Today’s guests seek the comforts of home during their stays, and whether it is at check-in or in the guestroom, technology plays a part in helping hotels deliver on that expectation. During the Hotel Business Hot Topics session, “Seamless Stay: Creating a Memorable Guest Experience,” with sponsorship from DIRECTV Hospitality, executives discussed how guests’ expectations have evolved and what hotels are doing about it.
Moderated by Glenn Haussman, founder/host, “No Vacancy Live” podcast, panelists included Jeff Bzdawka, CEO, Knowland; Jon Giegengack, principal, Hub Entertainment Research; Stephanie Maniscalco, senior director, technology sourcing, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts; Dan Morton, VP/guest experience, Hilton; and Kimberly Twiggs, associate VP, DIRECTV Hospitality.
Bzdawka, who was inducted into the Hospitality Technology Hall of Fame this year, opened the session by providing his definition of what seamless means to hoteliers.
“Seamless, in my view, is really about enabling choice for the guests,” he said. “We’re all in a different place; we’re all staying for different reasons—and it’s [about] matching our expectations. It’s not just about getting the technology in place, but it’s ensuring that that technology works and you continue to monitor it and ensure that you’re getting the intended outcome. As I look at seamless, it’s more about [being] frictionless in delivery and getting that intended result.
Morton pointed out that seamless also is about integrating hotel staff and technology together into the overall hotel experience.
“In the hotel business, we’re in the business of people serving people, and we want to make that as easy as possible—and we want to make that seamless both for the team members and for the guests,” he said. “They want to be able to engage our staff and our great members, and they also want to be able to engage technologies to do various things and provide them information and access and other things during their stay. We want to make that as easy and as seamless as possible.”
Streaming from one’s electronic devices—i.e., cellphone, tablet and laptop—to the in-room television is one of those technologies that today’s guests are seeking and, in some respect, expect.
“The number of streaming platforms that the average person uses more than doubled between 2018 and 2022, and most of that growth was a byproduct of the pandemic,” said Giegengack. “Things were moving that way anyhow, but [COVID] really turbocharged it.”
He added that guests want to be able to access the same technology they do at home, noting, “People become quickly very accustomed to a high level of convenience or a high level of access, and anything that is even the tiniest speed bump goes from a molehill to a mountain in their minds.”
But, in order to present that seamless experience, Maniscalco noted, the proper backbone and network technology must be in place.
“For us here at Wyndham—where we have a wide breadth of property types from economy to luxury—what we’re having to work towards is helping our owners and general managers understand what’s required to get there,” she said. “Let’s take a multi-phased approach to eventually meet the customer needs because some of the challenges are going to be that we don’t have the physical infrastructure to support that experience.”
Twiggs pointed out that technological advancements—whether it be streaming, digital key, mobile check-in, etc.—has to be affordable for the hotel owner.
“We’re in a time right now where cost pressures are at an all-time high on the consumer level, but also on the business owner level,” she said. “So, it’s the responsibility of providers like DirecTV and others in the space to make sure that we’re removing that burden, removing that barrier of CapEx, to make sure that the latest and greatest technology that performs consistently is also affordable and accessible to hotels all across the U.S.”
Look for more on this Hot Topics session in the July issue of Hotel Business.