Hotels have come long way since the days when one would arrive and find nothing more high-tech in the room than a bedside lamp, TV, phone and kettle. All that is handy, of course, particularly if one arrives needing a cup of tea. But for modern-day guests, the needs of an electronic age are usually far greater. A minority might want to get away from it all and not be contacted by mobile or email, but others will be delighted by being able to use the tech that is available.
Good for all
Both hotel marketers and the travelers themselves will be better off for a room having plenty of tech. Whether staying at the hotel on business or pleasure, instant access to technology can be either vital or highly desirable. One guest may want to send information back to the office hundreds or thousands of miles away, while another could be impatient to load up their latest holiday snaps onto their social media account.
Wi-Fi and mobile
To do all that, of course, means good mobile and internet connectivity are very important. In some cases – such as when a hotel is located in a remote area with topographical barriers such as mountains cutting off a signal – there may be little that can be done. But in places like that free WiFi is an absolute must, and if it is available in-room it means messages can be sent in complete privacy.
That said, the latest mobile developments are helping enable people to use their smartphones in hotels. One example of this is door locking access, with this meaning people need not fiddle around for a metal key in their pocket, but simply press the appropriate function keys on a phone to open the door. It makes it harder to lose a key, requires the guest to carry one less item when out of the room and also makes opening the door quieter – preventing other guests from being disturbed. Mobile may also be involved in checking in and out, which for some travellers may help them to make their next booking while in their room, ensuring a seamless process if they have to move from one destination to another on business, or as part of a tour.
Despite all the development in mobile phones, landline telephony is not dead yet. Indeed, many hotels are using state-of-the-art technology to offer more through the phone. Some offer useful business tools like voice over internet protocol technology. Others have replaced anything resembling phones with remote control devices that can open and close curtains, turn lights on and off or adjust the heating, as well as communicating with staff, without even getting out of bed. These devices can also record data, so that staff at the hotel can become more familiar with the needs of individual guests. This will make it easier to plan ahead. For instance, if one of them is in the habit of ordering some marmite on toast for supper via room service, the staff can be prepared.
In-room tech can also help bolster the green credentials of a hotel. This is good for markets because it enables them to focus on the ecological benefits of a stay at a particular establishment in their marketing material, and can tally well with other green initiatives. It will also be good news for travelers who want to be able to get around without damaging the planet – the sort who might opt to offset the carbon emissions when buying a plane ticket. In-room tech now includes smart thermostats, which can raise or lower the temperature automatically when the guest leaves or enters the room. More advanced versions can even become used to a guest’s schedules; for example, if they are in the habit of coming back to the room in late afternoon for an hour before taking tea downstairs, the thermostat could switch itself on slightly early to adjust the temperature before the guest gets there. The win-win benefits extend to the hotel in terms of cost savings, as these thermostats can help to reduce energy usage considerably by only using it to control temperature when this is absolutely necessary.
Who pays for it all?
One question hotels must consider before they fit a lot of in-room technology is how this helps the finances of the establishment. One positive is that the quality of the service will add to the luxury factor and thus justify higher charges. Indeed, the provision of excellent tech facilities may be what marks a hotel out as ‘luxury’.
As a result, the tech may pay for itself, but the hotel must be aware of its market. There will be no point piling up all the latest gadgetry if it is aiming at budget travellers. As such, while keeping guests happy is nice, it is important that the marketers and those actually providing the services are aiming at the same thing to start with.