.

Apps – Experience Enhancers

The use of speciality apps within the hospitality industry to aid the customer experience is becoming more and more commonplace. Guests want the option to be able to simplify as many aspects of the customer journey as possible, and a well-designed app can do just that.

Thanks to the increased use of personal technologies such as iPads and smartphones being used for orders and payments across the hospitality industry, hotel groups like Hilton and Marriott International now offer customised apps, which allow guests to easily make a booking, order room service and make in-room purchases.

Developments in technology also mean that customers will soon be able to use their mobile phone in place of a room key, something which has been implemented to aid customer experience and convenience. It also assists hotel staff by providing an automatic update to the housekeeping team about whether the room is occupied or not.

It is evident that there is vast room for improvement and development when it comes to technology in the hospitality sector.

Technology is evolving at a record speed and it’s becoming more important than ever for businesses to keep up, especially when the sector itself is seeing such growth. Whilst hospitality firms should keep up to date with how other businesses are embracing digitalisation, it is important that they aren’t afraid to leap ahead and make decisions which are more revolutionary, as there is certainly room for more leaders in this exciting market.

In particular, it is important for telecoms firms to ensure that hospitality industries have infrastructures in place which are equipped to handle the developments already being rolled out, such as the highly anticipated 5G. Such technologies are in demand and will be quickly embraced on a wide scale; businesses without the infrastructures in place to handle these will suffer and certainly risk being left behind.

There is also a whole host of technologies which hospitality businesses can embrace to hugely improve their current business model and the experiences they offer consumers. This includes everything from customer data collection and targeting to the processes in place to streamline customer service and data analysis.

If the industry can establish standardised processes, with integrations that work seamlessly across different devices and systems, companies can begin to offer consistent and familiar experiences that benefit both the customer and the business.