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RCI Ventures Magazine Q2 2015
Upgrading the Guest Experience
April 17, 2015

As technology advances, opportunities to impress owners abound.

By: Jessen O’Brien

Technology is becoming more and more integrated with our lives, and guests’ standards for the technology they encounter on vacation are growing also. The good news is, so are the opportunities. Here, a look at some of the latest developments in tech that are impressing guests who have even the highest expectations.

1. Improved Wi-Fi

Today guests expect fast and free Wi-Fi while on vacation, so it’s vital to invest in a first-rate system that’s reliable and easy to access throughout a resort’s grounds. Forty-five percent of hotels are working to add or boost Wi-Fi access, and 37.8 percent have increasing bandwidth as their top technology priority, according to the 2015 Lodging Technology Study, by Hospitality Technology. Once a strong Wi-Fi structure is in place, look for ways to capitalize on it. For example, AMResorts has developed its own app, Unlimited Connectivity®. After guests download the complimentary app to their smartphones or tablets, they can access Wi-Fi free and make international calls without receiving roaming charges on their cell phones. In addition, guests can create user profiles so they can contact staff directly, personalize deal preferences and book spa appointments and excursions.

2. Mobile solutions

Smartphones and tablets are increasingly becoming the norm and present a range of opportunities for resorts to enhance a guest’s experience. Because customers often prefer to use their own devices, consider creating apps and other software, instead of investing in a tablet for every room. In the coming year 39.5 percent of hotels will focus on customer-facing mobile solutions, according to the 2015 Lodging Technology Study. Many will look into mobile booking and app development, as U.S. travel sales via mobile platforms are forecast to have jumped 60 percent in 2014, according to the Skift report The State of Mobile Booking 2015. Mobile bookings rose 20 percent in the first half of last year alone, Criteo’s Travel Flash Report found. Applications such as the digital RCI® Directory of Affiliated Resorts and the RCI® mobile application deliver maximum convenience to RCI subscribing members, offering inspiring content and vacation-planning assistance.

3. Behind-the-scenes tech

Back-end technologies can seamlessly enhance guests’ experiences without having them lift a finger. That’s why 20.5 percent of hotels reported in the 2015 Lodging Technology Study that employing mobile solutions for employee-facing applications is a tech priority. Additionally, the latest customer relationship management tools make it easier than ever for resort staff to build detailed guest profiles that can track preferences, reservations, birthdays and more. Employees can utilize this information to personalize a guest’s experience every time they return. At check-in, a list of activities and amenities owners and their guests enjoyed during previous stays may help the front desk make specific recommendations. Investing in behind-the-scenes CRM solutions helps show guests that the resort cares about creating a highly individual experience.

4. Geolocation marketing

Don’t miss out on an opportunity because you don’t know where a guest is. Geolocation services, like those offered by RoamingAround, can create geo-fences around specific spaces that are triggered when a guest enters those areas. For example, a guest staying at a resort might receive information about nearby restaurants and activities. A resort might send a last-minute-booking deal to a guest just arrived in a city or a coupon for a free massage to a guest who’s approaching the resort’s spa. These types of discounts can encourage guests to spend more money at a resort while they improve the guests’ experience by providing special offers they might not otherwise receive. RoamingAround can also create an opt-in database that tracks a guest’s preferences and history to supply custom offers.

5. Emerging Opportunities

It’s also important to keep an eye on developing technologies, such as beacons. Like geo-fencing services, beacons note a consumer’s location. And though buildings typically block this type of tracking, beacons can also function indoors. In addition, while geo-fencing has a range of 200 to 1,000 meters, beacons can pinpoint a customer a few inches to 50 meters away, letting resorts make very specific offers. A beacon could be used as part of a mobile payment service or loyalty program. Or it could work in tandem with geo-fencing so a guest receives a more general offer when approaching a resort’s restaurant and a more specific one when sit­ting at a table or at the bar. Although beacons have yet to be adopted widely, they are on the verge of becoming a game-changing technol­ogy as ubiquitous as GPS.