The utilization of contactless technology should not replace the human, high-touch experience. Instead, it must elevate it by allowing staff to focus on those interactions and touchpoints that matter the most.
The hospitality industry has been one of the hardest-hit sectors by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the industry has reported a loss of more than $36 billion in room revenue alone. In a financial crisis survey, 71% of hotels won’t make it another six months without further federal assistance given the current and projected travel demands, and 77% of hotel owners said they would be forced to lay off more workers. Nearly half of the survey respondents indicated they would soon be forced to close their hotel, and more than one-third of the hotels will be facing bankruptcy by the end of the year.
This dire situation has hoteliers, and significant hotel chains accelerating the adoption of new technologies in the hotel industry. Like many other industries trying to survive, contactless technology is at the forefront. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the hotel industry was already moving toward contactless technology, such as mobile check-in and contactless payment options like Apple Pay. It was still far from an industry-wide adoption, and hotels fought for market share by offering elite, personable customer service.
As hoteliers navigate the road to recovery, they’re now moving in the opposite direction and aim to provide a safe travel experience with a minimal amount of human interaction. This is where contactless technology can be promoted to demonstrate their properties’ safety and cleanliness now and after the pandemic ends.
Traditionally, the hospitality industry is rooted in a high-touch, guest-centric experience provided by an attentive staff and world-class accommodations. Today, hoteliers are walking a very thin line between maintaining a high guest service level and moving toward a future of low-touch, contactless solutions like check-in, contactless valet services, and contact tracing.
Go Moment, an artificial intelligence (AI) technology platform backed by Google, provides a contactless technology that gives hotels the opportunity to reopen or continue operations responsibly and safely. Ivy, the company’s smartconcierge service, communicates directly with hotel guests through a text messaging platform eliminating the direct contact between staff and guests.
Just as people adapted to social distancing at grocery stores and local restaurants, they too will adjust to new contactless operations at hotels. Contactless solutions for hotels will be the new baseline, and guests will consider the technology at a hotel when deciding where to stay.
A big issue faced by hotels is the potential overcrowding of guests in spaces such as lobbies and other public areas that have been the center-focus of many hotels. Communal spaces have been a trend in hotel design, as lobbies and other public spaces became a focus for work and social activities while guestrooms got smaller.
Before COVID, many hotels were already offering some form of a contactless check-in and check-out system to their rewards program guests. Contactless technologies such as digital keys further eliminate the need for physical key cards, which must be sanitized after every use, and requires queuing at the front desk.
In other areas of the property, hotels resort to digital menus or QR Code menus for contactless in-room and outdoor dining to avoid staff interaction. QR code menus are placed on a table, which takes guests to a digital PDF to access the menu. Room service menus are being expanded, with delivery moving to knock and drop at guest doors, and ordering is done via the customers’ smartphones.
The utilization of contactless technology should not replace the human, high-touch experience. Instead, it must elevate it by allowing staff to focus on those interactions and touchpoints that matter the most. The pandemic will soon come to a halt, and hoteliers will have to do everything they can to instill trust in their guests as travel begins to pick up. Promoting cleanliness, contactless service, and safety will help bring the hospitality industry back to providing top-notch experiences for guests across the world.