We are certainly in a very exciting time in the hospitality sector when it comes to innovation. From robotic concierges to new ways for appealing to the millennial traveler, there is no shortage of new stories to take up the pages of magazines like Hospitality Technology.
In addition, while many of these new innovations are still in the nascent phases, Starwood Hotels is bringing an innovation to life at all 150 Aloft, Element, and W Hotels: using your smartphone as a room key.
Replacing all room keys with your smartphone is certainly cutting-edge, but it brings up some potential challenges. For example, what will the hotelier do for guests who don’t own smartphones, or choose not to use their devices as room keys?
This trend points to a larger issue, which is losing the human-touch element when it comes to guest services. All of these technologies point to a future – much like you would see in a science fiction movie – where guests access a personalized sleeping pod.
While this concept is cool on the surface, we cannot forget that people still like to have human contact. In addition, there may be issues that may arise where a guest actually needs to interact with a hotel employee in a live venue.
In addition, by chasing the millennials, hoteliers may risk losing their baby boomer guests, who have more money to spend. While this may not be the case for all baby boomer guests, the pace of innovation could scare them away. Simply put, baby boomers want a frictionless, and often technology-less, experience that will make them feel comfortable.
We also run the risk of hotels becoming commoditized concrete boxes in the sky. If every hospitality provider offers the same innovations –without a human experience – then we will all ultimately be sleeping in our own separate futuristic pods.
Is this the future that we want for the hotel sector?
Finding the right balance between innovation and human interaction could be the right solution for everyone.