Though the pandemic dealt quite a blow to many sectors, it battered the hospitality industry. The hotels that managed to survive had to rethink their businesses and adopt technology to stay afloat. Many of these changes became permanent as the companies that implemented them found that they drove growth and profitability. Now another struggling sector, commercial office, is learning from these adaptations.
Touchless technology, from kiosks to apps, allows hotel guests to avoid busy front desks at hotels and resorts worldwide. Self check-in and check-out are becoming more of a normality. This trend is welcomed by guests for the way it can save time, especially for the younger generations. While Baby Boomers and Gen X may be more comfortable conducting business in the traditional ways, Millennials and Gen Z have grown accustomed to completing tasks with little to no human interaction. Millennials and Gen Z are nearly 45 percent of the global travel market, as the “Boomer” segment is declining and Generation X is at its peak. The office demographics will look similar before too long as well. To cater to these tech-savvy youngsters, offices, like hotels, will need to eliminate the need to check in with a person, making the process faster and more convenient.
Contactless payments are another way that hotels are helping to improve the speed of transactions. In the past, this was restricted to contactless card payment systems. The recent emergence of mobile wallets and wearables has expanded this area, providing customers with options even when they do not have their cards. Contactless food ordering at hotel restaurants and food outlets is becoming more mainstream. Smartphone access has started to replace the traditional hotel room key. Offices could make the same change thanks to the growing number of tenant-facing apps. Creating an easy way for tenants to pay for everything from food and beverage to on-demand amenities will make offices more user-friendly. Additionally, it could open up a new revenue stream to building owners and operators.
The new hospitality experience has also become much more personalized. In-room smart technology lets guests adjust things like temperature and lighting. Some hotels, like the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, offer virtual concierge services. A virtual concierge can bring whatever the guest needs directly to their room with just a text. Again, we see something that can be emulated in the office. While service agreements and soaring energy prices make it difficult to hand over control of the temperature to office workers, other things like lighting, music, or even smells can be personalized using smart tech and, of course, lots of data.
Immersive technologies such as augmented and virtual realities have started to be deployed by hotels since the pandemic. This tech is being used to provide interactive elements such as maps and points of interest, digital property history tours, and access to critical information like restaurant menus. Virtual reality and 360 tours of hotel rooms, restaurants, spas, gardens, and gathering spaces allow guests to decide where to visit before they set foot on a property.
Virtual reality has been instrumental in selling spaces before guest arrival. Hospitality planners now rely on hotels to provide virtual site inspections that show the actual meeting space layouts and designs (not just fancy photos in brochures), as well as videos of the guest rooms, off-site events, and even the traffic patterns to get from point A to point B. Tom Hinton, President of San Diego-based CRI Global, LLC, which produces over 35 annual corporate and association client events, told me, “Technology now helps us explain to our clients how the program will flow from start to finish.” VR can also be used to view office spaces remotely as well. One day we might even see interactive AR elements in offices that could be used to learn about communal work areas or food and beverage outlets within the building.
Offices are already using these types of immersive technologies, like virtual walkthroughs, to help lease space, but that is only the beginning. Eventually, we will see 3D renderings help make decisions about reconfiguring floorplans or help orient visitors to the office before they even arrive.
Robots are another major tech innovation impacting hotels. Experts predict the global hotel robot market will grow by over 10 percent to $338 million by 2025. Robert Rauch, Managing Partner at the Hilton Campus Del Mar and CEO of RAR Hospitality, sees the efficiency benefits of bringing robotics to both front-and back-of-house hotel operations. “Robotics are the future,” he said. “We have two types of robots. One is a service robot, the other is a vacuuming robot. The service robot we’ve had for six years now, and I can tell you the guests really notice it at the front desk. By the time they’re up in their room asking for either food, beverage, or supplies, they ask for the robot.”
Rauch also explained how his robot enables hotel managers to understand what is happening on their property. “You are able to tell if the Wifi system is not working if the robots lose connectivity,” he said. Robots also have cameras on them and can report on any security issue they see. Robots could be deployed similarly in an office, helping clean and upkeep spaces or taking food or supply orders to tenants. Robots can do the same for offices. They can increase office safety, deliver goods to workers, or even help keep the office clean while lowering ever-increasing labor costs.
Artificial intelligence represents another example of how hotel technology is advancing. AI automates tasks such as price forecasting and predictions to improve hospitality services, thus providing a more seamless and streamlined experience for guests during their stay. Artificial intelligence collates and interprets guest data, maps and identifies user preferences to create a custom accommodation package, and personalizes the entire guest experience. In a changing work world, offices would be wise to do the same. It is hard to say what workers want from the office now because everyone has their own opinion. But with the right amount of data and AI to help interpret it office can become more appealing to everyone, no matter what they want from their physical workplace.
With the new trends reshaping the office environment, we can expect to see many of the advents in the hospitality space sooner than later. From self-serve mobile check-in to contactless ordering to robotics, these tech innovations are reshaping the hospitality space and will likely have a similar effect in the commercial real estate space.
Disclaimer: The opinions in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent the official position of Propmodo or its editorial team. We value diverse perspectives and aim to encourage open discussions. The information presented here is the author’s own and does not reflect our stance on the subject.