Hotel guests want more but hoteliers aren’t keeping up with their needs

By the year 2020, the industry will see a new breed of highly sophisticated and digital native hotel guests who will be better informed, seek unique experiences, have higher expectations and also expect recognition. But hoteliers may not be ready for them: According to a new report, the industry technology remains stuck in the early 2000s. 

This is the research finding from "The Hotel Industry in 2020" carried out by Peter O’Connor, a professor at ESSEC Business School, and IDeaS Revenue Solutions, Revinate and SiteMinder. The study’s results were from a survey of leading hoteliers around the world, and from a "visioning" session with experienced hoteliers and consultants at last November’s World Travel Market in London.

“The combined research explored anticipated hotel guests of 2020, as well as the technology needed to cater to their needs,” O’Connor said. “We wanted to hear directly from hoteliers about how the future traveller would look, and the measures needed to prepare for them.”

According to O’Connor, participants anticipate highly sophisticated guests who seek unique experiences, have higher expectations and also expect recognition.

As "digital natives," they will rely primarily on mobile devices to engage with hotels before, during and after their hotel stay. Key differentiators such as flexibility, value and control are predicted to play a larger role in the guests’ buying decisions than human interaction, according to the study.

When asked which technology hotels could not be without in 2020, respondents named those already implemented in many hotels, including revenue-management systems, customer-relationship-management systems, property-management systems, channel managers and e-marketing solutions.

But the report reveals that despite middleware’s potential, in reality hotel customer data remains highly siloed. Few systems integrate with each other at anything other than a basic level — and without a single, comprehensive profile of the guest, their preferences and transactions, few data-driven initiatives can work properly. Other roadblocks included data protection and privacy issues, as many countries limit guest information storage; and industry conservatism with few hotels pushing boundaries and most tending to stick with well-established systems in the marketplace.

Expert panelists—largely operational managers and consultants from the U.K. and European hotel properties and technology arenas—nominated middleware, artificial intelligence and machine learning systems, predictive-analysis tools and management dashboards to have more integrated views of the guest, along with messaging solutions and Bluetooth beacons to drive deeper engagement.