The impact of technology on the hospitality industry has been wide-ranging, multi-faceted and, almost without exception, totally pervasive. Traveller and guest services have been digitally enhanced at every imaginable level.

Some changes have been directly tangible and noticeable at a surface level to everyone. At the same time, many hospitality industry technology developments have been brought in at a more infrastructural level and are not immediately obvious to the average user or customer.

Big hospitality, big data

Extending the now comparatively well-developed sphere of loyalty cards and customer tracking programmes one level below the surface is the world of ‘big data’ analytics.

Not as complicated as it sounds, big data is simply data that could be information about absolutely anything. This could be anything from food and drink preferences to how many face towels a hotel guest gets through and what room temperature they set their thermostat at.

Typical hospitality industry big data might range from how many times a guest has stayed in a particular region at a particular time of year. It might also include restaurant preferences, whether a person always uses an airport to hotel shuttle and even what time they typically use in room booking services.

But hospitality industry big data goes a whole lot deeper. Within the confines of an agreed and acceptable level of privacy in terms of information sharing, hospitality specialists can now start to digitise to an increasingly more granular level.

Pressure sensitive minibars can now act as smart fridges to reorder room service based on user preferences. But what about when that guest books to travel with a larger working group and openly nominates themselves as the host? Big data can use algorithms to order extra pleasantries and amenities for all tagged guests in a designated party. It can even tie in to transport services to ensure larger cars or limousines are booked for travel needs and so much more.

The point to take on board here is not the layer upon layer of hospitality services that we might be able to think of connecting, it is the fact that all of this will happen automatically once we create the systems to programmatically direct the industry itself.

Artificial Hospitality Intelligence (AHI)

Going forward, these hospitality data systems will start to use machine learning and Artificial Intelligence to teach themselves how to enhance customers’ experiences.

Travellers will start to navigate their way through what we now think of as ‘smart cities’ with digitised traffic systems and data recorders monitoring everything from weather to special events of interest and wider environmental factors.

This information will be fed to a dedicated ‘hotel app’ on the user’s smartphone to give them alerts based on the preferences they set. This type of technology already exists, but it is about to become even more personal.

Hotels are now embracing room keys on dedicated mobile apps in favour of (or in addition to) electronic credit card door keys. These apps can not only act as door openers, but can also be used for booking, checking in and concierge services.

Once we connect the user’s big data to the hotel app downloads, the flight information, the restaurant preferences, the wristband behaviour and the payment history to the number of drinks consumed at the minibar and the sensor-monitored room thermostat data… then you can start to imagine the next future in hospitality.

Electronic soap

The question for the future is a big one. If we can monitor everything, then where do we stop? Should we track soap usage by weight sensitive soap dishes in hotels? Well, probably not. Should we set peanut bowls to automatically refill at the bar? That’s probably not economically viable or strategically profitable either.

Should we set out hospitality technology systems to order extra carpet shampoo services whenever a large team of famous sports athletes uses a hotel? Actually yes, that is precisely the kind of implied intelligence we are talking about here – using computer systems to think big and use contextual knowledge to help our hospitality services run better.

The bottom line will be focused on improved profitability for hospitality specialists at one level. But hospitality is all about people, so the final bottom line will be focused on creating more meaningful experiences for customers through digitally driven personalised services.

Have an even nicer day.