Does Convenience of a Smart Hotel Outweigh Privacy Concerns? Survey Reveals Important Insights on Travelers’ Perceptions

 “Alexa, send up extra towels – and book a massage for 5 p.m.”

News broke this June that Amazon has adapted its Echo smart speakers for the hospitality market, signing Marriott as its first major customer. As Alexa and her fellow voice-activated digital assistants begin to join other smart tech features like digital check-in and keyless room entry, we asked 400 U.S. travelers whether they welcome the rise of smart hotels.

Mower’s latest Quick Take on Travel survey reveals that 59% use some kind of smart home technology and 44% would prefer to book a hotel that offers such features. At the same time, as many as 75% are at least somewhat concerned about privacy issues around that technology. Those results suggest that for many travelers, the convenience of certain smart tech features outweighs the perceived security risks.

Millennials and those who already use smart home technology are more likely to be aware that hotels are starting to offer smart tech features. And those who are already using smart technology at home also are more likely to book a hotel room that offers it.

U.S. travelers embrace smart technology at home – but not without some trepidation.

The vast majority (86%) of travelers consider themselves tech savvy, with 24% indicating they are very savvy. Some 59% use smart home technology, whether it’s a voice-activated digital home assistant like Alexa, smart locks, surveillance, thermostats or lighting. At the same time, 55% of respondents are somewhat concerned about privacy issues around that technology, and 20% are very concerned.

More travelers than not already have experienced smart technology at a hotel.

Sixty percent have stayed in a hotel with some smart technology. Of those, digital check-in is the feature they have most commonly encountered (33%). This is followed by keyless entry via smart phone (22%); and thermostats, lighting, TV/streaming and other features pre-set to their preferences and activated by their presence (21%). Far fewer travelers have experienced an app that lets them control hotel room features like thermostats and lighting from their own personal device (16%); or an in-room voice-activated digital assistant like Alexa or Siri (14%).

Hotels that offer smart tech are in touch with the features their guests want.

In good news for hotels at the forefront of smart tech, the top three features travelers have encountered during a stay rank in the same order, and within one percentage point, of the features they are most interested in using: digital check-in (32%), keyless entry (23%), and pre-set temperature, lighting and other preferences activated by their presence (21%).

Just under one quarter of travelers are less likely to book a hotel that offers smart room technology.

While 44% of travelers are more likely to book a smart hotel, the 23% of respondents who would be less likely to is roughly in line with the 20% who report they are very concerned about the privacy issues the technology presents. A third of travelers say the availability of smart room technology would have no bearing on their booking decision.

It may be the second-most desired smart tech feature, but keyless entry also raises the most security concerns among travelers (52%).

Those who do not currently use smart home technology are more apprehensive about the security risks of keyless entry than those who have smart home experience. In-room voice-activated digital assistants are a concern for 38% of travelers, followed by digital check-in at 31%. A quarter of travelers are uneasy about apps that control the thermostat and lighting or that are pre-set to the guest’s preference and activated by his or her presence.

Travelers strongly prefer to opt in vs. opt out.

As many as 69% of survey respondents would rather be informed about what features are available and have the opportunity to opt in than to have them automatically included and opt out.

A few parting thoughts for hoteliers who offer or plan to add smart tech features to their guest amenities:

  • Digital check-in is a great way to introduce smart technology into the hotel experience. Travelers are open to use it and it could be a competitive advantage when booking hotel accommodations.
  • Keyless digital entry is the smart technology that draws the most concern. Hotels offering this technology should clearly communicate how they keep guest information confidential and secure so that rooms can’t be “hacked” open.
  • Pairing any such technology with FAQs or reassurances of security measures such as wiping of data after the guest’s departure, protection of personal information, etc., could help address guest concerns. Also ensure that you’re clearly communicating the benefit to the guest of having the technology available.
  • Because those who have already adopted smart technology in their own homes are most likely to welcome it in the hotels they choose, any way to link accounts or use existing apps and preferences (and to do so safely and securely), will yield a more seamless and customized experience for guests.
  • Err on the side of caution and take an opt-in approach so that guests can control their personal experience.

Quick Take on Travel is a series of surveys tracking hot-button U.S. travel industry trends and issues. Backed by 30+ years in travel and tourism marketing, Mower has the research capabilities and the expertise to leverage the insights we uncover and drive strategic thinking on behalf of our clients. To start the conversation, contact Mary Gendron, our SVP – managing director and Travel + Tourism team leader.