Wi-fi climbs in importance for hotel guests
It used to be that excellent one-on-one service was a hallmark of a great hotel; today the wi-fi connection might be more important.
“More and more guests expect speedy service, but don’t define that so much through their one-on-one experiences with staff, but through the do-it-yourself experience,” said Eduardo Cruz del Rio, vice-president of operations, Wyndham. “And you do that through technology.”
Mr Cruz del Rio spoke at the Bermuda Tech Summit panel last week on how technology is changing the face of the hotel industry.
He told an audience at the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club that when he arrived in Bermuda, the first thing he did was check out his room, the second thing — look for somewhere to plug in his laptop.
“The hotel industry has always been a person-to-person experience and it is very interesting to see how technology has filtered into that and become a part of our day-to-day lives at hotels,” Mr Cruz del Rio said. “It is now throughout the guest experience, from the way that we promote our hotels, we promote digitally, to the way that the customer purchases our hotels which is mostly done digitally.”
He said even after the guest has left the hotel, they go online to rate their experience.
Davina Nightingale, senior director property channel, Hilton, said hoteliers now spend a lot of time in the technology space to meet guest expectations.
“There are a lot of things we do to ensure that our hotel can support modern technologies,” she said. “If you don’t have those things in place, the experience on the technology side can be very disappointing. So we are spending a lot of time looking at some of our monolithic systems and turning them into new platforms.”
Hilton now offers a digital key programme to certain guests in many of its properties. This allows guests to use their mobile device to open any door that would regularly be opened with a key card. Guests can check-in before arrival and skip the front desk altogether.
Hilton also launched “connected rooms” last year allowing guests to control things like air conditioning and lights from their mobile devices, and also stream their favourite Netflix shows.
“The guest is telling us what they want and we respond to that,” Ms Nightingale said.
But the push to make hotels more tech savvy is drawing a line in the sand between luxury guests and business travellers.
Ms Nightingale said luxury guests tend to want the red carpet rolled out for them, but business travellers have other needs.
“If I am staying for business and I am literally rolling into a room at 11pm, at that point I want to be able to quickly check in,” she said. “I don’t want to have to talk to anyone. I want to be able to do my thing and go. So I think that is where we have to be very conscious. We want the customer to be able to choose their experience. If they want to connect digitally, great. But if they want to connect personally, we can also do that.”
Airbnb policy associate Rachel DeLevie-Orey, said her company was also taking note of these differences.
“Airbnb is in 191 countries and there is a lot of diversity in terms of access to internet and connectivity in those different markets, so that is definitely a challenge when you get to more remote areas,” she said.
But she said there has been a push to make Airbnbs more friendly to the business traveller.
“Now, when you go on the website there is a toggle that allows you to select a place that is certified as business travel friendly,” she said. “Certified places have been tested for high-speed internet and a laptop station, then all the other comforts that a business traveller is likely to need.”
Diana Plazas, vice-president of brand, marketing and digital and owner franchise relations Marriott Caribbean and Latin America, said they want to give their associates the right tools to help customers.
“We have systems in some cases that are a few decades old and we are adjusting over the years,” she said. “But it is really looking at what additional layers we can put on top of that so it is easy on our associates and they have all the tools from a technology perspective to make it the best experience possible for the guest.”
Marriott is currently building the St Regis Hotel in St George’s.
Ms Plazas said while here she planned to look at how they could ensure connectivity across the property, including the beach, so guests could do things like use their mobile phone to page their personal hotel butler.
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