Guests' desire for a contactless hotel experience is shifting the expectations of what a property-management system can do—and hospitality technology companies are responding.
“Today we are seeing an unprecedented adoption rate of mobile technologies, and unfortunately, we have the pandemic to thank for that,” said Warren Dehan, president of hospitality technology company Maestro PMS. “Solutions that hoteliers were once cautiously optimistic about are now wanted top-of-mind.”
In August, hotel owner-operator MCR announced plans to acquire StayNTouch, a cloud-based hotel property-management system and contactless solutions provider that offers contactless guest check-in via a web-based kiosk, letting guests avoid the front desk entirely. A popular feature integrated into the PMS, said MCR Chairman and CEO Tyler Morse, is “mobile check-in, which enables a hotel to facilitate a completely contactless welcome and departure experience.”
The company, Morse said, has seen some demand for mobile keys, although not a significant amount. “But a lot of hotel owners and operators are calling us about the contactless product because they want to be ready for when demand comes back, and people are a little hesitant to make contact with the front-desk agents,” he said.
Properly Managed Social (distancing)
Because social distancing between staff and guests is mandatory, digital communication has gone from niche to necessity. Sridhar Laveti, VP of established products & customer support at Agilysys, said mobile check-in and check-out options, digital keys, digital menus, contactless payments, mobile ordering for to-go and full-service dining and two-way SMS guest communications are increasingly in demand. “We are also seeing a lot of activity with a product called Agilysys Seat that handles location reservations for tables, cabanas, theater seats, RV parks, slot floors and so on to manage areas where people generally gather in groups for activities,” he said.
Dehan cited Maestro’s Guest Engagement Measurement tool for instant access to relevant guest feedback, intelligence and insights. “GEM facilitates digitally customized feedback surveys while guests are in-house and after departure and serves as a web administration portal, a response tracking tool and a robust reporting system,” he said. “Within GEM and supported integrations, an automated welcome message can be sent via text to guests shortly after check-in and prompt guests to use text messaging from their own devices to communicate any need to the hotel team.” Guests also can use the text-based system to alert hotel staff if they experience a health or safety-related issue, keeping everyone at a safe distance while they handle the situation. “Enabling travelers to use their own devices will provide a safer environment for everyone,” Dehan predicted.
Upgrades and Third Parties
PMS technology, Laveti said, can be either an enabler or a barrier to implementing new contactless solutions. “For example, guests may not want regular in-room housekeeping activities during their stay, or hotel management may decide to leave rooms unoccupied for a certain period of time after the guest checks out,” he said. “PMS solutions must be flexible enough to provide all these options and empower guests and hotels to make their own choices.”
At the same time, using multiple products from multiple vendors can create additional complexities that many hoteliers do not have the technology resources to manage, Laveti said.
The ease of adding additional capabilities was one factor that attracted Morse to StayNTouch: “It's easy to add new products,” he said of the platform. “It's all done by [application programming interface] integration, which is very quick and easy. The back end has already been built, and all you have to do is tell the two different systems how many rooms you have or your floor layouts and a few different key pieces of information, and it integrates via API on the back end.”
Before investing in any solutions, Dehan said operators should weigh the employee safety benefits of the technology with its ability to enhance the guest experience. “It’s hotel leaders’ responsibility to provide the tools their teams need to make safety a reality,” he said.