Mr. Wolfe

Mobile Technology

11 Ways Your Hotel Experience Could Change Because of Mobile Technology

The future of the world traveler and hotelier

By Frank I. Wolfe, CEO, Hospitality Financial & Technology Professionals

In such a short amount of time, mobile technology has changed the way that the world does just about everything. There's no doubt about it; smart mobile devices are dictating how we live our lives. With these mobile devices in our hands, and media and information up in The Cloud, there are limitless possibilities for access.

This is a game-changing development for the hospitality industry.

It is opening a variety of delivery mechanisms for personal guest services that are affordable, efficient and easy to use. Not only is it now easier to travel the world, it is also easier for hotels to operate and could change how guests interact with a hotel.

World traveling made easy thanks to my mobile devices

As CEO of Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP), a global professional association, I have first-hand experience as a world traveler. In fact, in the last six months, I have traveled to countries that speak Mandarin, German, French and Spanish. For the record, I only speak English with a smidgen of Spanish.

During these trips, I have used my mobile devices to communicate very effectively with taxi drivers, front desk personnel, housekeepers, concierge and food service staff using my translator on my mobile device. I watched movies and television programs in English, read my local newspaper online, had the opportunity (through a hotel's French Facebook page) to join an "after work group" and even made dinner reservations in Chinese. In one country, my French speaking taxi driver got lost, and much to her relief, I had both a map "app" and the translator so we made it to the airport in plenty of time for my flight.

Mobile technology has definitely made my life as a traveler easier, but the benefits don't stop there.

Throw out the three ring binders

Mobile technology is also affecting the realm of hotel staff, including marketing teams and meeting planners to name a few.

Both the sales/marketing staff and event planners are now able to carry every bit of information related to a special promotion or meeting around the hotel through a tablet, or even on their cell phone. This can often include literally hundreds of Banquet Event Orders (BEOs) that no longer need to be printed and carried around in those old heavy three-ring binders. By using software like DropBox or a PDF Reader, a mobile device easily replaces the three ring binders.

Meeting professionals can save precious minutes when there is a crisis by having all the information they need at their finger tips, no matter where they are on the property. This can result in better customer service and less confusion from updated BEOs.

Hotels and meeting planners are also using mobile devices to garner real time information from their guests and making immediate changes. Using social media, hoteliers can communicate with those writing about their stay at a hotel by offering a simple "Thanks for staying with us" message back or quickly fixing customer service issues raised online.

Social media on mobile devices is also great for last minute marketing deals at hotels. For example, if the bar is empty tonight, the hotel can send out immediate specials via a meeting's app, tweet, text and other social media outlets. Those following the hotel feel like they're getting an insider's deal, while the hotel bar is getting more business than it would have.

The futuristic hotel room's take on mobile technology

So far, the things mentioned above are already happening today. But what about the future?

As a service to our members and the industry, HFTP researches and educates about the future of guest room technology through a project called GUESTROOM 20X. Produced by HFTP, this futuristic guest room exhibit features the latest and near-future technologies for a modern hotel room. A new version of the hands-on exhibit is produced every other year, with the next one debuting at HITEC 2012 in Baltimore, Md. on June 26. Technologies in the exhibit include non-traditional types such as lighting, eco-friendly products, fabrics and furniture, as well as traditional technology such as next-generation televisions, telephones and other appliances.

I have presented a portable version of GUESTROOM 20X around the globe and the greatest success I believe that has come from this project is the open dialogue among industry professionals.

The most talked about items from the current version have to do with mobile-friendly technologies. If this trend continues, how we think of hotels will soon vastly change.

Let's fast forward into the future to see how a hotel might soon interact with a guest.

A mobile device's journey through a futuristic hotel

Imagine a day in the not-too-distant future when a frequent VIP guest walks into the lobby of a hotel and his mobile device is recognized by a personal IP address (similar to a domain name).

A message is automatically broadcast to the kitchen that he has arrived, allowing the kitchen to text him that his favorite vintage wine is being offered as a special this evening, and if he'd prefer they can have a bottle delivered to his room.

Simultaneously, the general manager is alerted, allowing her to send a personal video welcome to the guest from her mobile device.

The guest's digital cash application is accessed and a deposit for his room is taken. At the same time, an encrypted code is sent to the device, allowing the guest to open his room and pictures from the guest's "cloud account" are loaded as artwork in the room.

