How Technology is Affecting the Hotel industry in 2015

Technology is always evolving, trying to make our lives that little bit easier and hopefully more enjoyable. In the case of the hotel industry, technology has to offer either value and/or comfort to the customer, or reduced cost to the hotelier. With the continued rise of social media, mobiles and tablets in everyday life, understanding how to use these technologies in the travel industry is proving a significant factor for customer satisfaction in 2015.

Hotel Direct surveyed over 1,000 of their customers about technology and its effect on their travel experience.

Key Findings

  1. For over half of all respondents (55.7%), the presence of technology would encourage them to book with that hotel
  2. Mobile-based room technologies were favoured over other technologies among respondents interested in extra tech
  3. Incentives would encourage 41.8% to post a status or picture about their hotel experience on social media
  4. The most popular incentives were free food (26%) and drink (20%), followed by spa treatments (13%) and other respondent-defined options
  5. Of those who answered, 89% of respondents use review sites to research their hotel choice before booking

Introduction

Over the past year, Hotel Direct has seen an increase in bookings via mobile phones; between March 23rd 2013 and March 23rd 2014, mobile bookings accounted for 7% of all online transactions, while in the same period from 2014 to 2015 this rose to 9%. This increase is only set to continue as more people use mobile phones for everyday purchasing, and websites and apps become a lot more mobile-accessible.

With the rise of Apple Pay, Google Wallet and other NFC platforms allowing users to pay via contactless with their phones in over 250,000 worldwide locations, the “mobile wallet” is sure to be one of the key new technologies introduced into the mobile phone industry in 2015.

Social media is also a significant tool in promoting hotels and experiences; something many hoteliers are picking up on. Shared content, such as social media statuses, selfies and reviews are considered far more trustworthy than paid advertisements online, lending an authenticity to a hotel’s reputation - for better and for worse. Studies have shown that, rather than only sharing positive experiences, social media users will share anything that prompts a “high arousal emotion”, such as excitement, or anger (see Jonah Berger’s “The Science of Sharing” in the Harvard Business Review). Therefore to encourage social media endorsement, hotels must aim for these positive high-arousal emotions such as excitement and surprise.

In this survey, Hotel Direct has looked into how technology affects a potential guest at the decision-making and booking process, and how they share their experiences online.

Research and Booking

The opinions of other holidaymakers are definitely top priority when it comes to researching a specific hotel; survey results confirmed guest-submitted reviews and photos are a major factor for those planning a trip.

Huge majority uses review sites to judge hotel decision

Review sites are so highly regarded that many hotels, restaurants and bars display their TripAdvisor ratings in their display windows. It’s easy to see why businesses have taken the reviews on board: Hotel Direct found that 66% of respondents were “partly encouraged” to book based on review sites, while a further 22.3% were at “encouraged”.

When you review a website, how much do review based sites sway your decision on choosing a specific hotel?

Encourage
Partly Encourage
Not at All

Facebook highest among social media research patterns

Perhaps more surprisingly, many users also check social media to find photographs of their chosen destination; among these, Facebook was by far the most popular with 69.9%, likely thanks to its ubiquitousness and the user's’ ability to post directly to a business’s page.

Pre booking - what social media channel would you use to research your hotel?

Instagram
Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest

Of all surveyed respondents, 37% stated that they do not use social media at all when researching their hotel.

Room Technology

By adding modern additions to hotel rooms, hoteliers can be provide an extra element of comfort and luxury, not only making the visit more pleasant for the guest but also contributing towards the hotel’s branding.

Added tech would “encourage” over half of potential guests

Respondents were asked whether the presence of technology (not specified in the question) would encourage them to book. 55.7% said that it would, indicating an overall interest in what hotels might have to offer in terms of added value and comfort; only 20% said it would actively discourage them from booking.

Would the presence of tech encourage / discourage you from booking a hotel?

N/A
Discourage
Encourage

Respondents were given a list of options for high-tech hotel room additions, and asked which they would prefer. Out of these options, a whopping 82.8% chose the options regarding mobile technology, with 38.1% wishing to see a mobile app to control the comfort of the room (such as temperature, lighting and blackout blinds), while 44.7% opted for a mobile app to use as a room key via NFC.

What type of tech would you like to see in your hotel room?

Surround Sound Speakers
Mobile App
Mobile Key

However, somewhat revealingly, these answers only appealed to 39.1% of all respondents surveyed; 60.9% did not answer or chose “None of the above”. Of the people who gave their own answers, the most common were improved versions of those which already exist in most hotel rooms, such as air conditioning, internet connection and TV quality.

Incentives and Social Media Sharing

Keen to capitalise on potential brand ambassadors, canny hoteliers and travel operators have coined the term ‘Braggie’; an envy-inducing selfie aimed at creating more word of mouth business. The smartest operators offer incentives for your Braggie, such as a free drinks, meals, WI-FI or spa treatments. So is this working - and can the Braggie be better harnessed?

Only 41.8% would be swayed to share with incentives

Hotel Direct asked how respondents would feel about being asked to share a status or photograph about their hotel experience, in exchange for incentives and bonuses. Just over half (55.1%) said they would not do so, while 42% were more positive about the idea.

Would you post a picture or status on social media if the hotel you booked offered incentives for you?

Yes
No
No answer

Many social media users are careful about how they use their platforms; and this cautiousness is reflected in how respondents felt about incentivised promotions for a hotel. In a survey by the New York Times, 68% of respondents said they share content to give other people a better sense of who they are and to define themselves to others. Most significantly, 94% said they aim to share “valuable and entertaining” content. The concept of a hotel incentivising sharing may be less appealing than the hotel offering an experience that the user would naturally wish to share as part of this desire to inform others and define their own lifestyle to their peers.

Freebies top the list of sharing incentives

Of those who use social media and would post a picture or status in exchange for an incentive, free food and drink were by far the most popular choices, with a combined 63.7% of the given answers, while 18.6% opted for spa treatments.

What incentive would make you most likely to post a picture on social media?

Drinks
Meals
Wi-Fi
Spa
Other

However of all the respondents, 27.8 chose “other”, a segment that represented a diverse selection of people including those who don’t currently use social media, and those who would prefer wider benefits such as discounts, upgrades and even free nights in the hotel.

Conclusions

Overall, the first priority for most respondents was an improvement on the features and benefits they’re already used to, such as improved air conditioning and bigger TVs. This is also reflected in the high interest around additional technology based on their mobiles; devices they’re already familiar and comfortable with.

Adjusting to new technologies takes time in any industry, and in the hotel business, where luxury is key, finding the right balance is essential to ensure guests still feel that their experience is personal. However, novelty is a game-changer for technology-lovers, and it’s that demographic that is most likely to share new innovations online - just take a look at the robot butler video that went viral in August 2015.

The next step for the hotel industry would be to look at what high-end hotels are doing successfully, and to survey mid and low-end hotel guests to find differences in technological priorities. This way, each hotel can ensure its investments are an accurate reflection of its demographic, improving the experience and brand ambassador potential of each guest.


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