With the travel industry slowly reopening post the COVID-19 lockdown, hotels all over the world are looking to bring back guests. Once considered a “nice to have” a contactless yet connected guest experience will become more of a standard “need to have”, and expected technology going forward. Travelers will be returning and it’s more important than ever before that hotels capture market share. If a hotel struggled to compete prior to this pandemic, now is a great time to emerge even stronger than the competition.
As a response to the current pandemic, PROVision Partners is proposing new technologies to adopt for the ideal post-pandemic hotel.
Although operators may argue that revenues are down so they can’t afford to invest, now – when occupancy is low – is an excellent opportunity to prepare for the “new normal” and ensure that your property is competitive and is earning the confidence of guests when travel fully resumes. In doing so, here are hospitality technologies you consider:
- OPERATIONS MANAGEMENT
Most of the major brands (Marriott, Hilton, Accor, IHG) and organizations (Singapore Tourism, AH&LA) have already published “standards” for cleanliness post-COVID. As part of this effort, it is important that hotels document their compliance with these programs and provide guidance to their staff in performing the program. Technology can play a role in meeting these new standards.
Operations management technology, for example, which provides housekeepers with digital checklists to complete tasks while cleaning a guestroom or public area are an ideal way to ensure that each space is “COVID-19 clean” and documented. Task information is stored in the system to provide management with records that the process has been completed and which employee completed it.
- TELEMEDICINE FOR TRAVELERS
To go a step further and provide further assurances that travel is safe, telemedicine is emerging as an offering of the ‘new normal’. The CDC is recommending using telemedicine whenever possible because medical practice on the Internet via video, voice or chat can result in faster diagnosis and treatments. It can also increase the efficiency of care and reduce patient stress.
From an operations and global health perspective, the platform provides analytical insight and identifies potential hot spots in real time while protecting patient privacy. The technology supports proactive polling, enabling operators to follow up with guests to see how they are feeling throughout the stay and ask if further help is needed. It also shields hoteliers and cruise operators from liability associated with medical care while demonstrating a strong commitment to safety.
Letting travelers know that if they get sick – whether it’s a cold, from food poisoning, or the Coronavirus – letting them know that your facility provides instant access to world renowned health experts that can diagnose and privately prescribe medicines will go a long way towards getting the travel industry back on its feet.
- CONTACTLESS GUEST JOURNEY
So, in addition to heightened sanitation practices and social distancing, hoteliers can increase occupancy by appealing to guests who want an experience that is high tech … not high touch. Adding new technologies, or improving existing ones, that provide guests with a “contactless” experience will increase satisfaction while also adding differentiation in the market.
A mobile, frictionless, guest experience will become more of a standard, “need to have”, and expected technology going forward. This includes the entire mobilized guest journey of being able select their room from a floor plan, check-in -- which may include guest identification and credit processing --, use their phone as a mobile key and perhaps in room remote control, communicate with hotel staff, and check-out of the hotel – all without having to stop by the front desk, thus avoiding face to face interaction.
- ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
During their stay, artificial intelligence (“AI”) solutions can also reduce the amount of direct employee communication with guests by directing service requests via text message to the appropriate department. An excellent case study of this is where a resort reduced the number of guest calls and interactions with the front desk by over 12,000 per month because the inquiries where handled directly by the AI solution they had implemented. And while these numbers were experienced pre-pandemic, imagine the use case for hotels during the ‘new normal’ where staffing has been significantly reduced.
Another solution to consider is a voice-enabled communications platform. During this time of quarantine, people have become even more reliant on smart speakers with voice assistants to give them the information they need on voice command. Research shows that in first quarter 2020 alone, 300,000 more smart speakers shipped to consumers in North America over the same period last year. With smart speakers becoming part of people’s daily routines, it’s more important than ever that hoteliers embrace voice.
There’s also a “cleanliness” component here. When travel resumes, hotel guests are not going to want to touch in-room thermostats, telephones, TVs and remotes, HVAC systems, bedside alarm clocks, etc. They would rather just speak commands as they did at home to control the environment by saying things like “Alexa, turn on the TV and turn off the lights,” or “Hey Google, close the drapes, lower the thermostat, and ask the hotel to set a wake-up call for 6:00 a.m.” Key to identifying the best voice technology partner is finding one with multiple integration partnerships with IPTV, room control, energy-management, staff alert, and work-order management systems. When properly implemented, voice assistants will become powerful and highly secure business tools that boost operational efficiencies, influence guests’ behaviors, and drive much-needed revenues.
- EMPLOYEE COMMUNICATIONS
If this pandemic taught hotel operators anything, it’s that real-time communication with employees is critical, especially when business halts and workers are put on furlough. Most people manning the frontlines don’t have a company email address, and although human resources may have a physical address, phone number or personal email - they may not be accurate. And forget about phone calling. It’s time consuming and connecting is random. The only way to truly remain engaged with employees — keeping them updated on new policies and rehiring plans — is to implement an employee communication platform. Here’s why it’s important . . .
There is no guarantee that when hotels reopen employees will return. How well an employer communicated during the shutdown will determine if an employee wants to come back. If an operator closed its doors and said, “see you later,” chances are high that management will probably have a lot of rehiring to do – and that costs money. Putting a mobile-first communication plan in place will enable hoteliers to reach every single employee regardless of their job position, and it will go a long way towards building loyalty. Some technology providers are offering free roll-out of their solution for a limited time. With this type of financial assistance available, hoteliers can get the tools they need today to be successful tomorrow.
While real-time communication prior to reopening is essential, operators should also be doing everything they can today to keep workers safe when they return. That includes adding employee safety devices or panic buttons that enable service workers to call for help during an emergency. Whether a housekeeper is in danger of sexual assault or a room service attendant discovers that a guest is in medical distress, investing in safety alert technologies speaks volumes towards a company’s integrity and the empathy that it shows to employees. If given the choice to work at a hotel with panic buttons or without, my guess is safety will win hands down.
- TECHNOLOGY AUDIT
One of the best ways to slash costs and operate leaner in the days ahead is to review all existing technology and service agreements – both on and above property – as to their current effectiveness and value to the operations and the guest experience.
Any technology that will help lower operating costs and drive crucial revenues through guest purchases should be considered and rolled-out today while occupancy is low. I’ve seen examples where vendors are offering a "Fee per occupied room" model to assist hotels in the recovery, and “deploy now, pay later”. The more assurances a hotel can give travelers that its facilities are virus-free and have reduced direct contact with employees or other guests will put us on a faster track to recovery by building consumer confidence.
Also, using downtime to add new solutions like these is the ideal time because there is no disruption to service – rooms aren’t being taken out of inventory and guests don’t need to deal with construction noise (if relevant). More importantly, satisfied guests will lead to an increase in positive online reviews.
The hospitality technology landscape is especially complicated. PROVision Technology Services provides hotels, resorts, restaurants, and other venues with a logical and understandable “Technology Playbook” which provides organizations with the specific architectures, blueprints, and roadmaps necessary to achieve their technology or solutions objectives.
Contact us to learn how we can help your organization meet your guests’ expectations and operate more efficiently moving forward.