The digitization process continues unobtrusively but steadily, leaving no industries out. That’s why it only makes sense to jump on the digitization bandwagon quickly and carefully. The hotel industry is also going through the process of digitalization more than ever, and this despite the fact that the hotel industry has always been a „high touch industry“ that has always been about personal service. Especially in times of a pandemic, people try to have as little contact with other people as possible. COVID is thus pushing digitization forward.
However, because this process is new and you are entering uncharted territory, it brings challenges. In this article, you’ll learn what exactly you can expect as a hotelier when it comes to digitizing the hotel industry.
The digitization of the hotel industry
Traditional and conservative hotel concepts ruled the market for a long time, however, the hotel industry is more or less forced to keep up with the upheaval and change, which makes a lot of sense, especially for cost savings. The consequences of the pandemic are hitting the hotel industry hard. The hospitality industry had to close for a long time and then was allowed to reopen with the right measures, but the normal occupancy rate, which is about 60%, could not be reached.
Large hotels in particular struggled with this. Small, family-run businesses that work with a digital concept, on the other hand, had a more or less good booking rate. These companies have worked ahead on three important points and simplified certain processes with a digital concept. Basically, this is about the staff and the associated tasks in the area of check-in, issuing invoices and booking management.
There are two aspects of digitization in the hotel industry to consider: digitization on the side of the processes that run in the background and that which the guest can experience directly. Many businesses in the hotel industry do not fully exploit the potential of digitization and thus run the risk of being left behind. The development of a digital concept in the three previously mentioned areas is quite simple.
Such concepts bring advantages, because it can help the company in economic terms. The processes run more efficiently, they are more economical and they are more sustainable. With the right marketing, it is also possible to increase the number of bookings. Hotel businesses ideally want to be ranked #1 in Google searches to increase visibility and booking rates. This is possible, among other things, through Google reviews.
On the other hand, guests are offered a straightforward and special experience through a digitized concept. This begins with the search for a hotel and ends with an evaluation of the guest. In between, one can then encounter many small, yet significant modernizations that impress the „Instagram generation“ in particular.
The challenges lie first in the following place: planning. What specifically can you work with in your business? Which technical systems can you use sensibly and offer you and your guests added value?
Each technological achievement must be individually adapted to your hotel operation, which at the same time means that not every gimmick will necessarily be applied. In general, however, all hotel businesses can drive digitization at the following points: before the stay, during the stay, and after the stay.
Before the stay, the online distribution of the hotel is the be-all and end-all. Via the own homepage and via OTAs (Online Travel Agencies) the most important questions of potential guests have to be answered immediately. With a smartphone in their pocket, guests can quickly gather information and stumble across many offers that promise the best prices. For this reason, the first step for the hotel industry is to drive the digitization process in online marketing. They can do this by having a presence on all popular online platforms and being simultaneously accessible via OTAs.
Guests book more often via booking platforms and less via their own homepages. Direct bookings are important, because this way you avoid commission payments. In order to achieve a desirable booking utilization rate of 60% without third-party providers, the booking process via your own website must be straightforward and fast. So the challenge here is to keep up with booking platforms. To achieve this, the online presence must be increased and the booking process simplified.
Digitization is not about replacing skilled workers, but about facilitating work processes. During the stay, a digitalized check-in and check-out process is therefore important. Such a digital process avoids long queues, is more time-saving and thus relieves staff. This is done via an app or website-based tools. For the modern guest, speed and simplicity are crucial. Therefore, companies should always keep these features in mind during the digitization process. The big advantage here is that your guests would no longer be tied to check-in times, which in turn increases booking potential.
The highlight for the guest should be a digitized or smart hotel room. The extent to which you want to design this depends primarily on your target group and the hotel concept created with it. The new generation in particular will be thrilled by a digital experience. Controlling lights, heating or blinds via a touchpad, smartphone or tablet can create excitement. Especially since it resembles many smart, private homes. A must-have is the digital guest folder, which keeps guests informed and is especially important at COVID times. A digital room service is also exciting for the guest. However, all this does not work without a stable and fast Internet connection. Therefore, this must first be ensured. How digitization is then to be implemented must be adequately planned. Moreover, these processes can also be implemented in the lobby, kitchen and bar. Ordering food via smartphone and automated kitchen machines? Something like that would be conceivable.
These are all challenges that need to be overcome. First and foremost, the actual planning can be simplified by involving experts. In this industry, it is important to stand out, so a special (digitized) concept is crucial.
The potential for change is high in the area of digitization in the hotel industry. The focus is on simplifying processes that benefit both the guest and the operation. Above all, you should know already in the planning stage how you want to reach your guests through a technical advance and what is feasible in your hotel. Although this is costly in terms of investment, it favors booking figures in the future and saves time at various points. An investment in digitization thus pays off in the long term.