HOSPITALITY BUZZ: ON TECH
In partnership with the Hotel Marketing Association, Umi Digital and InstaSupply, the Independent Hotel Show supported HOSPITALITY BUZZ, an intimate talk discussing the way technology is changing the face of hospitality.
We caught up with our speaker Dave Black of Meshh about the latest consumer tech trends and how they are impacting independent hoteliers.
What innovative technologies will have a direct impact on independent hoteliers over the next 12 months?
The key trend we will see more movement with is connectivity of mobiles to a location. The “Internet of Things” is a buzz phrase of the moment and many people are now starting to understand and explore how their customer experiences can be improved using technology. We have all seen the introduction of docking stations, the ability to connect via bluetooth to a sound system or even control the lighting in their room. This connectivity may have seemed gimmicky but it's becoming more and more expected as mobiles become more intuitive. To put the guest in control is to make them feel at home.
What most excites you about the hotel industry?
The variety of hotels opening right now. There are so many different experiences to be had and no ‘right way' to do anything. Every hotel has to work out what is right for them for themselves. As a regular hotel user, I like to find unique, characterful hotels when I'm travelling for leisure, yet I tend to expect a consistent experience if I'm travelling on business... If I don't have an iron or can't get Wi-Fi then I can be a little put off!
What advice can you give to hoteliers wishing to provide the best guest experiences in line with the latest consumer technology trends?
Start testing out new technologies so that you know what they are and what they look like so you can start to form your own personal opinions. There are plenty of events and meet ups where you can try out new technologies and see what you like and don't like. As a hotelier, it's your job to understand what your customers like. You should therefore be able to forecast the effect different technologies will have on their stay.
It is imperative that anyone looking at new technology tries it out for him or herself. Take Virtual Reality; You will never understand what the current hype is about until you have immersed yourself in an experience and understood what it is like to be ‘present' in VR. For 99% of cases, there is an instant realisation of what can be done in this medium, but there just aren't enough headsets on the market at this time to let everyone have a go. This gives an obvious advantage to those hotels adopting this tech from the outset.
Which tech for hoteliers; that we hadn't heard of 5 years ago, is now a must-have?
Beacon technology seems to have been around for a long time but it only really started to emerge in 2013 when Apple launched iBeacons. Since then, many industries have struggled to provide solid use cases and therefore they haven't caught on as much as was first anticipated. Where this technology works really well is in places where users are already committed customers and are more likely to respond to proactively provided information. In a hotel, you can provide and push out information throughout the hotel; like digital menus in restaurants and bars, local area information in the lounge and even workout information/timetables in the gym. To understand the stages of a customer journey through your hotel and to be able to provide information without asking or being intrusive is something guests will learn to expect.
What are you currently working on that you could see changing the hotel tech space?
We provide what is called hyper local media, which is essentially the delivery of rich content to guests' devices without using the internet or data. How does that work? Well we cache the rich content locally and then using our hardware, stream content at up to 300mbps, so there is absolutely no buffering and the user can download a 40MB digital publication within 2-3 seconds. As a company, we have a deep-rooted history in the media sector and we are leveraging our existing relationships to create revenue streams and amazing guest experiences, using the guests' own devices. Imagine streaming Netflix in your Hotel room for free and being able to download your favourite magazines. This is exactly what we are working on right now.
There's an audible buzz around virtual and augmented reality at the moment but we can't get our heads around how it will benefit hoteliers. Can you shed any light?
Virtual reality is already being used in the hospitality industry on a small scale; to provide visualisation of local attractions, corporate events and virtual tours. A lot of these are delivered by projecting images and video within a virtual 360 sphere so that you can see a representation of what was filmed. This gives a representation of the venue and what it might be like to walk through it but it doesn't provide a fully immersive experience as it won't have the stereo, depth and interactive feel that a 3D virtual tour would offer. ‘True VR' is where the experience you see has been built in a 3D game engine and is therefore fully interactive and is ultimately what tricks the brain into feeling ‘present' and therefore emotionally attached to what you are doing whilst immersed. I have seen a few 3D hotel tours and they are so amazingly realistic that I could still give you directions and describe the environment in detail, as if I had actually been there. Because in my mind, I had.
Augmented reality allows guests to interact with guides and brochures, by overlaying content onto a page to show videos, interactive maps, download vouchers and play games. This is essentially building the bridge between print and digital, with the great thing being that users are now easily converted, as their using their own devices to browse.
For more information visit