In today’s world of fast 4G mobile, where messages reach us instantly, favourite TV shows can be streamed from the palm of your hand and a date can be confirmed with a swipe, it is hard to see how mobile can get any better.
But it will, or rather it will become even more capable. 5G is the latest iteration of mobile, and while 4G brought us massive data transfer, 5G will bring us true machine-to-machine communication, allowing the oft-mentioned Internet of Things to finally become a reality. This will transform every industry, from healthcare, which will see doctors diagnosing patients from hundreds of miles away before they even realize it, to transport and energy (driverless cars, etc).
The hospitality industry is no exception, and while these are early days with 5G not expected for mass adoption before 2020 (although the South Koreans are looking at installing the infrastructure in time for the Winter Olympic Games in 2018), we can still look ahead to the possibilities 5G could bring.
What a 5G-enabled hotel might look like
Potential guests will no longer choose their stay on 2D images of the hotel room, but will want to explore the hotel in 3D (or eventually hologram….) in a manner not dissimilar to Google Streetview, where the user can virtually take a tour of the hotel – rooms, gym, restaurants and pool. Two-way voice protocol will allow a senior executive to instantly speak with his favorite butler from the other side of the world, booking his usual room in 30 seconds.
The plethora of new media and its consumption will result in masses of data, including insights into the hopes, dreams, attitudes and aspirations of guests. Unlocking the meaning of this will be vital, and hotel brands will have to mold their messaging and services to reflect these insights. We may even see more fragmentation of the hospitality industry into brands that cater to a micro-specific group of guests.
Instead of bigger hotels we may see a trend towards much smaller, more numerous properties catering to a guest profile that is based on aspirations, feelings or concerns, rather than simply on age, income bracket or whether or not they are a family – we are already seeing the beginning of this, through the creation of brands specifically designed to appeal to those with a Millennial mind-set.
While the way that hotels engage with their guests will change, we may also witness a transformation in the way hotels communicate, train and organize their employees. Perhaps a day will come when guests will choose a hotel based not on its facilities, but on whether or not the hotel is compatible with his or her smartphone. So we may see the introduction of a ‘Hotel Coder’ as a new function, ensuring all the property’s software is upgraded and compatible.
The basic structure of a hotel-staffing organization has stayed the same for centuries, but with 5G bringing computers and communication together, we may see the end of some traditional positions. As self-check-in becomes more accepted and efficient – even among high-end guests – I foresee the Front Office moving further back-of-house, taking on more of a guest service coordination role, communicating via mobile social media and ensuring that the butlers, ovens, vacuums and everything else are in-synch and working smoothly.
Lastly, mobile will prove invaluable when it comes to selecting employees, and training them. Already smartphones are ubiquitous among hotel employees, and many of the younger ones are now more used to learning from a screen than from a book. I believe mobile learning will go beyond this, and provide real-time, on-the-job training where software will be able to analyze and rate employee service skills while they are performing their functions, and provide invaluable guidance on how to improve. Specific skills such as up-selling, languages and room cleaning will be learned through mobile, resulting in a workforce that is learning all the time, anywhere.
While not all of the above may happen exactly as I described, I am certain that the next evolution of mobile technology will have far reaching effects for the hospitality industry, in such a way that it may not even be recognizable in 20 years from now.