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Report Foresees Greater Desire for Hotel Automation

Study reveals that guests favor less touch and more control over their own environment and experiences.

September 20, 2022

In a recent report by travel industry news site Skift, more than 600 hoteliers and 5,000 consumers worldwide were surveyed about their expectations for the hospitality industry over the next three years. The study, which was sponsored by Oracle Hospitality, centered on four major topics: guest-facing technology; labor and operations; automation and guest data; and ancillaries, upgrades, and non-room revenue.

According to the survey, both guests and hotel management preferred contactless service. More than 60% percent of hospitality executives worldwide said that a fully contactless experience for all basic hotel transactions would be the most likely feature or technology that the industry will adopt widely in the next three years. Likewise, desire for a self-service model, with hotel staff only available upon request, was favored by more than 30% of executive responses. About 26% of guests strongly agreed that they’d be more likely to stay at a hotel offering self-service technology to minimize contact with other people.

“The consumerization of IT has passed the inflection point, and it’s not going back to normal,” said Scott Strickland, executive vice president and chief information officer at Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, whose team oversees technology implementations for 9,000 hotels worldwide. “There’s a new baseline to satisfy a guest.”

Chatbots a Practical Example

Strickland specifically foresaw the practical use of chatbots in hotel operations. He noted, for example, that guests could use such technology to make common requests to housekeeping staff, such as “I need more towels.” A guest exiting a shower to discover no bath towels on hand could make a quick and easy (and perhaps less embarrassing) automated call to housekeeping to get the job done.

Laura Calin, Oracle Hospitality vice president of strategy and solutions management, echoed Strickland’s sentiments regarding chatbots in a recent blog post. “The beauty of chatbots is that they allow guests to communicate requests and engage any hotel department via their own mobile devices,” she wrote. “Especially at a time when a labor shortage is disrupting so many markets, chatbots can fulfill a critical role by doing the work of their human colleagues and responding faster to guest inquiries.”

However, travelers still want some human contact. Almost half of all guests surveyed said they would be more likely to stay at a hotel that offered self-service, but they also would like to receive a personal greeting now and then.

Generational Preferences Differ

Age also made a difference when it came to coveting human interaction over automation. Nearly 35 percent of both Gen Z and Millennial travelers said they were very interested in staying at a hotel that uses mainly automated messaging for customer requests, while just 21.3% of Gen X travelers and only 14% of Baby Boomers felt the same way. In fact, more than 20 percent of Baby Boomers wanted to speak and interact with hotel staff for all needs. Only 5% of Gen Z travelers felt similarly.

The study concluded that, while the desire for automation is predicted to build in the next three years and needs to be fulfilled, guest generational differences stress the need to “strike a balance” between technology and human contact.

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