According to Horwath HTL, Singapore’s hotel supply’s growth rate is expected to rebound to 2.5 per cent in 2019, before falling again in 2020. In Asia Pacific, hotel investment volumes are predicted to grow by 15 per cent year-on-year in 2019. With such figures in mind, it will be important to take note of trends in the industry.
To clarify, the hotel industry differs from the hospitality industry. While there are certainly overlaps, the hospitality industry is comparatively broader in scope as it includes multiple different sectors relating to general leisure such as restaurants, tourism, accommodation and more. In contrast, the hotel industry revolves exclusively around the provision of guest accommodation and related services.
Here are some top trends in the hotel industry.
Seamless guest experience with digitalisation
According to a commentary by CNA, the future of hotels will become more seamless and may see more robotic integration in guest experiences. For instance, guests may be able to check in well ahead of their arrival. Upon arrival, a robot may be able to serve pre-ordered drinks, take guests’ luggage to guest rooms, and deliver room services. Room entry may also be done through a smartphone app as opposed to an electronic card or key.
With digitalisation, the guest experience is expected to become more seamless and there may be less waiting involved.
Sustainability playing a part
Eco resorts are likely to increase in prominence given the sustainability trend. In Singapore, the new Mandai resort opening in 2023 will have guest rooms in treehouses shaped like seedpods, elevated walkways in a forest canopy, and interactive nature walks. Operated by Banyan Tree Holdings and designed by local architectural firm WOW Architects, this resort will occupy undisturbed areas to ensure the retention of more than half the trees on site. With energy-saving measures such as the use of natural ventilation and solar panels, the resort will also have elevation to allow native wildlife to move across the site. Not only is this initiative sustainable, its integration with nature also acts as a point of differentiation, allowing it to attract more guests.
Located in the Central Business District (CBD), PARKROYAL on Pickering features a 300-metre-garden walk. Infinity bathtubs in the Orchid Club Suites are also produced with recycled composite granite. All rooms have recycle bins and automated dimming lights. The hotel also uses solar-powered systems and rain harvesting to minimise energy and water use respectively.
Oasis Hotel Downtown took down walls on four sides of their lobby and on the 21st floor to allow a steady natural draft. This way, air-conditioning is not required in common areas. JW Marriott Hotel Singapore South Beach has a microclimatic canopy that harvests rainwater and converts solar energy to electricity. In addition, it also acts as a naturally ventilated shelter for guests beneath it. Wide windows reduce the need for artificial lighting by allowing natural sunlight in, and rooms are fitted with LED night lights to lower electricity use. Overall, hotels are expected to evolve and become more sustainable.
Virtual Reality (VR) hotel tours
Holding a VR hotel tour allows potential visitors to have a first-person and hands on perspective of the hotel’s facilities. By staying up to date with this digital trend, hotels are able to educate potential guests about how to navigate the premises via a walkthrough.
Take the Atlantis Dubai Virtual Tour and Holiday Inn’s Express Adelaide Tour for instance. Viewers are able to navigate the hotel premises and experience how a stay can potentially feel like from end to end just by clicking on a few buttons on screen. This can serve as an impactful marketing tool.
To improve efficiency and to streamline processes, the hotel industry may skew towards service automation. Self-service kiosks, online registration, and even the ability to pre-set room amenities are becoming increasingly common. That said, the human touch is still likely to stay as opposed to being completely removed in order to provide a more customised and intimate hotel experience to guests.
In Singapore, cleaning robots will be available island-wide by March 2020. Such robots are being leased out by LionsBot on a subscription model. Design and development costed S$5 million over two years. The leasing can cost between S$1,350 and S$2,150 a month. It will be unsurprising to see such robots, which will also aid in vacuum-cleaning, sweeping, mopping, and transporting cleaning equipment, serving hotels.
In addition, hospitality oriented robots can also be a point of innovation that attracts guests. In Japan, Henn-na Hotel is entirely staffed by robots. Front desk duties, storage services, check in and check out procedures are all managed by robots and coupled with voice and facial recognition technologies. In addition, Hilton and IBM also created a robot concierge named Connie to answer guest queries with it speech recognition abilities. With each additional interaction, the robot is able to learn and improve
These robots are comparatively more accurate and consistent than humans. They are able to perform repeated tasks without boredom or fatigue. That being said, the initial research, investment and maintenance costs may be substantial. The robots are also unable to act beyond what is programmed, unlike a human being.
Instead of a physical robot, chatbots may be a more cost-efficient alternative for firms that do not have the working capital to take on robotics. Chatbots can be incorporated into the company’s site to respond to common guest queries with immediacy. They act as a personalised search engine for the hotel and may even lead to higher booking rates. Additionally, data collected from the common questions raised can be helpful in deciding how to improve the hotel as a whole.
Marriott International’s Aloft Hotels brand launched ChatBotlr mobile services which enables its guests to text service requests and find out more about the hotel when the guest is not in the hotel grounds at any time. It uses natural language understanding as well as machine learning to improve. About two out of three guests experienced a five-second response time.
One thing to note would be the need to ensure that the chatbot is capable of identifying various dialects or slangs. Considering that the site will be accessed by global guests, the chatbot will need to learn and adapt accordingly by providing language options. Should the hotel would like to consider delving into robotics for expansion, business financing means such as P2P lending or business loans may be useful.
Chatbots are not unique to the hotel industry. In fact, many industries dealing with customer experience are actively exploring ways to use them.
Expanding types of accommodation
Many are familiar with resorts, hotels, serviced apartments, bed and breakfasts, inns, motels, and hostels as types of accommodation available. However, this list is expected to expand alongside the increase in demand for more unique guest experiences.
Take the Time Capsule Retreat in Malaysia for example. It is a pipe cylinder that has been whimsically converted into rooms. The adorable dome-shaped houses in ASO Farm Land in Japan have also attracted a large following. In Vietnam, there are quirky-looking mushroom shaped treehouses at Dao Anh Khanh Studio Treehouses located in the middle of nature, with art sculptures sprinkled around the area. All these are examples of unique accommodation types that will aid in drawing new customers in.
The hotel industry will continue to evolve over time. As guests look for a more immersive and experiential stay, hotels may need to relook at their entire brand experience. For instance, in terms of food provision, generic menus may need to be swapped out with local and traditional cuisines. Instead of offering typical walking tours in commercial areas filled with tourists, hotels may want to research on unique or hidden places patronised by locals instead. Staying on trend and ahead of the curve will be crucial for firms to stay afloat and competitive.