Global hospitality is at a crossroads. In the last 20 years, technology has transformed every aspect of the guest journey, from online bookings to in-room services to post-stay feedback. But as technology continues to evolve and advance, what will the hotel industry look like 10 years in the future?
In the past, digitalization was largely driven by companies, as new solutions were introduced to enhance efficiency and target customers more effectively. In the modern era, however, it is customers who are demanding greater connectivity. This is especially true in the hotel industry, which is driven by modern lifestyle trends and the “always-on” mindset of millennial travellers.
In light of these trends, Markland Blaiklock, Centara’s Deputy Chief Executive Officer, explains his vision for the future of the hospitality industry in the next decade: “Ten years from now, I’m sure we will look back and see that the hospitality industry changed much more than predicted, and Asia will continue to be a major catalyst for change. This evolution will be part social and part technological, but the overall goal will be the same: to meet and exceed guests’ expectations,” he commented.
According to Mr. Blaiklock, Centara foresees three significant trends shaping its business, and the entire industry, going forward:
- Travel and work life will become inseparable thanks to improved technology and faster connectivity. This trend will occur in all countries but will be led by China and the rest of Asia, which are currently driving the growth in overseas travel. The launch of Centara’s new “Meetings Redesigned” MICE initiative will help to accommodate this shift, by allowing companies to be more flexible and creative with their event agendas.
- Robotics and artificial intelligence will create hyper-connected hotel experiences. The Internet of Things (IoT) will seamlessly connect every hotel touchpoint, which will be personalized to the unique preferences every guest. In addition, big data insights will enable hotel staff to improve service quality in real time.
- Delivering emotional experiences will be the ultimate goal of hotels. As technology takes over, many guests will go in search of authenticity, human interaction and genuine hospitality. The ability to predict and identify human emotions will be key to the success of hotels in the coming decades.
The big question for hoteliers now and in the future will be: how do we successfully integrate technology to improve the guest’s entire journey, whilst also retaining our distinct personality and brand loyalty?
For Centara Hotels & Resorts, Thailand’s leading hotel operator, this balance is at the core of its strategic vision. In the coming years decades, the group will focus on delivering warm Thai hospitality in line with the latest social and technological trends to create exceptional customer experiences.
Centara has proven adept at developing new brands that embrace innovation. The most recent example is COSI, which caters for young-minded and tech-savvy travellers with friendly, simple and affordable accommodation and state-of-the-art amenities like smartphone integration, self-service check-in and a 24-hour lifestyle café concept. It is no surprise that this contemporary concept, which made its debut in Koh Samui in 2017, is now a key driving force behind Centara’s expansion strategy.
In many ways, COSI represents the future of hospitality. Its combination of connectivity, comfort and convenience enables guests to blend business and leisure travel, a key trend identified by Mr. Blaiklock. Across all of Centara’s six brands however, the group continues to roll out innovative new digital experiences.
Recent initiatives range from revamping the Centara website and mobile app for a seamless online experience to launching a new central reservation system and revenue management system for global coordination. The new Chinese language, China-hosted website, social media pages and payment solutions are also positioning Centara to compete successfully in the world’s largest travel market.
Technology, however, is only one element of a successful strategy. Hotel guests will always be human beings, and the majority of humans visit a destination to experience its charm and culture, not to look at a screen. For Centara, the ability to deliver authentic Thai hospitality is something that can never be replaced by technology. By harnessing big data and personalization tools, however, hoteliers can enhance every human interaction. Intuitive and rewarding loyalty programs like CentaraThe1 will play a major part in anticipating and delivering tailored experiences.
So digitalization really is the key; by using smart technology to identify and satisfy guest preferences, the hoteliers of the future will be able to create truly bespoke experiences for every guest.