The increasing democratisation of travel has led to people travelling more often and more cheaply than before. That’s resulted in very international outlooks. We’ve never lived in a more open age. I see these macro trends and I love them, as it’s allowed us in Singapore to really benefit.
On a micro level, one of the recent hotel trends is localisation. Hotels are now trying to make themselves as relevant to their immediate environments as possible. It’s been a great movement, and even the larger hotel groups are localising their design and offerings. A lot of neighbourhood businesses benefit, plus it offers a more authentic experience.
“Hotels are now trying to make themselves as relevant to their immediate environments as possible…A lot of neighbourhood businesses benefit, plus it offers a more authentic experience”
Another trend is further applications of technology. Over time, I believe that the vast majority of people will learn to accept things like using a chatbot to make dining reservations, or robots doing housekeeping tasks such as delivering room service or extra towels – especially in markets like Japan and Singapore, where there is an enormous manpower crunch – so long as people are able to call a human if they have a real complaint.
I think a lot of hoteliers haven’t realised that the Chinese traveller market is changing so quickly in terms of sophistication. That’s a lost opportunity if they don’t catch on and cater to that. What Chinese travellers want is different from what a Western tourist looks for. First of all, they are much more tech savvy in their appreciation of a hotel. The payment gateways they’re used to are different from traditional payment systems. They don’t carry credit cards and they don’t pay with cash. Also, if you look at most hotels and the kind of in-room amenities that they have – whether it’s TV channels or music systems – a lot of it is catered to the Western guest. Most hotels are not doing anything, although some might have bilingual room service menus. It’s interesting that there is this huge market, but so few people catering to it – a lot of us haven’t yet adapted.
A great example of these trends and the direction that things are moving is the Pudi Boutique Hotel in Shanghai’s French concession. Their in-room amenities are all Chinese design products. The rooms have smartphones you can use to control the lights, call a car, make restaurant reservations and order your drinks. And the interface is much smarter than the stuff you see in Singapore. They don’t have a concierge, but they have a chatbot that can speak eight languages like Russian, Mandarin, French and English. In many ways, they’re well ahead of the other larger hotel groups.
While technology will continue to move things in a certain direction, there will always be a craving for that personal touch. It’s just that the need will reduce because people will start accepting that technology will do certain things. Technology will change, and I have no doubt it will change people’s perceptions.
This article was originally published in the August 2018 issue of SilverKris magazine.