Business / Industries

Making room for development of digital-age hotels

By WANG ZHUOQIONG (China Daily) Updated: 2016-08-15 11:11

Making room for development of digital-age hotels

The Internet has become such an integral part of modern life that people want to stay online all the time, even when they are on an exotic vacation. [Photo/IC]

When Chinese travelers were asked by a recent survey to name three hotel facilities most important to them, they put free Wi-Fi at the top. It received a weighting of 23 percent.

According to the Chinese International Travel Monitor 2016, conducted by, an online booking platform, travelers' preferences signal the growing significance of digital connectivity in the hotel industry.

Free wireless internet access is considered so important because almost all Chinese travelers stay in touch with family and friends while abroad.

For 73 percent of the 3,000 Chinese outbound travelers surveyed for the report, the top mode of contact is free Wi-Fi at hotels or public places. The report also surveyed 5,800 hoteliers globally in May.

So, hotels now plan to offer a wide range of new services and packages for Chinese travelers. Some 45 percent already provide free Wi-Fi. And, 46 percent more plan to offer it sooner than later, according to the report. Only 9 percent of the hotels surveyed said they are yet to finalize Wi-Fi plans.

Also, the survey found important differences in the needs of the guests in different regions.

For instance, free Wi-Fi is the most frequently requested service in all regions, but was particularly important in North and Latin Americas.

Jessica Chuang, regional marketing director,, Greater China, Southeast Asia and India, said: "Technology has become an essential part of travel, from planning, booking, to every moment of your journey.

"You can find more and more of our hotel partners have launched different technology elements in their properties, like self-check-in lobby, in-room digital control, so on. We can foresee there will be more and more hotels applying new technology to elevate guest experiences."

She said, too, has been incorporating handy tools in smart watches and other devices, to offer a seamless, device-neutral and personalized experience in terms of booking, travel and hotel stay for travelers. does this by analyzing big data compiled from various sources, including clickstreams, reviews, personal preferences of users and hotel profiles.

For example,'s technology can identify a registered user's device and also memorize destinations searched on its booking platform. When the user visits the platform using another device, she can pick up where she had left off, said Chuang.

"We continuously improve our technology to make it compatible with PCs, mobile phones and the latest wearable technology."

Like for, digital connectivity is key to hoteliers as well. Kenneth Macpherson, CEO, Greater China, IHG, said the company's global online survey conducted in partnership with YouGov, showed nearly half of adults, or 43 percent of its guests, would choose not to stay in a hotel that charged for internet.

In 2013, IHG became the first and only hospitality group to offer free internet at all of its hotels globally to its loyalty program members, whether they stay for one or more nights or come in just for a coffee or an impromptu meeting, said Macpherson.

"Our guests dream, plan, book, share online and, one could argue, even stay online, given how connected people are when they are in our hotels. So, we break the guest journey down into five distinct steps, each of which makes effective use of mobility and other technologies," said Macpherson.

IHG was also the first hotel company to launch apps across all mobile platforms. "It's very important to know where your consumers are and what they like, and go with them to these platforms and fulfil their needs," he said.

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