What is recovery in the hotel industry going to look like? Will it be fast or gradual, will guests book with confidence or take their time, will hotels look and feel dramatically different to pre-COVID-19 or will the changes be more subtle? There are multiple ways in which this transition period could play out in our industry. No one has all the answers but one thing I am sure about is that hotels will finally get on board with tech adoption.
Tech solutions, such as keyless self-check-in, temperature controls and virtual concierge services, were being talked about by hotels long before this crisis but were far from universally implemented. Standardization, training, investment and resistance to change were all factors holding hotels back from rolling out a full menu of tech-efficient changes to improve guest experience and operational efficiency.
The desire from guests has always been there and now, in this new world of contactless travel, the desire is stronger than ever. Guests want and need space; they want a safe, contactless stay and touchless tech can deliver that. Pre-COVID-19, guests were aware of hotel self-check-in options for some time, but now guests are viewing this solution much more favorably. It's clear that the hotel industry needs to provide more contactless experiences given the adoption is still very scattered.
If we look at how the short-term rental sector has embraced tech solutions to improve efficiency and the guest experience, we get an idea of how hotels might harness the benefits of touchless tech to face the new challenges of post-COVID-19 travel. Particularly as we witness the continued convergence of the hotel and short-term rental industries: short-term rentals operating like hotels, such as Sonder, and hotel brands wanting a piece of the short-term rental market, such as Homes & Villas by Marriott.
Hospitality tech platform Jurny is a good example of a forward-thinking company that is capitalizing on our desire for a physically distanced, touchless stay as well as being an illustration of the blending of two market sectors. The company has built its own guest app and focuses on processes and application of software solutions to automate operational and guest experience functions. For example, self-check-in with a keycode removing the need for a front desk or greeter, streamlining the check-in process and giving guests peace of mind that they can enter their room on their own, safely.
Another great example of technology adoption of this kind is Mint House, which operates an apartment-style boutique hotel chain in multiple cities across the United States. Even before the global pandemic, Mint House referred to itself as having “hotel amenities, with no contact.” During the crisis, having a distributed inventory across several cities put it at a disadvantage because it had to adjust to multiple city strategies at different stages and severity, but the keyless entry technology the company is using to save costs paid off. Mint House took a similar tack as the Annex hotel in Toronto, hosting front-line workers and others who needed self-isolation, which allowed them to come out even stronger than before.
These examples demonstrate clearly how tech will be the route forward for the hospitality industry as it looks to the smart stays of the future. If 2020 has taught us anything it is that we need to be adaptable, we need to deliver according to our guests’ changing needs: contactless tech is one way in which hotels can respond to the new circumstances and tool up for the coming recovery.
Michael Driedger is the co-founder and CEO of Operto Guest Technologies, a property automation system.