While walking through the lobby, the elevator recognizes the device IP address and prepares to deliver the guest to the appropriate floor. As the elevator rises, the guest - using voice recognition - selects the warmth of the room, closes the blackout curtains, tells his device what time to wake him up and orders room service.

Once the guest arrives inside the guest room, he places his mobile devices on his nightstand. The mobile device accesses his "Cloud" music account and begins to play his favorite songs, as his device begins to recharge on the nightstand using low voltage electricity conducted wirelessly.

All of these things happen without the guest interacting face-to-face with a hotel staff member.

Think this situation sounds too much like the Jetsons? It's not. A lot of the technologies used in that scenario already exist - they just need to be implemented.

11 ways a guest's hotel experience could drastically change

As the above example illustrates, mobile technology has the potential to make many things in today's hotel room drastically different, if not obsolete. In the near-future, you could be interacting with your hotel room in ways you haven't even though about - all because of your mobile device. And since many of these technologies are already available to implement in your hotel, it's only a matter of time.

Here is a sampling of items that may be drastically different in some hotels of the near future:

1. Currency

Some banks, mobile developers and credit card companies are already creating a mobile wallet, allowing you to pay for your room and more by picking which credit card you want to use and securely delivering the transaction to the hotel's computer -all from your mobile device. There's no need to carry a separate wallet or cash.

2. Hotel Room Keys

Technologies already exist that allow guests to safely use their mobile device as a room key by sending an encrypted signal to the guest's cell phone that is unique to each user.

3. In-Room Phone

When was the last time you really needed your hotel room phone? Almost everything you can do on a standard hotel room phone can be accomplished on a smart mobile device. Once hotels find a way for guests to contact the front desk in case of emergency (either a text messaging system or an intercom could work), then those bulky phones could be history.

4. Concierge Desk

With virtual concierges available wherever you are on the property, there will be no need to go downstairs to the lobby to have a concierge make your dinner reservations, tell you about the museums in the area or help you plan a romantic night for your date.

5. Room Service

With the use of apps, you won't be tethered to your room in order to get room service. Using the locator on your mobile device, room service is able to deliver your order to you anywhere on the property.

6. Front Desk Attendant

This hotel staff's position could soon change as guests adapt to using their mobile device as a hotel room key and with hotels able to send a room bill via e-mail.

7. Printed Hotel Promotional Material

Hotel marketers can stop worrying about outdated printed material in each room. Guests can scan a QR code using their mobile device and learn the latest happenings at the hotel and in the area. Hotels only have to update one thing when there is a change - the web page.

8. Alarm Clocks

Who needs a separate alarm clock when you have your trusty mobile device to wake you up?

9. In-Room Entertainment

This is already seeing a hit, as hotels are finding that guests would rather use up bandwidth to watch a movie or play a game on their mobile device than spending extra money on the hotel's in-room entertainment.

10. Thermostats, Light Switches and more

All-in-one systems already exist, allowing guests to have central control of media, lighting, temperatures and more. Some vendors have an app for the home version of this centralized control system, so it's only a matter of time before an app is created for hotel rooms as well.

11. Power cords

Have a rat's nest of mobile device cords in your suitcase? Not anymore. Wireless power charging stations allow you to charge your mobile devices without all those pesky wires getting in your way and tethering you to an outlet.

No one said it would be easy for hotels

As you can imagine, removing some of these items from a hotel's operations can create opportunities and challenges for hoteliers. Loss of revenue from one mobile device inspired change might lead to new and creative ways to reach the hotel's bottom line because of another change.

If history repeats itself like previous technology integrations, there's one thing we can learn from this: Regardless of how quickly mobile devices integrate into hotel operations and how many processes that they will change, guests are going to demand that the industry embrace mobile devices because guests are integrating them into their everyday lives.

Frank I. Wolfe, CAE is CEO of Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP), which produces the largest hospitality technology conference in the world – HITEC (Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition and Conference). Mr. Wolfe frequently speaks on hospitality finance, technology, social media, travel issues, and meetings industry topics to varied audiences and has presented in more than 20 countries. He has appeared on several television network interviews and programs including CNN, CBS, ABC, NBC, TVAsia, and Bloomberg TV. Mr. Wolfe is also a frequent author and has been published in publications throughout the world. Mr. Wolfe can be contacted at 512-249-5333 or frank.wolfe@hftp.com Extended Bio...

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