In a global atmosphere dominated by health concerns, the Hotel Industry finds itself scrambling to inspire consumer confidence while also working hard to safeguard both guests and employees against the deadly COVID-19.
Could a combination of leading-edge technologies offer solutions to both challenges simultaneously, and help revive the hospitality sector?
COVID-19 has unquestionably accelerated the infusion of new technologies and applications into hotel operations. Tech features that might have originally been intended for introduction as novelties or extra conveniences are suddenly becoming necessities in an era where some people are wary of even stepping outside their doors.
Across every industry, the world is witnessing efforts to bolster consumer confidence and keep the economy rolling. Protocols like mask-wearing, hand-sanitizing and social distancing are being accepted as new norms, and tactics for keeping people apart while continuing to conduct business (i.e., “touch-free” or “contactless” solutions) are the order of the day.
From replacing tangible restaurant menus and paper in-room compendiums with scannable QR codes to contactless hotel check-in capabilities, mobile room keys, touchless payments, and in-app ordering and appointments-booking, almost every aspect of the hospitality experience can now be accessed through guests’ own mobile devices, provided that hotels have adopted the right software.
Customer-facing tech tools are being deployed to provide remote access to front-desk, concierge and customer-service functions through chatbots or live-chats with on-property staff, putting immediate assistance straight into guests’ hands without the need to come face-to-face with hotel employees.
Cloud-based IoT (Internet of Things) software also can be just as essential to running back-of-house functions and streamline operational complexities like coordinating housekeeping systems, assigning staff duties and confirming compliance with newly-enhanced cleanliness standards.
Besides employing mobile and self-service technologies to help personalize guest stays and provide cost-effective management of operations, amid COVID-19, incorporating this kind of cutting-edge tech has quickly become paramount for hotels just to stay in business.
In Sitel Group’s recent report, ‘Customer Experience Trends in a Post-COVID-19 World’, CMO Martin Wilkinson-Brown wrote, “As we move into the ‘new normal’ and hotels reopen for business, the expectation for customer experience is higher than ever.” He foresees that moving forward, guests will expect enhanced tools like live-agent or AI-powered support channels, and personalized communications, not to mention heightened hygiene standards. “Hotels that cater to these consumers’ needs will win brand loyalty as we embrace the new normal and for the long term,” he predicted.
We examined the various types of technology that appear poised to influence the hotel sector’s future and laid out some prime examples below.
The ‘FaceMe’ product from Cyberlink—one of the world’s most accurate facial-recognition engines—has added new features that are designed specifically to help businesses in reopening amid COVID-19 conditions. These include mask-detection, which can still identify individuals while they’re wearing masks, and help alert management when someone enters the premises without a mask or is wearing it improperly; and thermal-camera integration, as distanced temperature-taking protocols are fast becoming a commonly accepted practice in the post-pandemic era.
Nevotek, a global provider of cloud-based hospitality tech solutions, recently released two new guest-engagement technologies that integrate easily with a hotel’s existing Property Management System.
‘Grace’ is a new platform that enables guests to message hotel staff in real-time via their app of choice (e.g. WhatsApp, Messenger, WeChat), cutting out the need to download an extra app. This secure communications option allows hotel staff to respond instantaneously to guests’ needs without even having to ask for their name and room number. For example, texting “extra pillow” is all that’s needed for the request to be fulfilled. There’s also an A.I. option to enable a chatbot, an analytics function is embedded in the software and the product supports many major languages.
The company is also launching ‘NevoTouchless’, another groundbreaking product that allows guests to access hotel services via their own mobile devices. Guests can pair their devices with their in-room TVs to use as remote controllers, to access online versions of in-room paper compendiums, order room service and more, simply by scanning a personalizing QR code on their TV.