Tech experts say beacon technology can be used in the meetings and resorts space, and finding talent to integrate it into mobile apps is fairly simple.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—The hotel industry is still finding its way with beacon technology, which can be used to direct and push notifications to guests about offerings on-property and in the area.
From guests’ GPS-enabled cellphones, the hotels are able to track their locations, and then tailor and map out their experiences based on their preferences. A common use of the technology is wayfinding, basically an interactive map that offers step-by-step directions to and from a destination. Guests who enable an app on their phones and check-in, for example, at a local tavern might receive push notifications about a craft beer tasting and directions to the hotel bar.
Red Lion Hotels Corporation is currently testing beacon technology at one of its RL properties, and plans on rolling it out to its other brands based on how the testing goes, Chief Information Officer John Edwards said.
“We’re using beacon in several different ways as we test,” he said. “Where we see guests that are high mobile users, we’re using beacon to communicate directly with them, whether those are push notifications based on where they’ve been or wayfinding. We’re also using beacon (tech) for our guest-service side … so that as our VIPs or loyal guests are in the hotels, we’re able to start providing some more-specific service (for those guests).”
Hilton Worldwide recently introduced beacon technology to two resort properties in Hawaii through its Fun Finder app. Rich DiStefano, senior director of mobile products at Hilton, said the technology is currently being used at resorts only, but its use in the meetings and conferences space “would be a natural extension of a Fun Finder-type product.”
“The features that work well at resorts, like the interactive maps, the wayfinding, the event information with day and time to help you plan your leisure stay, those translate well into the meetings space, too,” he said. “We’re taking our learnings from Fun Finder now, and we’re thinking about how and where we will expand this in our 2017 planning based on what we’ve seen (this year).”
Edwards said he also sees beacon technology being put to good use in the meetings space at Red Lion hotels.
“Within our group, we see the advantages around guest services as well as wayfinding for our larger conference center hotels as really being an easy win,” he said. “I think guest messaging will take some time to get it right because we learned through all the different communication methods, you’ve got to learn how the guest wants to communicate with you so that you can communicate correctly with them, and I think beacon (technology) just adds more flavor to that.”
Building an app and best usage
Finding talent to build beacon technology for your hotel is fairly simple, sources agreed.
Armand Rabinowitz, senior manager of emerging technology at Hyatt Hotels Corporation, said someone with a lot of mobile app-building experience should have little to no trouble integrating beacon technology into mobile apps.
“So many vendors in this space have really gained a tremendous amount of experience in a short period of time leveraging beacon technology for various solutions …,” he said. But hotels “should certainly seek out people with a very good amount of experience in relevant projects to what their goal is today.”
Rabinowitz said Hyatt is currently testing beacon technology both for wayfinding and push notifications, which he said can sometimes be more of a challenge.
“There’s been a lot of hype and interest in being able to push relevant offers based on beacon technology, but the level of accuracy required for offers doesn’t make beacon technology necessary; you can easily do that with Wi-Fi,” he said.
“Beacon technology does enable offers to be configured more easily in certain deployments, but on an enterprise scale, it can actually be more challenging. So wayfinding is the most applicable solution today, and combining that with a Wi-Fi network or radio frequency information to make wayfinding information more accurate.”