The Roosevelt Hotel in New York City was the first hotel in the industry to install TVs in guestrooms, beginning in 1947. It would be 40 more years before Teledex Corp. introduced the first telephone specifically for hotel rooms. And it wasn't until 2009 that the first mobile hotel app for guest service and operational enhancements was introduced by Intelity.
But in the modern age of tech-disruption, changing socio-dynamics and evolving guest preferences, hotels can no longer afford time and complacency. Operators and owners must shift away from operational to tech-enabled practices. A new report from Grant Thornton UAE about global hotel trends warns that hotel owners that fail to apply big-data to its strategy risk customers being lured away by new market entrants and tech-enabled challengers at the click of a button.
Case in point: boutique hotel company Life House which just closed $40 million in venture funding. The hospitality startup (not to be confused with Lifehouse) has an ambitious plan to apply the best practices from the ecommerce space to lifestyle branded hotels. The company plans to use a proprietary technology platform to drive direct bookings, optimize operations, and foster a social community for travelers much like today’s modern direct-to-consumer brands.
Life House also plans to help match willing travelers with compatible roommates for their stay, including letting them get to know each other via a built-in social network. Co-founder Rami Zeidan said:
"The social network makes it easier to book a trip as an individual, and we are really aspiring to encourage more individual travel and provide an efficient alternative to the potentially unsafe, unclean, and remote home sharing products."
It's still uncertain if home sharing is competing with the hotel industry or if they are increasing the size of sector in general by bringing more visitors to the market (guests who may have stayed with friends and family had an Airbnb option not existed). But it appears that the new generation of traveler is less brand conscious and has access to greater information and knowledge in the palm of its hand. To capture this demographic's business, hotel operators need to be nimble and offer personalization, something Life House seems to get.