Like Amazon changed the retail shopping experience, AirBnb is changing the hotel industry and new technology products and services are paving the way for an entirely new type of guest experience. Today’s hotel guests have high expectations when it comes to tech. A recent study of more than 2,700 travelers found that two-thirds believe it’s important for hotels to invest in technology that enhances the guest experience, and 94% of business travelers want to use their smartphones to communicate with hotel staff and request services on demand.
Read on to discover how business owners and investors can leverage today’s technology in a new age of hospitality.
Invisible Concierge: Unobtrusive Support
Imagine landing at the airport and checking into your hotel from the tarmac, going straight from the airport to your room without waiting in any check-in lines at the registration desk. This dream is a reality thanks to invisible concierge services. Also known as invisible service hotels, this growing travel trend represents a mix between the self-service Airbnb model and a more traditional full service hotel. At an invisible concierge establishment, guests may forgo traditional trappings, such as a front desk check-in, and utilize apps and other digital technology instead. For instance, rather than room keys, guests may receive electronic access codes via email that let them into their rooms. Once they’re “checked in,” guests may use hotel-provided iPads or other devices to order food and services that will then be directly billed to the room, so guests don’t have to use their own credit cards — much like ordering room service in a standard hotel, but with a lot more choices. Often, rooms are wired with technology so guests can access on-demand movies, TV and music, or order pay-per-view selections through streaming services.
But what if there’s an issue that requires attention? While hotel staff may not be as visible on-site, a full cadre of experts is available at the touch of a button. From housekeeping to maintenance to concierge, guests can request more towels, get help with that faulty thermostat or find out about the best restaurants within walking distance simply by texting, calling or emailing. Hotels can even send out a pre-stay survey that records guests’ preferences in order to customize the stay. Invisible concierge services make guests feel at home while reducing overheads costs for hotel owners. It’s a win-win.
These services are also available for apartment and condo unit owners who rent out their units via short term rental programs. Many of these owners utilize AirBnb or other booking sites to manage their bookings, and invisible concierge services are perfect to create a true hotel-like experience for these guests.
Keyless Entry: Benefits to Guests and Owners
We’ve all been there. All you want to do is get into your hotel room, but the card reader doesn’t recognize your card when you swipe it… until it does, on the fifth try, for who knows what reason. Swipe key cards are known for being unpredictable, and the good news is that they’re being replaced by new technology. Many hotels are moving toward keyless entry that turns a guest’s smartphone into their room key. According to Travel Weekly, the largest hotel operators in the U.S. have embraced the keyless entry trend, with chains like Hilton, Starwood and Marriott investing widely in the new technology.
Instead of fumbling with a swipeable key card that may or may not work, guests can simply hold their smart phones near a pad near the door. For guests, benefits include ease of use (no more waiting in line at the front desk to pick up replacement cards), more reliability and freedom from carrying around those key cards. For hotel owners, keyless entry apps also provide another point of contact with customers. In many cases, this means the opportunity to upsell or provide even more customized services. Positive guest feedback and adoption by many major hotel chains have led some industry experts to predict that keyless entry will be the norm at upscale hotels in the future.
Connecting Amenities, Experiences and Food
Guests want a seamless experience – and technology makes it easier to provide that experience. The use of apps, especially when utilized in combination with loyalty programs, allows hoteliers to gather information about guests to be used to provide a customized experience that’s tailored to a guest’s specific preferences. For example, does a guest tend to prefer an upper or lower floor? A non-smoking room? Do they request extra pillows? Do they follow a gluten-free diet? Gathering these bits of data will allow the hotel owner to tailor their guest’s experience to their own preferences, thus building brand loyalty and encouraging repeat business.
In fact, apps are key to providing that seamless experience that integrates amenities, food and services. For instance, offering digital content — like videos, streaming and music — through cloud-based services lets the guests access their choice of mobile content. Studies show that more than 80 percent of guests wish to do so. Further, more than half of guests surveyed indicated that they considered mobile content availability when deciding on which hotel to stay in.
Being able to easily use mobile content, order meals and access amenities through a smart phone creates a seamless experience that guests now desire. A guest app that’s smartly designed will integrate all aspects of the guest experience, all in one single point of access. Whether changing channels, lowering the temperature, making dinner reservations, or checking out, a well-designed guest services app is a trend that we predict is here for the long term.
Converting Apartments to Short Term Rentals à la Airbnb
Speaking of apps, app-based short term rental booking platforms like Airbnb, have taken the hospitality world by storm. With a presence in 65,000+ cities and well over 160 million guests, it’s not difficult to see why many property owners are considering converting their long term rental property into short term rentals and using AirBnb to power it. Airbnb-style properties offer a number of benefits to owners, such as potential for greater monthly income. However, they also provide a higher vacancy risk because without a steady renter, a property could sit idle and not rented for extended periods of time. Of course, you’ll also have to consider expenses for hospitality services, like housekeeping, that are not applicable to traditional long term rental units.
Financing for long-term rental (30-day minimum lease agreements) apartments is readily available, with a variety of programs from short term bridge to long term fixed rate financing. However, financing for AirBnb powered units is still relatively new and while there are lenders that will lend on these types of units, they typically want to see historical occupancy reports to gauge how the property has performed in order to size up the risk.
Apartment-Style Living Hotels
The rise of Airbnb has led some investors to focus on converting hotels to apartment-style living hotels. Instead of the traditional layout with a bed or two and a bathroom, apartment-style living is based on providing the guest a layout that is similar to what they have at home. It’s quickly becoming all about the experience and providing guests with an “at home” type experience is starting to become the norm.
As the hospitality industry continues to adopt new technology, property owners and investors can expect to discover more tech-based solutions. From keyless entry to seamlessly integrated entertainment and amenities, today’s guests expect nothing less.
If you’re seeking to finance a portfolio of short term rental units or seeking to finance a hotel, motel, or other hospitality venture, Raisal can help you find the right lender for your project. With hundreds of lenders and loan programs, and a proprietary, intelligent matching algorithm, getting commercial property financing has never been easier.