Knowledge Main Headline

Being smart about smart hotels

中文摘要 / Summary in Chinese

Know your customers and their technological literacy: that is the advice to hotel operators given by a study that focused on acceptance of smart hotel technology by guests, and their experience of it. The research, involving 2 IFTM academics, concluded that technology readiness – that is, consumer propensity to embrace and use new technologies – affects intentions to visit smart hotels.

“Smart hotels’ use of innovative cutting-edge technology should be customer-driven rather than focusing purely on the technology itself,” the research paper says. “Hoteliers would be well-advised to be aware of their customers’ technology readiness and adjust their promotions to optimise perceived ease of use and perceived usefulness,” of technological amenities.

The study cautioned against making things too simple, particularly among properties targeting young adults and early-middle-aged adults: the more complex they found the use of smart hotel technologies, the more likely it was that they would visit smart hotels, the research paper says. “A possible reason is that the young- to early-middle-aged customers choose smart hotels as they have higher acceptance of and more interest in using smart hotel technologies,” it says. They are “more eager to try new, complicated” smart hotel amenities.

The study was carried out by IFTM scholars Dr. June Yang Hui Jun and Dr. Jenny Guan Jieqi, in partnership with Dr. Hanqun Song of the University of Bradford in Britain and Dr. Catherine Cheung of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. The findings were featured in an academic paper called “How to enhance hotel guests’ acceptance and experience of smart hotel technology: An examination of visiting intentions”, published last year in the International Journal of Hospitality Management.

The research results were based on an online survey answered by 648 travellers from the Mainland. Participants were selected on the basis of 2 main criteria: their having travelled at least once in the preceding 3 years, and their having stayed in hotels during their travels.

The researchers suggested in their conclusions: “Technology amenities should be developed with cutting-edge technology applications, and guests need to be convinced of the convenience and usefulness of these amenities.” In that sense, categorising consumer differences can help hotel organisations make the right investment decisions. Among older consumers, in particular, “the easier the use of smart hotel technologies is perceived to be, the more likely that consumers will perceive them to be useful,” the study found.

COVID-19 challenges

The smart hotel concept emerged around 2008 and has been evolving rapidly. “The gradual emergence of smart hotels using artificial intelligence has changed customers’ purchasing intentions and businesses’ operational processes,” the research paper says.

The study defined as smart hotel technology amenities “extra supplies or facilities provided to guests within or outside their guestrooms for no extra charge”. That can range from free Wi-Fi access and specific mobile apps for convenient self-service, to face or voice recognition technologies, service robots, smart TV devices, smart room keys, and touchscreen panels to allow guests to control room lighting, temperature and music.

The researchers pointed out in their conclusions that COVID-19 was speeding up adoption of smart technology in hospitality. The pandemic has forced companies, including travel, tourism and hospitality businesses, to use robotics and other automated technologies. “Consumers’ confidence about staying at smart hotels might be enhanced by cutting-edge technological applications such as contactless interactions, contactless check-in and housekeeping services, ultraviolet light technology and electrostatic spraying devices”, which reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection, said the authors.

They concluded: “Hoteliers are facing herculean challenges and must be prepared to accept new technology and adjust their strategies to maintain competitiveness.”

More info

Dr. June Yang Hui Jun is an Assistant Professor at IFTM. She holds a PhD from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Dr. Yang’s research work has won awards at international conferences. Her interests encompass hotel and tourism education, human resource management in hospitality, tourism management and event management.

Dr. Hanqun Song is an Associate Professor at the School of Management of the University of Bradford. He holds a PhD in Tourism Marketing from Griffith University in Australia. His research areas include consumer behaviour in tourism and hospitality, tourism by Chinese, and destination marketing.

Dr. Catherine Cheung is Associate Dean at the School of Hotel and Tourism Management of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. She has a PhD from the University of Strathclyde in Scotland, and her research and teaching focus on hospitality and hotel management.

Dr. Jenny Guan Jieqi is the Coordinator of the Hotel Management Programme at IFTM. She received a PhD in Business Administration from the University of Macau. Dr. Guan’s research interests include social accounting, corporate social responsibility reporting, hospitality and gaming accounting and audit, and supply chain management in tourism and hospitality.

Huijun Yang, Hanqun Song, Catherine Cheung and Jieqi Guan: “How to enhance hotel guests’ acceptance and experience of smart hotel technology: An examination of visiting intentions”, International Journal of Hospitality Management, Volume 97, 2021.

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