Innovation is at the top of mind of most senior management executives across industries- be it healthcare, banking, insurance or retail. While it is vociferously debated in corporate boardrooms and companies have aligned deliverables to be met on a quarterly basis with most industries we associate digital transformation with, there are a number of others which are surprisingly slow in the adoption curve. One such industry where innovation is still picking up pace is the hospitality industry.

While there is a visible commitment from the top management to embark on the digital transformation journey, a price sensitive competitive marketplace with razor-thin margins leading to insufficient resources, lack of expertise, cultural challenges and legacy IT infrastructure that is often not able to keep pace with the speed of business are primary reasons for this slower adoption.

Having said that there has been certainly signs of significant progress and a strong indication that the hospitality industry is absolutely ripe for their journey to an innovative offering.

Here are the key innovation trends that hospitality companies should keep in mind as they embark on this ambitious digital business transformation:

1. Personalization and Customer centricity

Like the case in any other industry, placing the customer at the very center of your digital transformation initiatives is the key to success. Companies are increasingly leveraging on sophisticated big-data analytics to personalize their offerings for their guests to meet their preferences. While personalized email and notifications are already in use, your in-room experience is increasingly being personalized based on the things that would make you feel comfortable. Leisure micro-travel modules (with less hectic itineraries) focusing on a guest’s particular interests are increasingly being adopted and are a sign of the changing trends.

This has been ably helped by technology enhancements in the home automation space and are increasingly being tapped in for hospitality companies to better understand their guests. As more and more devices get connected to the Internet of Things (IoT), it makes sense that the tourism and hospitality industry would begin to harness that data to improve the customer experience. Not to mention it opens up unlimited possibilities for cross-selling and upselling.

Expect personalization to play an even larger role in the hospitality industry in days to come as customer experience takes the center stage.

2. Technology revamping the hotel experience

Emerging technologies are increasing finding immense acceptance in the hospitality. While blockchain is revamping the loyalty programs and the quicker (and more reliable) identification of guests, AI powered apps and chatbots have given guests access to information at any time they need in the form of an e-concierge. Interactive hotel rooms, gamification and augmented hotel environments are some of the use cases of AR/VR which are finding their way in the connected hotel room. While Holiday Inn created an augmented reality hotel experience, which allowed guests to point their smartphone and see realistic virtual depictions of famous celebrities in the hotel, Best Western experimented with augmented reality and Disney stars, allowing children to see themselves alongside their favorite Disney film characters.
A museum or a tourist destination you wish to visit- well, you could now get a preview of what your experience would be like there in the comfort of your hotel room!

We are just seeing the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how emerging technologies are revamping the hotel experience. There is a lot more which will be done in the near future which would just add to the customer delight.

3. Mobile integration

The hospitality business doesn’t even exist without a mobile presence. There has been an exponential increase with mobile-first and mobile-only brands which continue to cater to the evolving customer. Today, a guest can do practically anything on their phone, from checking in—to ordering room service—to unlocking the room door itself. Not to forget that guests can book instantly also means they can share their opinions instantly via Facebook, Yelp, TripAdvisor and other travel review websites. This has pushed hospitality brands to focus more on providing quality customer service and impeccable guest experiences.

Digital transformation’s expanding footprint in the hospitality industry isn’t just confined to getting your hotel reservations at the click of a mouse, it is expanding into how a prospective guest views and interacts with your brand. Investing in your digital capabilities today is no longer a luxury, but a glaring necessity. There is no substitute for better understanding and serving your customer and the digital vision could only be a reality through persistent efforts to transform your customer experience.

Digital transformation, in fact, has overwhelmed the entire hospitality ecosystem, triggering a formidable rise in competition, as brands need to measure up to customers’ rising expectations. While many of the bigger brands are attempting to respond to the change by significantly investing in capabilities, the more ambitious ones have launched their accelerators to help scout startups which would support their digital transformation journey.
A trillion-dollar industry with optimistic growth projections over the next few years, innovation would be the key if the expectations of the empowered traveler are to be met.