Are African Hotels Using Disruptive Technology To Attract Guests?

Are African Hotels Using Disruptive Technology To Attract Guests?

Millennials are predicted to overtake baby boomers by 2017 as the target market for hotels. How will that change the hotel industry in Africa?

Gillian Saunders, global leader of hospitality and tourism at Grant Thornton, joined CNBC Africa to discuss this change and how hotels should adapt. Grant Thornton is a global audit, tax and advisory firm with headquarters in the U.S.

Born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s, millennials are digital natives looking for an interactive digital hotel experience, Saunders said. According to data that Grant Thornton uses, 46 percent of millennials will go back to a hotel that gives them a mobile check-in.

Technology is being used to make hotel experiences more personal — to predict what guests want in their mini bars and the type of pillows they want on their beds, Saunder said. There’s a huge amount of data that hotels can mine from credit cards, using cell phones as an identifier. What language do the guests speak? Hotels can change the lighting and smells in a room depending on whether you’re on business trip or on honeymoon.

Are African hotels picking up on disruptive technology to attract more guests?

It has been difficult for African hotels to move into this arena, Saunders said. African hotels are underrepresented when it comes to hotel brands. There’s a lot of individually and independently owned properties. “I think you’ll probably see a swing towards more global brands and with them you’ll see the technology.”

Africa might be able to leapfrog in the hotel industry, Saunders said. New brands will come in and do technology upgrades or build in the new technology with things like in-room sensors.

“No one quite knows what the apps are going to do,” Saunder said. “Some will fail.”

One thing hotels will have to manage carefully is protection of personal information.

“If you’re going to expect to get personal sevice you’re going to have to share personal information and be willing to share it,” she said.  “The millennials will share and they’ll share more to get personal and better-targeted service but hotels must protect the data.”