Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Is the hospitality industry set to be disrupted? China’s first-ever “furniture experience” hotel has been established, according to a recent article on brandchannel.com. Guests who fall in love with anything from the scatter cushions to the artworks found in the hotel can buy them from the Sofitel Foshan Hotel. Interestingly, this is not a new concept, as Westin sells its beds online and, for some time, Marriott hotels have been making both their beds and bedding available for sale to guests.

The ever-more sophisticated consumer clearly has more on his or her mind these days than just bed and breakfast when booking into a hotel. Marriott International has proved itself to be somewhat of a disrupter in this regard within the hospitality industry, understanding that guests will gravitate towards brands that make their experience more memorable.

The use of technology has been key to Marriott’s strategy, as has the understanding that consumers want to make the most of their adventures and shy away from the “one size fits all” approach to travel. The brand has focused on personalised experiences and emotional connections and has established a reputation as a leader in the development of new technologies in the industry.

The big take-out:

The hospitality industry is not immune to the demands of a more sophisticated traveller, with the result that a number of brands are disrupting the industry by providing guests with tech-forward focused accommodation and innovation that will add to the travel experience.

Mobile has been the most significant element of the technology drive for Marriott, given that most guests have adopted mobile as their technology of choice. For Marriott, it is a driver of additional revenue and a way to improve the guest experience. The hotel group has introduced a mobile app which has proved advantageous at a number of touch points, including throughout the consumer’s stay, as well as before and after.

Keyless check-ins allow guests to skip the check-in rigmarole at the front desk and go straight to their rooms, using the app on their smartphones to unlock their doors.

From keyless check-ins to robotic butlers – “Botlr” is a first-of-its-kind robot designed specifically for Aloft hotels. Botlr is powered by beacon technology and is designed to assist the front desk by picking up and delivering anything guests may request from the lobby to their rooms. For example, if a guest requests an extra towel, a hotel staff member will place it inside Botlr, program the guest’s room number and the robot will then navigate its way to the room, placing a call to the room once it is outside the door.

Luxury and lifestyle brands in the hospitality sector place a strong emphasis on style and design. Consumers today want a travel experience to be that much better than what they have at home and cutting-edge décor and design is no longer solely the domain of the affluent traveller – it is expected at every price point. Millennials, in particular, expect to be inspired by sleek contemporary design when they travel, including communal and hi-tech public spaces for work and play, flexible rooms, curated artwork and locally infused amenities.

Ultimately, players in today’s hospitality landscape need to be delivering something aside from the traditional hotel experience – a tech-forward, vibrant engagement that will enhance travel for guests across all touch points.

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