The last two days I visited the Intergastra Messe in Stuttgart. I was engaged in many conversations and the main topic was the innovation and digitalization of the hotel industry. One of the most striking persons I met at the exhibition was Rolf Schlecht, the CEO of Fritz Schlecht SHL, a full-service company specialized in everything from planning and interior design to furniture and installation. He was very curious and asked me the question: “What do you think? How will the future of the hotel room look like?”
I decided to express my opinion on the future of hotels and hotel guest rooms in this blog post. For those who think this is too long to read: the hotel stay and hotel room will become a very personalized space. Everything will be automated around the guest. What is his comfortable room temperature? His favorite lighting setup? His favorite drink? Let’s dive deeper into it.
The Near Term Future
In the near term future – which I define as the upcoming 3 to 7 years – everything feasible will be connected, controlled, and integrated into the own device of the guest. A good example where this is executed today is the aviation industry. The recent years we became acquainted with mobile booking, mobile check-in and much more. If you fly with any airline, you have the possibility to book your flight in an app, use the mobile check-in via an app, and book additional luggage via an app. The entire customer journey became a mobile-first experience. Many airlines, especially budget airlines, are offering media content or newspapers digitally to their passengers. Some airlines have introduced mobile payment into their in-flight experience. You use your own phone to purchase drinks, food, or duty-free goods, which are subsequently delivered to your seat. The aviation industry is still in the early days but the trend is clear: the entire experience is shifting towards the customers’ own device i.e. his smartphone.
We will see a similar trend in the hotel industry. The guest will use his own device to check-in, open the room, control the entire room, stream his content to the TV, order food, reserve tables, book wellness appointments, give feedback, check out, and more.
Hotels are different when it comes to one point: the hotel market is extremely fragmented. While there are dozens of airlines usual passenger uses throughout this life, there are thousands of hotel chains around the world and millions of owner-operated hotels. In order for a solution to work it needs to work without a hotel specific app. In the best case, it will work without any app at all.
Mobile-first and without apps
The hotel experience will be mobile-first but without traditional apps. No regular guest will download a hotel application specifically and only for his short 1-2 day stay. Let’s be honest, when was the last time you actually downloaded an app? Often it has been weeks, months, or years ago. But how can we achieve a mobile-first experience without developing apps for Android and iOS? There are two ways this is going to happen in the future: progressive web applications and new standards within Android and iOS itself. One such standard is the Wallet on the iPhone. Users can already save their event tickets or airline tickets they received via email into a system app called a wallet. This way they don’t have to download a new app for every event or every airline. Think about it. It is a valid and accepted boarding pass at every international airport. You can use it to figuratively open the door to your plane seat.
It is likely that the wallet app of Apple or the Google Pay app will receive further functionalities and possibilities. Instead of showing a QR code, smartphones will allow a unified way to wireless communicate with devices such as lifts and hotel room doors. A hotel will simply email you the hotel key, which you can safely store on your phone to open the hotel door as soon as you arrive. Opening the door will initiate an automated check-in and one of the most annoying processes – for both guest and hotel – is automated entirely without any additional app.
One addition to this solution will be a progressive web app. A progressive web app can be described as a mix between a website and an app as we know it today. It behaves similarly to a website as you don’t need to download an additional app and the progressive web app is loading in the browser itself. But unlike a normal website, the progressive web app behaves just as natively as a normal app and has more rights. With rights, I mean the ability to access files on your device, Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, and more. This makes it just as useful as a regular app but without having to download one.
A progressive web can be accessed via a link, QR code, NFC tag, or even Bluetooth beacon. Some of these technologies can be used to uniquely identify users. This opens entirely new business models. Combined with the right technologies, progressive web apps can be used to open doors, control smart devices, order goods, food or drinks.
Case Study: MESHLE GmbH – Controlling Bluetooth connected IOT devices with a progressive web app
At MESHLE, we connect smart devices in hotel rooms via Bluetooth Mesh and use progressive web apps to let hotel guests control the lighting with his own device within and without having to install an app. A dynamically generated QR Code is used to uniquely identify guests to ensure only guests who actually are in the hotel room have access to the hotel room. This is possible already today in 2020.
Personalization of Hotel Stays
Technologies such as progressive web apps can be used to personalize the experience of the guest. First, the guest will input his desires, wishes, and preferences manually. In the long-term, all personalized preferences will be used to create usage profiles to automate highly personalized experiences. What kind of light does a guest prefer? What is the room temperature he feels most comfortable with? In which language does he prefer to communicate? What is his favorite welcome drink? All these preferences will be analyzed and personalized in the future. Even before the hotel guest arrives at the hotel, his room will be at his favorite temperature and the lighting will be according to his preferences.
Robotization of Hotels
Today in 2020 robots serve more as a highlight which guests and tourists love to see and touch. However, in the future robots offer a great chance to hotels as they can offer room service to guests 24/7. They can also be used as a delivery robot to generate additional income. I see robots as an important part of the hotel in the future. But robots are not only useful for service, but they may also carry carts and support the hotel’s cleaning personnel.
The Minimal Hotel Room
Not only the technology within hotel rooms will change. Also, the design and architecture of hotel rooms will evolve into a more minimalistic design. As long as real estate prices stay high or keep rising, hotels will try to accommodate as many guests per space as possible. The result is a highly efficient guest room. The traditional hotel room furniture will soon be gone. However, hotels must pay attention to not only minimize their furniture and design but also to increase guest well-being at the same time.
The hotel room will evolve into a more individual and personalized but minimalistic space where tourists and business travelers enjoy a stay exactly according to their wishes. Appliances will be personalized and accessed and controlled with the guests’ own device and his voice. Thanks to service robots, room service will see a revival. If hotels want to keep up with this technological advancement it is best to create a digitization strategy soon.