Can a hotel have too much technology?

11th April 2018

To state my credentials, I travel a lot and have done for many years, so this is not just written as the owner of a hotel tech company, it is written as a regular consumer of hotel services. I recently stayed in a fairly new hotel, less than 2 years old, a new concept created by an established brand. I booked directly on their website; because as you would expect I am a big supporter of!

As part of their booking comms, I was asked to download their app which I did. On the day of arrival, I wanted to know if I could order room service because I wanted to work in my room when I got there. I opened their app to find no menu information just some schmaltzy words and a link to say I could call or email to find out more, seriously!!! Why not have menus and messaging!

The app allowed me to sign in to amend my booking but the rest of it was really about helping me find a room at one of their hotels. In my opinion, that’s what your website is for, an app should be full of useful information to enhance a guest’s stay. On arrival the reception area was very nice, once I had paid I asked about room service, which meant another pre-authorisation on my card. At no point did the receptionist thank me for booking direct, it was as if they didn’t know nor care. This frustrates me no end, it’s a big deal to a hotel if someone books direct, it saves them money and they now have my details, as an industry, we need to educate our users about booking direct and a big thank you would go a long way.

The room was very well designed and was literally stuffed full of anything I might require – Nespresso, kettle, mini bar, snack tray, iron, hairdryer, every amenity you could possibly want; complimentary water, magazines x 2 and of course the worse for wear room service menu, which let all the gloss down.

There was a tablet in the wall next to the bathroom which let me control lights, air con etc and I could put on a do not disturb from there, which I liked, clever use of tech. There were also two tablets in stands, attached to the bedside lights, one didn’t work it kept asking me to reset and typically it was on the side of the bed on which I was sleeping. However, the other one lets me control the curtains, lights etc. Even if I could have ordered room service from the tablets I wouldn’t have because of having to lean or crouch down to use them.

Fortunately, there was a phone on the desk and a phone by my bed and one in the bathroom! Oh, and my mobile and the Android device to let overseas guests make free calls (that’s what I use WhatsApp for, but hey!) with 5 ways to make calls I barely had to move….. So I called down and ordered room service and after a surprising “have you put a deposit on your room question”, a) what wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t and b) why didn’t he know? I ordered…..a club sandwich.

After dinner and some work I had time for some catch-up tv and wanted to stream The Good Wife, which I am trying not to binge watch on just now, but the free wifi wasn’t good enough, so I connected to my phone, yes 4G was better than the hotel wifi. Just before bed, I wanted to watch the news. The TV remote was by the bed and it took a while to get to grips with, why do hotel TVs take so long to turn on!! It had a bunch of information on there but honestly moving around was painful so I gave up trying.

There was also an alarm clock on the desk……

Time to go to sleep, the bed was too big to roll over to operate the working tablet when I wanted to turn out the lights, so I got up and walked around, turned everything off and then walked back in what should have been pitch black because of the expensive thick curtains but was actually easy because of the light given off by both of these tablets, not to mention the Android device, which was very bright so I had to walk back and put face down as I couldn’t figure out how to turn it off.

I slept well once I had my eye mask on, very comfortable bed and oh those pillows were immense. When my phone alarm went off (yes I trust my phone to wake me up) I got up and used the tablet next to the bathroom to turn on the lights.

Come on hoteliers, you’ve got 2 of the basics (bed and shower) right, get the other two (wifi and information) right by spending the money on excellent wifi and giving me the information I need on my phone. Why install multiple devices when all the iOT needed could be run via an app on my own phone and the in-wall tablet next to the bathroom? I know how hard it is to make your margin and you don’t need all of this.

If I was this hotel I would turn my app into something which does the following:

  • Room key, so I could bypass reception
  • Controls all in-room devices (air con, underfloor heating, DND, lighting, TV, curtains etc)
  • Lets me order room service
  • Lets me book a spa treatment

And I would ditch the bedside locked-in tablets, the locked-in suggests I would try and steal them and the fact it doesn’t work is even worse. You don’t need the alarm clock, the free phone calls device and at least one of the phones. Guests trust their own device, you don’t need to invest in hardware, invest in technology to turn your guests’ own device into an operating system for all of the above.

Making this change will mean that when this hotels hardware becomes out of date, imminent for some of it; it won’t matter to their guests great in-room tech experience.