Innovative Technology: The Revolution that Transformed Hospitality

Anil Goel, Group Chief Technology & Product Officer, OYO Hotels & Homes Anil has over 20 years of experience in building complex software applications, technology infrastructure, and technology businesses. His expertise lies in Technology Management, Strategic Planning, Development Management, Delivery Management and many other areas.

Technology, a common word used by humans on a daily basis, has revolutionized the way we live. Every aspect of our life has been made convenient by technology in one way or the other. Every gadget right from our phones, laptops, smartwatches to the experiences across touchpoints like malls, airports, online bookings leverage technology and impact our lives. When it comes to bookings and travel, the hospitality industry has seen a major shift from offline to online. Gone are the days when vacations meant hassles - coordinating with a travel agent, standing in long queues for hotel bookings, filling-up forms to check-in, carry cash along for payments, call in the staff with a menu card to order room service or fix amenities as basic as the AC temperature. Even on the other end, for players in the hospitality industry, it meant sitting through huge piles of paperwork on guest stay, services, and inventory. Whether you are a guest or a host, life has become so much easier. Now to book a hotel, check into it and make payments, all you need is a few taps on your mobile screen, thanks to the apps and POS systems.

With terms like Internet-of-Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning, and Automation growing out of fiction and becoming a reality, the hospitality industry is utilizing these new age technologies to revolutionize customer experience. Managing customer expectation across 360-degree touchpoints requires knowledge and in-depth understanding of their likes & dislikes which translates to tons of data. As a result, hospitality brands are investing in technologies and skilled professionals to run the business.

As predicted by Gartner, by the end of 2022, one out of every five workers
engaged mostly in non-routine functions will be using AI for day-to-day manual tasks. AI has enabled the hospitality industry to garner insights about customers. Customer purchases, travel choices, journey patterns & itinerary, location preferences, hotel rating inquiries, and payment methods are being taken into account to understand the customers better. Big data solutions are also coming handy to manage 360-degree touch points and huge tons of data. Running campaigns on target demographics with razor-sharp precision, smartly managing room inventories and pricing intelligently to be aligned with market conditions has never been easier!

"What one needs in the hospitality industry is a perfect combination of the digital revolution and the good old human touch!"

Another technology that is definitely making hospitality experience better is IoT. With this in use, guests are now enjoying facilities like controlling certain room features right from their mobile or the tab provided by the hotel. Smart keys to the rooms, location services for car pick up & drop or ordering food, predictive repairs, and maintenance information generated from the in-room devices and appliances or voice assistants are making the experience great for both the guest and the hotel staff.

The use of Voice & Natural Language Processing (NLP) technologies has also grown manifold in recent times. Interpreting questions posed and coming-up with smart contextual answers is, therefore, a part of the service now. On the other hand, Machine Learning has made voice platforms like Siri and Alexa much more user-friendly. Being increasingly adopted at the hospitality sector, soon they’ll help guests control the room temperature, contact the housekeeping staff, and view the room service menu either from their smartphones or by speaking to these virtual assistants. Along with AI, NLP, and data solutions, Augmented Reality has also made the right kind of noise. AR-powered signage can be used to enhance the customer experience by routing them to check-in counters, breakfast location or safest emergency evacuation.

But where there are revolutions, there are barriers too! There might be a lack of infrastructure, security concerns or the complex interactions between multiple stakeholders, which are coming in between the complete use of technology. But no one can deny that these potentially disruptive innovations are much needed given the unlimited value they offer to the ecosystem in terms of both customer and business experience.

Technology by itself doesn’t ensure a great experience. It needs to be in the hands of skilled and knowledgeable individuals who can ensure their right usage. Human interactions help one build a lifetime worth of connections, build relationships, and create memories. The use of technology will just be there to provide you a hassle-free, comfortable experience avoiding the middle layers, as well as unnecessary delays and losses. The warmth of a human relationship,the efficiency of staff to meaningfully deal with complex situations that cannot be easily automated, will stay irreplaceable. What one needs is a perfect combination of both the digital revolution and the good old human touch!