The COVID-19 pandemic has had a paralyzing effect on the hospitality industry. With the whole world at a standstill, people have canceled their travel plans or postponed them for an indefinite period. Hotels are sitting empty and no one knows how long it will take before people feel comfortable to travel again.
These are unprecedented times and it’s normal to feel overwhelmed and uncertain about the future. But in the midst of it all, hotels still have business decisions to make and new strategies to put in place to prepare for the recovery.
For most hotels going back to ‘business as usual’ won’t be an option. They’ll have to make significant changes in order to ensure they’re well positioned to survive and thrive in the post-pandemic economy.
There are no playbooks for this but one thing is certain – we can’t rely on the old ways of thinking as the ‘new normal’ simply won’t allow for hotels to operate as they used to.
The current crisis is impacting every segment of the hotel business, from booking and reservations, to revenue management, operations, F&B and marketing and sales. Hotels can you use this down time to re-evaluate each of these areas and adapt budgets and strategies for the new normal.
None of us know exactly what this ‘new normal’ will look like, but we will likely see huge changes in the hospitality industry both on the demand and supply side. Guest behavior will undoubtedly change and the familiar patterns of how they consume products and services will change, too.
New behaviors will be shaped by hard lessons learned during the pandemic and people will form new habits around heightened need for security, health, and safety in all aspects of life.
For hotels, this means planning for long-term changes to address this shift in guest requirements and behavior. Hotels will need to accommodate for social distancing within their premises, enforce the highest standards of hygiene and sanitary control practices, creating a truly touchless experience whenever practical.
Hotels will need to consider most how to deliver the best possible service while minimizing contact and interaction with guests. They may need to get out of their comfort zone to learn new skills and leverage some advanced hotel technology and tools.
For most hoteliers, investigating new technology probably isn’t top of mind right now. But it should be. We know well that without good software in place, you can’t operate an efficient hotel business in any economic climate. And in times of recovery from a crisis, technology will play an even bigger role, helping hotels anticipate and react to everything that comes with the new normal.
So, what will guests most likely look for in a hotel that you can enable through technology? It’s things like self-services, room control via digital assistants, contactless ordering and payments, automated support, and more.
Does your current tech stack support any of these? If not, now is the time to think about technology investments that will support your business during the recovery and provide you with a competitive advantage over the long run. Now, let’s look at some of the hotel technologies you should consider.
In the new normal, we expect guests to be more cautious and try to minimize all unnecessary contact with hotel staff. This means that they’ll look for hotels that can enable them to check in without interacting physically with the front desk staff.
Solutions like Identity Kiosks are already used in some hotel chains and have proven to be effective in reducing check-in times and increasing guest satisfaction with the check in/check out process.
Self service kiosks with faceID technology can quickly verify guest’s identity, pull up their reservations, check them in, authorize payment, and issue a room key without any contact with the front desk staff. In the post-covid world, enabling seamless check in won’t be a ‘nice-to-have’ but a need to have and a real differentiator for hotels.
Likewise, your guests will appreciate the option to check in via their smartphone using your hotel app and they’ll expect the same convenience when checking out and cancelling their room key.
When you have the mobile app or the faceID check-in enabled, the next thing a guest would expect is to receive a digital room key. Turning your guests’ smartphones into room keys is not only a time saver but also eliminates unnecessary contact with hotel staff. Keyless entry is extremely convenient as all your guests will have to do is open the app and press unlock.
During their stay in your hotel, guests will most likely use less of your amenities (e.g. gym, spa, restaurants) but they’ll rely on other services to make their stay more enjoyable. For example, they may use room service more and increase their spend on F&B ordering.
To make this as easy for guests as possible, you can enable ordering and other service and support functions via automated guest messaging. By allowing them to make an order via simple text message, you’ll be putting control over meal selections and delivery times squarely in your guests’ hands. Another huge advantage of this technology is cashless payments processing that is typically enabled in advanced automated guest messaging platforms.
Automated guest messaging will also provide a 24/7 support channel to handle FAQs, but also to be proactive with guest service and send timely information and offers based on their context, behavior and preferences. For example, you could provide meal recommendations via messaging based on a guest’s previous bookings/orders or send an offer for a transfer service prior to check out.
During these times when everyone is focused on staying afloat, preparing for the new normal demands from hotels to rethink their strategies, reallocate budgets, and develop new skills. But it is also just as important to think about technology investments that will help you emerge from this crisis even stronger, ready to accommodate changing guest requirements, and build a competitive advantage as the market recovers.