The world before us is quickly changing and through it all, technology is helping us stay connected in our personal and professional lives while also helping us stay apart. Technology will also be there to support and protect us as we safely venture out and take part in some of our favorite activities, such as traveling with family.
But as we do, those familiar activities like staying in a hotel will offer a different experience as hoteliers need to evolve to meet regulations and, most importantly, guest expectations. Hotels need to look for technology solutions that not only inspire guest confidence during their stay, but also address staff safety.
It is for this reason that contactless solutions have become a priority within the hospitality industry. While contactless is not a new concept, it can now be more of a necessity rather than a luxury. In addition, health guidelines, like those issued by the World Health Organization, will require hoteliers to re-evaluate what is necessary within the business, and this technology may fall directly into the "essential" category.
Below are several ways hotels can incorporate contactless solutions into their hotel.
Say Goodbye to Lines at the Front Desk
Historically, hotel staff have worked in confined quarters behind a “front” desk, with customers forming a tight queue opposite them, but there’s no reason this must remain standard procedure. With core hotel systems like property-management systems deployed in the cloud, staff can step outside the front desk bay, taking the applications they need with them. For example, when equipped with tablets, front-desk employees are empowered to not only move beyond the desk, but to mitigate crowded lobbies and long lines, simultaneously safeguarding guests.
You can even take this technology to the next level by introducing kiosks. As guests become more tech-savvy, check-in kiosks can speed up front-desk operations while allowing employees to reallocate their focus upon other important tasks. This technology is simply another way to empower your employees to best support guests, ensuring they feel comfortable.
These mobile technologies can also translate to services outside of the front desk. When equipped with mobile devices, housekeeping staff can keep a close eye on core hotel needs and schedule services, thus eliminating the frequency of face-to-face interaction between staffers and guests. Kiosks also can prove useful at hotel restaurants, shops and other on-property amenities, enabling guests to book spa treatments or order food while maintaining social distancing.
Stay “High Touch” at a Distance
Hospitality is built on connections, and hotels can maintain one-to-one relationships with guests, even with less face time. And although communication with guests comes first, it is critical to also improve real-time collaboration and communication among team members and staff. Chatbots and robots offer strong opportunities to minimize direct person-to-person interaction in the hospitality industry without sacrificing service or communication.
Edwardian Hotels created Edward, an artificial intelligence chatbot offering personalized service to help meet guests’ every need while logging guest feedback to provide better experiences in the future. Not only does the chatbot reduce unnecessary person-to-person interaction, but Edward has also increased roomservice sales anywhere from 10 to 50 percent.
Edward is one in a growing crowd of Android staffers helping hotels stay connected with guests. Hilton introduced Connie, a robot concierge who works with Hilton’s employees to assist with visitor requests and personalize guest experiences, allowing staffers to reallocate their time to pressing tasks while the robot ensures that the needs of hotel guests are met. At Las Vegas’ Vdara Hotel & Spa, robot butlers Fetch and Jett are known to delight guests as they deliver roomservice and other amenities to guests’ doors.
Redefine the Key
Say goodbye to the small, plastic keycards of the past. Since keycards are often exchanged between front desk staff and guests, they can be a transfer point of germs. Fortunately, contactless technology offers a straightforward solution to this problem. This technology can transform guests’ phones into digital keys, eliminating the need for an added physical touchpoint. Rather, guests can do everything from their phone, allowing easy access to their hotel room on a device that is already in their possession. While this technology is more commonplace in metropolitan markets and segments like luxury brands, it’s poised to hit the mainstream thanks to the added protection for guests.
Not only do these technologies minimize germs, they also make check-in and check-out easier. By implementing mobile-friendly keycard technology through a centralized app, guests can do everything they need from their phone, simultaneously saving time and reducing crowding that would otherwise occur at the front desk. The New York Times even published a feature on the technology, outlining its many benefits. One individual who used the mobile technology even described their “first hotel stay where human interaction was utterly unnecessary. Online booking, mobile check-in, mobile room key, and mobile check-out.” While this technology allows guests to seek out human interaction should they desire it, it also gives them the chance to "opt out."
If your hotel has a high quantity of guest interaction, consider upping the ante with wearable technology. While this technology does not fit the needs of all hotels, resorts with heavy guest interaction and lots of touchpoints might want to consider it. The Walt Disney Co. famously rolled out this technology with its Magic Band program in Florida, offering guests a bracelet that connects to their phone to function as a room key, park ticket, payment portal and more. Meliá Hotels even took the wearable tech concept a step further with electronic bracelets and wristbands, powered by Oracle, that serve as a payment method for its resorts and select merchants. As hotels, theme parks and more start to open up again, this technology will be even more essential.
The world is changing, and during this time, it is important to remember that technology is here to help, and there is no doubt that contactless solutions will play a larger role than ever before.
Moving forward, emerging technologies such as facial recognition, cashless payments and the Internet of Things will also play a key role in the industry, and many technology companies are gearing up to implement these innovations. As guests and staff become more accustomed to the technology and the improvements it can bring to the hospitality experience, it will shift from a necessity of the era to an expected convenience that comes with a great hospitality experience. Contactless technology has long been considered the future of the industry, and now, the future is on our doorstep.
Fabricio Titiro is principal product manager at Oracle Hospitality.