5G is set to help reshape the travel and hospitality industry, equipping businesses and consumers with the fastest and most responsive digital connectivity that will impact both guest engagement and hotel operations.
The new technological era is at our doorstep, with 5G networks rolling out around the globe. The fifth generation mobile network (5G) offers the speed, power, and cohesiveness to supercharge commerce and connectivity in the decades ahead.
Designed to provide businesses and consumers with fast connectivity and low latency, 5G can enable a plethora of new solutions, capabilities, and customer experiences — especially in the travel and hospitality space.
SkiftX unpacks how 5G can impact every dimension of the hotel experience, from customer convenience and deeper guest personalization, to amazing entertainment resources, enhanced meetings and events, and streamlined operations industry-wide.
INCREASING GUEST CONVENIENCE
Guest convenience is the name of the game in the industry, with hotel operators constantly seeking ways to streamline experiences with new digital tools and platforms. 5G can enable operators to revolutionize their offerings with cutting edge in-room and cross-facility services.
Enhanced smart room technology means that room temperature, lights, shades, TV, and other in-room amenities can be totally unified and effortlessly controllable through guests’ mobile apps. One can imagine, for example, using voice assistant technology to order room service and book other hotel activities and services through voice-recognition. And technologies like augmented reality can give hotels a range of tools to illustrate their services and convey information, while providing new interactive experiences.
Hotel operators are already using technology to enhance the guest experience. Eccleston Square Hotel is an example of a hotel with innovative technology — offering in-room smartphones, electronically adjustable beds, and a 4K Chromecast that allows a guest to mirror their device to the suite’s Smart TV to screencast their personal streaming services. And in Seattle, Washington, Hotel 1000 offers a golf simulator experience that gives guests views of 50 immaculate courses from all over the world. Tech-savvy hotels like Eccleston Square and Hotel 1000 stand to benefit from the faster speeds and lower latency that 5G technology can provide.
“5G has a potential to drive digital transformation in the hotel industry by providing the foundational platform for connecting wireless devices, applications, and people. Most importantly, it has the potential to transform the guest experience,” said Jerri Traflet, principal consultant, Retail Innovation, Verizon.
DOUBLING DOWN ON PERSONALIZATION
Hospitality brands are facing fierce competition as travel starts to recover, and traveler behaviors and desires shifted significantly during the pandemic. Personalizing the guest experience helps hotels differentiate their offerings from their peers, while helping build meaningful experiences and stronger relationships with their clientele.
And technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning can enable the delivery of real-time personalized recommendations for dining, excursions, and vacation packages based on the guest’s personal profile and travel history with the hotel chain.
Hotel booking engine Avvio, for example, recently personalized its booking process, providing a layer on top of third-party websites that can recognize the user as a potential guest, a pre-stay guest, or a post-stay guest, and modifies the website according to the user’s specific preferences and profile.
With 5G technology, hotel operators should be able to deliver more personalized messages to their guests and get a deeper understanding of the guest journey. “5G and complimentary technologies such as edge computing can enable guests to proactively receive customized travel tips and recommendations based on individual preferences,” added Traflet.
THE FUTURE OF ENHANCED ENTERTAINMENT
Augmented reality powered by 5G can enable hotels to go above and beyond the standard experience, especially around guest entertainment. Through the use of sensors and video analytics, guests should be able to use augmented wayfinding to navigate large hotel properties prior to booking the stay and while they’re checked in.
As Skift’s senior research analyst Wouter Geerts explained in Skift’s Emerging Tech in Travel 2020 report, “Simply put, augmented reality is putting a virtual layer over the real world. This is where it differs from VR, which completely closes the user off from the world around them.”
Think seamless TV experiences, including on-demand, live, and mobile TV; enhanced gaming speeds to deliver near-real-time virtual experiences; and virtual exercise classes that can come mesmerizingly close to the real thing. Fitness equipment company Aktiv recently started rolling out its virtual fitness platform into hotel gyms and suites all over the world, offering guests a fully customizable, personalized virtual sweat experience.
“With 5G, augmented reality will likely change the face of hotel entertainment, providing unforgettable ‘X-factor’ experiences that guests will take with them and tell others about,” Traflet explained.
DEPENDABLE TECH AT MEETINGS AND EVENTS
Cellular and internet connectivity in hotel meeting and conference rooms have been an ongoing challenge for many properties, with pre-existing bandwidths limiting what’s possible when it comes to engagement and entertainment value.
As Skift previously reported, “The upside of the technology for meetings and events is clear; increased bandwidth and reduced latency will make virtual reality and augmented reality feasible in the context of an event. It will also reduce the need for Wi-Fi, particularly at large events.”
The report continued, “With mobile phones in constant communication with other devices, real-time navigation and personalization will be possible. Furthermore, event organizers and technology providers will be able to invent new ways for attendees to interact digitally.”
This fast tech will significantly enhance several applications within the meetings and events space, paving the way for new augmented and virtual reality experiences between groups and individuals, as well as online content streaming and enhanced audience interaction.
As a report in Forbes recently pointed out, “Augmented and virtual reality could take a simple online webinar or regular event and transform it into an immersive and more memorable experience,” adding that the technology’s hands-on nature and ability to simulate live experiences can help audiences “learn about, explore, and see things up close that they would otherwise have to travel far and wide for.”
5G could also support smooth, real-time language translations for greater cross-cultural inclusivity, while improving streaming services and creating new means of providing streaming events to remote audiences. On the ground, these networks will also enable superior connectivity between security personnel to bolster and reinforce event safety.
STREAMLINING HOTEL OPERATIONS
From an operations perspective, with 5G, hotels should have greater ability to monitor room temperatures and lighting throughout the hotel, enabling efficient and sustainable energy consumption. New asset tracking capabilities means that operators can easily locate equipment, luggage racks, and cleaning carts. And robots, unified through a speedy 5G network, can be implemented for routine tasks such as cleaning common areas, security, delivery services, and guiding guests.
Such a future is not far off. Consider YOTEL New York’s robotic luggage concierge, YOBOT, a fully self-serviced kiosk that also lets guests easily check in and out. And M Social Singapore offers a friendly butler robot that delivers room service direct to a guest’s door. With 5G, hotels like YOTEL and M Social Singapore should have opportunities to streamline their operations in ways previously not possible.
The new data capacity will also transform the industry’s operational vantage from a macro perspective: “In a 5G connected world,” said Traflet, “machines and nodes placed in the field will have the ability to provide massive amounts of data about industry, consumer trends, and supply chains that can be aggregated and analyzed in the cloud to provide near real-time insights to guide important business decisions.”
All in all, 5G heralds a dynamic acceleration in our world of connectivity, offering operational synergy unlike anything the travel and hospitality sectors have experienced before.