Why new technology is coming to hotels

A new survey shows technology is the top priority of hotel operators amid the labor crunch

October 05, 2023

Imagine stepping into a hotel lobby and breezing through a check-in powered by facial recognition technology. With a key in hand, your app-ordered room service is delivered promptly by a robot.

In some hotels this is already reality.

For instance, guests at integrated resort Marina Bay Sands can skip the queue and check in by scanning their faces and unlocking their hotel rooms with the same phone. In the Rolling Hills Hotel on the outskirts of Seoul, hotel guests can place their room service orders through Kakao Talk, a popular messaging app, and track their delivery by a robot in real time.

These technologies aren’t just enhancing the guest experience. They’re also addressing the labor shortage plaguing the hospitality industry.

As demand returns in the coming years, the acute shortage of workers needs to be urgently addressed, says Sashi Rajan, Executive Vice President, JLL Hotels & Hospitality Group.

“What hotels are focusing on now is implementing actionable technologies to solve these challenges in the short term,” says Rajan. “The goal isn’t necessarily to restore the workforce to pre-pandemic levels, losing some of the relevant efficiencies gained, but rather to bring it back to a level where they can operate effectively to a required standard with the support of technology.”

As such, technology upgrades are the top priority of hotel operators in 2024, according to a recent JLL survey.

Key functions where hotels struggle to find talent, such as food and beverage and front desk, are expected to gain most from new technologies, according to Rajan.


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Return on investment

Hotel operators measure their return on technology investment by how it improves the guest experience, particularly in terms of service efficiency.

Take international hotel chain Marriott. Hotel guests using its mobile app can chat with hotel representatives to make requests before, during and after their stay, offering a faster alternative to a phone call where there’s a chance of being redirected or put on hold.

“Technology embraces the customer’s psyche of communicating something when they need something,” says Rajan. “They are more likely to tolerate a slightly longer lead time once they feel that their requests have been heard.”

For hotel owners, the investment in technology is a sound business case that not only brings financial efficiencies, but also achieves a sustainable value proposition in their hotel assets, assisted by technology.

Productivity gains from these investments are crucial, especially in times of rising cost pressures. More than one in five operators across Asia Pacific expect labor costs to increase next year by at least 20% from pre-pandemic levels, according to those surveyed by JLL.

A change in mindset

While technology is being embraced more so now than before, operators need to pick up the pace, Rajan says. It requires a fundamental shift in behavior and mindset among hotel staff.

In Asia Pacific, the uptake of technology has been quicker in markets like Singapore, where manpower is expensive and often in short supply, though adoption still lags other regions.

“Hotels in Singapore already grapple with the challenge of recruiting staff from other countries, and this is further compounded by the foreign worker quota,” says Rajan. “But government support, in the form of grants given when relevant technology is being invested, has proven effective in accelerating adoption.”

In more affordable labor markets in the region, like Indonesia or Bangkok, the scarcity of manpower has also become increasingly evident, prompting more hotels to consider investing in technology, albeit at a slower pace.

“They need to first recognize that technology isn’t perfect and may not perform a task as well as a person, but it’s the next best thing to work around,” Rajan says.

In tandem with technology investments, operators must also revise their processes to ensure that they deliver equal value to guests.

To do that, hotel operators need to strive for the right balance between the technology stack and the “talent stack”.

“Apart from implementing the right solutions, operators must provide upskilling and training opportunities, or hire the right talent who can bring the technology to life and maximize its potential,” says Rajan. “Otherwise, they’ll be paying top dollar for the best-in-class technology without fully utilizing its capabilities.”

Hotel Operators’ Sentiment Asia Pacific

Learn how hotel operators are adjusting to the industry's new realities.

Contact Sashi Rajan

Executive Vice President, JLL Hotels & Hospitality Group

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