Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts has unveiled a smartphone app for checking in and out of select properties remotely. Starwood is testing technology to use their smart phones as keys. And hotels around the country are investigating systems to do everything from ordering room service to ordering up their cars, all via text.
The quest to use technology to ease the burdens of travel is never ending. But when it comes to luxury, there is always a fine line between gaining necessary technological conveniences and losing the oh-so-special human touch.
Andrea Wilson, a vice president at iProspect, whose clients include Mandarin Oriental and Hilton Worldwide, said the challenge in general “is between when the integration of technology is a benefit or a detriment, trying to figure out the right technologies that are actually helpful.”
Millennials, in general, are much more into adopting new technology that boomers. But when you layer in the affluent piece, those boomers consumers are generally more open to trying to new technology, Wilson said.
“So where do we go, and how we stay to what’s important in the past,” she said, “My answer to all of that is [you] really have to look at your loyal customer and see what their preferences are.”
In luxury travel, she said, the most important thing is choice: Give clients options to interact digitally, “but it is also important to give them the option not to.”
Besides the latest apps, Wilson said one way luxury-focused travel companies can lure customers is to give them easy access to information; form partnerships with content sites that give travelers information about the places they are visiting.
“With affluent travelers, research is a big part of their world: she said. "They will search about the city or country they want to visit. And a lot of luxury travel brands are making it easier for them to do that.”
Wilson said she also expected to see hotels and luxury brands use technology to promote partnerships that personalize the travel experience.
“I don’t know if anyone is doing this, but they should be,” she said. “Say you are staying at a luxury hotel; you get a list of all the luxury boutiques in walking distance, and you have a personalized shopping experience already set up, with a personal shopper at your disposal and you have your personal preferences already set up.”