As traveler expectations evolve, sound can add a premium layer to travel and hospitality experiences
Lobby sound scores, aka hotel music, have become an integral part of hospitality environmental design and other commercial spaces. The range of potential sonic touchpoints for brands in the travel and hospitality sector is vast and growing, impacted in part by the blurring lines between home, work, and travel. With freelance and creative class workers taking up residence in hotel lobbies that transform into coworking spaces (Ace Hotel) and office spaces that morph into hotels and social clubs (Soho House), consumers are looking for more immersive and highly curated experiences. Music event programming and lobby sound scores become a critical part of the environmental design; commissioned audio content in bars, pools, and elevators reinforce a distinct brand personality through even momentary visitor interactions; and in-room, voice-enabled technology helps visitors feel comforted, informed, and connected at all times.
“Hotels are engaging music differently today, and more closely examining the notion of creating physical spaces.” — Pablo Henderson, Senior Director of Global Brand Marketing, W Hotels Worldwide (1)
From music curation and sound system selection to acoustic design and architecture, sound defines the physical spaces we encounter every day, impacting our mood and perception, and potentially determining how much time or money we spend in a place. But before arriving at a destination, consumer decision-making is shaped by digital experience. Beginning with planning through to the actual visit, consumers engage with brands through web content and mobile apps, where sound — a sound logo, UX sound, voice, and music — should be integrated into the overall design strategy and marketing plan.
When it comes to the travel and hospitality industry, consumers demand experiences that are seamless and satisfying. Expectations have only increased as the speed and convenience of smartphones have transformed how consumers plan their travel or their night out, book a flight or rent a car, navigate an unfamiliar city, and get tips on where to eat or attractions to visit. The connected consumer is a more informed traveler, with countless options waiting at the end of every swipe or scroll.
Hotel music is carefully curated to create a specific atmosphere and ambiance for guests and visitors. Music can range from soothing to upbeat and energetic, depending on the desired mood. In addition to setting the tone for the space, lobby music also serves as a branding tool, helping to create a memorable and cohesive experience for customers.
Just as consumer behaviors have shifted with the mass adoption of smartphones, the explosive growth of voice assistants and smart speakers has changed expectations for travel and hospitality. The use of voice-enabled technology is already an established behavior, with 50% of travelers using voice search while researching their trip. (10) In addition, 55% of hotel guests would use a voice assistant in their hotel room and 60% of guests say their hotel selection is influenced by in-room technology. (11) Hospitality in turn needs to match consumer behavior. When a guest calls out, “Hey, Alexa,” the assumption is that the hotel will respond to requests just like at home. And with the introduction of Amazon’s Alexa for Hospitality, that’s beginning to become a reality.
Launched in partnership with Marriott International in 2018, Alexa for Hospitality is a platform designed to integrate voice assistants into existing hotel technology to provide a more seamless experience, allowing guests to request room service or housekeeping, adjust lights and temperature, play music and stream content, or get recommendations on local attractions. (14) Google is also focusing on hospitality with investment in an AI-powered chatbot that welcomes hotel guests and answers questions, as well as the deployment of Google Home devices to help guests check weather or travel information, order room service, and buy local event tickets. (15) Within this context, voice-enabled technology is the key driver of the in-room experience, and brands are compelled to develop a sound and voice strategy and build technology partnerships to meet demand.
Written by Paul Amitai, Executive Strategy Director
Published June 2020
(1) “Immersive Audiovisual Experiences Can Help Hotels Reimagine Public Spaces,” Boutique Design (Aug 20, 2018).
(2) "Mobile Travel Trends," Travelport Digital, 2019.
(3) Bond, Shannon, “Amazon teams with Marriott to put Alexa in hotels,” Financial Times, 2018.
(4) "Global Digital Traveler Survey," Travelport, 2018.
(5) "The State of Voice in Travel," Phocuswright, 2018.
(6) Stead, Julia, "Why Brands in These 3 Categories Need to Prepare for the Voice Era," AdWeek (Jan 24 2018).
(7) "Guestroom Entertainment Study of Guests & Hoteliers," Hotel Internet Services, 2018.
(8) The State of Voice, Angie Hospitality, 2019.
(9) "Consumer Intelligence Series: Prepare for the Voice Revolution," PwC, 2018.
(10) "Global Digital Traveler Survey," Travelport, 2018.
(11) The State of Voice, Angie Hospitality, 2019.
(12) Berger, David, “Is Your Hotel Budgeting for Voice Technology?,” HospitalityNet (Oct 22. 2019).
(13) "Voice Search for Local Business Study," BrightLocal, 2018.
(14) Perez, Sarah, “Amazon launches an Alexa system for hotels,” TechCrunch (Jun 19, 2018).
(15) "How Big Tech Is Battling To Own The $49B Voice Market," CB Insights (Feb 13, 2019).
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