IHG study explores the future of hospitality

Hospitality providers will need to serve guests in a significantly more connected way, striking the right balance between automated solutions and human interaction. Photo credit: InterContinental Hotels Group

Tech-augmented hospitality, nontraditional room types and loyal customers as a result of excellent customer service are three trends that will shape the hospitality experiences at hotels of the future, according to a InterContinental Hotels Group and Amadeus study published this week. "Drivers of Change in Hospitality" is based on a global survey of industry experts and more than 7,500 travel consumers. 

“Modern expectations around travel continue to become more complex and sophisticated, with shifting consumer dynamics and increasingly intelligent technology pushing the boundaries of what is possible,” George Turner, IHG's chief commercial and technology officer, said in a statement. “IHG has proven itself to be pioneering and ambitious over many decades and this paper offers perspective on how the hotel experience could further evolve in the not-too-distant future.”

The research suggests that traditional room types will change dramatically. It will see guests able to swap desks for yoga mats, stream their own content through the in-room TV, or ask for that third-floor room with the view they’ve always loved. Hotel accommodation, which has traditionally been bought in a standard and uniform way, will need to adapt as 61 percent of global travelers state a preference for hotels to be priced in a way that allows them to add on bespoke options. This will see the emergence of attribute-based booking, where guests pick and choose the individual components of their room, marking the end of traditional room types. New selling models will become more mainstream too, with guests able to book a room for a length that suits their needs rather than a traditional overnight stay.

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“The hospitality industry is on the cusp of a new chapter,” Chris Anderson, director of the Center for Hospitality Research, Cornell University said in the statement. “Guests are seeking richer individual relationships and seamless experiences with their hospitality providers, and are willing to share more data and insights than ever before.”

Hospitality providers will need to serve guests in a significantly more connected way, striking the right balance between automated solutions and human interaction. The study details how technology will be used to empower staff to deliver unprecedented levels of service at scale. 

It suggests that technology needs to support human interaction, not replace it, as the majority of guests (67 percent) say they prefer to interact with a person for the emotional interaction. For example, the deployment of real-time translation earphones and smart glasses could ensure that concierges easily interact with guests in their native tongue.

The kind of status usually reserved for luxury or boutique hotels or consumer brands will be available for all, if they can build a loyal following of fans who feel an emotional connection. In the competition for guest loyalty, hospitality providers need to identify how to offer value through delivering memorable, shareable experiences. 

To do this, hotels must understand individual guest needs on each trip, and offer a host of unique and unexpected surprises. In fact, 70 percent of global travelers would like hotels to provide more advice and tips about unique things to do, with only 20 percent saying they currently get ideas from the hotel.

Ongoing guest relationships must be underpinned by technology if they are to function at scale, according to the study. Personal attention and personality will no be longer a characteristic of boutique brands only. Instead, data allows hotels to anticipate the best way to make each individual guest feel valued, whether that is through unexpected perks, experiences or rewards.

Underpinning all of the trends detailed in the study is the emergence of advanced data analytics and artificial intelligence. Without the strong and powerful back-end systems able to crunch through multiple datasets, deliver information to where it is needed and simplify the implementation of new models, it is clear that hospitality providers will struggle to meet the future requirements of guests, the report states. 

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