A New Normal: Bringing Digital Relevance to the Hotel & Travel

Imagine having your entire vacation personalized and customizable. All you need to do to ensure your unique and unforgettable experience is fill out a quick survey about yourself. From there, artificial intelligence can craft, plan, and shuttle your specific getaway. Sound too good to be true?

Where before the hospitality industry applied a one size fits all approach to its consumers, the emergence of the "digital concierge" offers an experience for hotel guests looking for authentic and personalized experiences during their stay.

Around the world, the hospitality industry is working to keep up with what is now being dubbed "the silent traveler": tourists who rely on their mobile devices to plan, book, and even troubleshoot their own vacations, rather than turning to in-person interactions. These travelers are self-reliant and mobile-dependent. Even so, the need for local and trusted recommendations remains a top priority. It’s up to hotels and other establishments to bridge that gap between face-to-face suggestions and the desired mobile interface.

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There is already evidence of this digital evolution being pioneered in hotels around the globe. Starwood Hotels & Resorts introduced the first mobile check-in system that allows guests to bypass the hotel lobby by virtually checking in and even accessing their rooms through a smart device: your phone IS your hotel key.

In the Seattle, The 1000 Hotel offers guests a digital kiosk in the lobby that engages guests by offering anything from chess games to local recommendations. The Ruby Hotel in Vienna takes it one step further by supplying each room with its own tablet computer that can offer its guests daily news updates, a guide to the hotel, remote check-out, and the opportunity to book your next stay at a Ruby Hotel all in the comfort of your own room.

Digital kiosks present a lucrative opportunity for businesses looking to partner with hotels, or hotels themselves, to better streamline a traveler's experience wherever they stay. It's an opportunity savvy business leaders are seeing as the key to integrating the hospitality industry with the ever-expanding digital landscape.

What if hotels worked in tandem with Apple, Alexa, or Google Home? What if hotels went beyond a lobby or room-based interface into one that can extend your hotel room to your smart device?

Consider the following plausible scenario:

Apple TV has paired with The Sheraton New Orleans hotel to bring guests a personalized digital kiosk experience, dubbed "Apple TV Digital Concierge." Travelers, Howard and Samantha Smith, have just started their New Orleans vacation and are ready to check in to their hotel. They have done some research about the area, but want to keep their schedule loose and rely solely on the recommendations from locals.

With the Apple TV Digital Concierge, finding food, shopping, and activity recommendations is as easy as taking a Buzzfeed quiz.

After arriving at the hotel, the Smiths input their reservation information, followed by a brief survey about their vacation plans. From there, after checking into their room, they find a personalized welcome message with tailored recommendations based on their specific interests and needs. They can book experiences and make reservations all within the Apple TV Digital Concierge. Reservation information can even be shared directly to their phones for on-the-go updates, alerts, and reminders.

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As digital hospitality applications continue to pop up in more hotels, the Apple TV Digital Concierge would already be developing their software further by enhancing room functionality. Hotel guests would now be able to enjoy benefits beyond the standard Apple TV functionality (still having access to the HBO and Netflix series they may still be desperate to binge), but would also be able, via Apple TV, to set room temperature and lighting, and even allowing them to save their unique profile for future visits.

Beyond the hotel room, the app will integrate with services like OpenTable and Resy to easily make reservations with nearby restaurants, as well as travel services like Google Maps, Uber, and Lyft, allowing any guest the freedom to get to where they want to go on their schedule.

The Apple TV Digital Concierge is, for now, only in the conceptual stage, so don't expect it at your next Hilton stay just yet. Still, as this digital opportunity continues to blossom, it's not absurd to conceive of this kind of virtual service being the norm in just the next couple of years. Businesses at the forefront know it's crucial to keep pace with the needs and wants of the silent tourist, and should expect new entrants into the market who are strong digital competitors dedicated to making your vacation just that: yours.