By Chad Erman, Hospitality Vertical & Regional Manager, Southwest, LPA Systems, an IBM Business Partner and Eric Conrad, Vice President, Travel & Transportation Industry Leader, IBM Global Business Services
You board a flight from New York to Brazil. Before take-off, you tweet, “Headed to Rio de Janiero. Looking forward to drinks on the beach @RioResortHotel.” When you land and turn your mobile on, you have a Twitter response from @RioResortHotel, “We look forward to having you, shall we reserve you a lounge chair?”
It’s this level of personalized response that the new class of connected travelers has come to expect.
The hospitality industry has been going through a period of drastic change over the past several years: Keeping in line with our mobile and instant culture, personalized services now lead the list of must-haves for any hotel or resort. A recent report by Greystripe found a dramatic link between travel activities and mobile device usage. In fact, 67 percent of iPad users are frequent travelers, 60 percent have booked travel on the device and 93 percent regularly engage with the device while traveling.
To continue the opening scenario, upon check-in at your hotel in Brazil, you are provided with the hotel’s branded app offering the concierge’s suggestions for restaurants, to make spa appointments or book local tours. And upon check-out, with a simple text message the hotel will take care of your boarding pass for your flight back home. You reach New York to find a tweet from the hotel with a promotional code for a complimentary upgrade on your next visit.
The world is increasingly social and mobile – think: smartphones, tablets, e-readers – and is inhabited by rising numbers of tech-savvy consumers. More than ever, travel companies must keep pace with trends in mobile and social engagement.
According to the IBM Institute for Business Value “Hotel 2020″ outlook report, mobile and social engagement may soon be the new norm. The report finds many hotel chains are recognizing the opportunity for expansion over the next decade, thanks to recent signs of economic recovery and growth forecasts around the world. At the same time, these hotel chains are experiencing intense competition as guests expect more in the way of personalized services, but want their room rates to stay low.
Today’s hotel guests are demanding intense personalization – hotels will need to be customizable in order to respond to this need. Branding partnerships will play a key role in this changing dynamic. Guests want far more say over the delivery of the hotel experience, from the services offered to how they are delivered. Analytics and intelligent technology that can help anticipate changing customer requirements are critical to compete for the consumer wallet, particularly as today’s hotels need to offer a fully-connected high-tech environment.
In particular, global consumers are exposed to premium services on a daily basis. Over time these experiences translate into expectations, or minimum standards of performance. A decade ago, few hotels offered in-room, low-cost, high-speed Internet services. Today, most hotels have incorporated a wide range of wired and wireless service into their offerings because guests have come to see this as a requirement, not a luxury. As the demands of consumers evolve, so too should hotels in meeting those demands.
The hospitality industry is at the very core of the globalization of international business. Hotels today need to consider the implications of the global context in which they operate with a personalized view of their guests and needs. This view must ensure that a consistent, branded service is delivered from property-to-property as social networks and travel rating sites provide ample channels for customer complaints on service inconsistency and can do considerable damage.
Emerging trends ranging from mobilization to social chatter and globalization is changing the definition of today’s interactive guest and shaping the future of the hospitality industry. Hotels that recognize these forces and embrace innovative means of meeting this standard in their day-to-day operations are likely to outpace their competitors.