Finding new ways to stand out in a competitive marketplace is difficult. Many hotels have differentiated themselves by offering tech-related amenities to guests. With the advent of the Apple Watch, Microsoft’s Hololens, and other gadgets worn on the body, hotels should consider that wearables might be the next wave of must-have technology products that will entice and engage guests. In fact, some hotels already have.
Here are three hospitality groups that are already using wearable technology.
A Marketing Dream Come True
Recently, Disney introduced MagicBands to its guests, a wristband that operates off of Disney’s proprietary MyMagic+ system. Through MyMagic+, guests can plan almost every detail of their trip. Some things the platform consolidates include booking transportation to a hotel from the airport and choosing where to eat. The MagicBand also serves as a room key and ticket for attractions, replacing the need to carry around bulky key cards and folded papers, both of which are lost frequently.
Duncan Dickson, a professor of theme-park management at the University of Central Florida, called the use of this kind of technology “a marketing dream.” He was quoted as saying “[Disney will have] some very robust data to use in understanding guest behavior and desires.”
To take advantage of Disney’s program, guests must book directly through the company. This enables the company to get more of its products and services in front of future guests, who may not have been aware of them if the guest had booked through a third-party website.
While Disney’s MagicBands might be one of the most robust wearables, they are not the only bracelets the hospitality industry is using. Two hotels on the island of Ibiza—Ushuaïa Ibiza Beach Hotel and the Hard Rock Hotel Ibiza—have given guests the ability to purchase $40 Smart VIBs, also known as Very Important Bracelets. These bracelets replace credit cards and room keys, allowing guests to pay for services and bypass lengthy checking-in and checking-out processes.
The bracelets are coded to match a guest’s preferences, which might include room admissions and access to the users Facebook and Twitter profiles for picture and content sharing.
Another type of wearable technology recently popularized by the announcement of the Apple Watch is smartwatches, which are similar, but more robust, than VIBs. A smartwatch, as the name suggests, is a watch with a touchscreen that interfaces with a user’s smartphone. Its benefit is that it saves users from having to constantly dig their smartphones from their pockets to check their messages and apps.
One of the best-known examples of a hotel using smartwatch technology is Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. Earlier this year, Starwood Preferred Guests announced the release of its Apple Watch app, which, among other things, lets guests forgo room keys. The hotel group’s Apple Watch app will be similar to its iPhone app, but not a direct port.
Of course, there are other ways hotels can utilize smartwatches. Hotels around the world are already making devices like iPads available to their guests during their stay. Take for example again Starwood Hotels & Resorts. Over the next two years the company has stated that they will invest $100 million to upgrade its amenities, including making iPad room-service menus available to its guests. Hotels could just as easily invest in making devices like the Apple Watch a part of their technology experience upgrades.
Imagine that each room in your hotel came equipped with the use of at least one Apple Watch. Suddenly hotels would have access to the most direct way to interact with their customers on their property, no matter where the customer was on the property.
Catering to today’s increasingly tech-savvy consumers should be an important part of any hotel brand’s marketing efforts. Making wearable devices a part of your offered amenities in some way should be a goal for 2015.
About the Author
Abi Mandelbaum is co-founder and chief executive officer of YouVisit, a technology company that develops virtual tours and virtual reality experiences for a variety of industries, including education, hospitality, real estate, travel and leisure, and many others.