Five Predictions for the Evolution of the Total Guest Experience in Hospitality
By Matt Valentine, Aruba UK&I Managing Director
There’s a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt that says: ‘True hospitality consists of giving the best of yourself to your guests’.
It’s a sentiment that surely resonates with everyone in the hospitality industry, whether you welcome guests to your hotel, restaurant, or entertainment venue. But hospitality companies will also likely agree that these days, giving the best of yourself is getting harder and harder to do.
While it used to be enough to simply offer top-notch food, drinks and facilities, companies must now also provide the latest data-driven, digital-first experiences – while somehow maintaining a human-to-human connection with their guests.
To help, Aruba has worked with global trends agency, Foresight Factory to identify five predictions for how hospitality experiences will evolve over the next five to ten years.
Here’s what’s in store:
1. ‘Presence-free’ options will be on the menu
Soon, ‘contactless’ options like digital check-in, biometric payments, and even delivery robots will seem like old news.
In the near future, hospitality companies will no longer require their guests to be physically present at all. Instead, you’ll be able to use technology like augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and the metaverse to provide ‘presence-free’ experiences for remote guests.
We’ve already seen the first of these experiences at events like Coachella 2022, where at-home viewers watching Flume’s concert were treated to a unique AR experience.
The ability to cater to guests remotely opens up incredible new opportunities for hospitality companies to scale and generate revenue. Not only will it enable you to connect with potential guests living anywhere in the world, but it will also help circumventgrowing customer concerns around cost, health and safety, and environmental impact of travel.
2. The guest experience will start and finish well beyond your doors
If you’re trying to make a good first impression by greeting guests at the door with a smile, you’re already too late.
Before a guest even sets foot in a venue, they’ve already engaged with your business through multiple touchpoints – looking at the menu on a website, scrolling through photos on social media, or exploring the area on Google Maps.
This extensive research and exploration phase – called ‘pretailtainment’ by Foresight Factory – is fast becoming a key part of the extended guest experience.
Soon as virtual experiences grow more sophisticated, guests will no longer do anything without first trying out the fully interactive, immersive, digital option. To stay competitive, hospitality companies will need to ensure that they are offering engaging, creative and personalized pretailtainment content.
Think about innovative ‘post-stay’ options as well. For example, sending guest tailored digital content to help them relive specific moments from their stay or visit offers a memorable way to round out the total experience.
3. Hospitality companies will become part of hospitality communities
They say it takes a village to raise a child. One day, the saying may well be that it takes a community to serve a guest!
Picture this. Instead of simply providing guests with local dinner suggestions, a hotel concierge accesses a restaurant’s system and makes the reservations directly. At dinner, the waiter provides food and drink recommendations based on what the guest ordered in other locations. And at the end of the night, the guest charges the meal back to their room and then wanders back to the hotel, where staff are ready and waiting to receive them.
Soon, this could be possible with a fully connected community of hospitality businesses, all powered by the same network to deliver a streamlined, total guest experience.
The sharing of data and a central operating system are among the key benefits, but community wayfinding and location services could even eliminate inconveniences like wait times, by giving venues the ability to accurately track arrival and offer ‘virtual’ queuing.
This can already be seen on a smaller scale at the Walt Disney World Resort, where Disney’s MagicBands enable guests to access park tickets and hotel room keys, make food and merchandise, store photos taken around the park, and even unlock personalized experiences.
4. High-tech environments will enable extra-human service
Does rapid digitization pose a threat to an industry largely built on in-person experiences? Or can technology actually help to enhance the human factor by empowering employees to provide more insightful and meaningful service?
Definitely the latter.
Given the wealth of data that brands can now access through advanced loyalty programs and tracking their customers’ digital footprints, a personalized guest experience should be standard,
But how do you take this one step further? As technology continues to evolve, venues could soon gain the ability to cater to not just what guests say, but how they feel.
Thanks to automated on-site systems and biometric data, venues will soon be able to read and react to guests’ physical signals and respond accordingly. Imagine being able to adjust the music, lighting and scent to either reinforce or manage a guest’s mood. Or nipping the first signs of hunger or frustration in the bud, thanks to predictive AI.
5. Data-driven guests will expect an exchange from data-driven brands
Just as companies no longer do anything that’s not backed up by data, customers will soon be the same way. Today, the ever-growing array of apps and smart devices is already providing them with information about their own health, spending habits, environmental impact – next, they’ll be looking to brands to share what they know.
This means that hospitality companies must prepare to be more transparent than ever, and offer up the data that guests need to make choices that better align with their values. For example, soon we could expect to see the environmental cost of dishes printed alongside price and nutritional information on menus, such as at COP26.
Of course, with so much transparency, and an increasingly informed and eco-, health- and ethics-conscious society, it’s also worth starting to consider how your business can provide increased choice to meet the needs of the modern guest.
How can hospitality companies prepare for this future?
Firstly, be excited. It truly is a great time for the industry, with many incredible developments and opportunities around the corner, which will take hospitality to unprecedented heights.
But to make sure you’ll be part of this rise, you need to get your business ready to embrace such opportunities and consistently provide best-in-class digital and in-person experiences.
This will require a high-performing, secure, reliable and automated network – one that can facilitate both current and coming technologies, and enables your business to effectively collect, analyze and leverage data.
Only then will your business be able to deliver total guest experiences and provide true hospitality – no matter what the future holds.
About the author
Matt Valentine, Aruba UK&I Managing Director
Matt is responsible for Aruba's UK and Ireland business, including customer and partner engagement, solution engineering and business management and performance.