With governments around the world introducing travel restrictions to halt the spread of COVID-19, and some even closing domestic and international borders; it's no surprise that the hospitality industry has been severely affected.
According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), international travel could adversely be impacted up to 25% in 2020 which is equivalent to a loss of three months of travel revenue. The pandemic has also signalled an impeding recession with a reduction of consumer spending, resulting in the GDP of many countries to slow down.
In light of the situation, hotels are now prioritizing guests' safety with revised policies. Big names like The Hilton, Marriott and The Hyatt have modified cancellation polices to waive penalty charges to encourage responsible traveling.
While hospitality players may be cutting back on spending to tide through this period, innovation budgets should not be overlooked. Travel will not be the same once the economy reopens - the focus on using smart technology to not only improve guest experience, but to ensure that guests are safe should be of top priority.
While the human touch element distinguishes a hotel's standard of hospitality, such options allow them to deliver superior service in other ways.
Automated check-ins were already gaining traction before the virus outbreak to streamline operational processes. However, we're seeing its importance grow as measures to reduce human-to-human contact are put in place during this period.
Hotels like The Hilton have adopted systems that allow guests to check-in with their mobile phones. Members can verify bookings via the Hilton Worldwide Honors app, and obtain a digital key to enter their rooms straightaway upon arrival. This skips the front desk entirely, making the process much faster.
Apart from mobile solutions, self-check-in kiosks are also convenient. These kiosks usually come with an intuitive interface and straightforward commands. There's no need for human contact throughout the check-in process, making it quick and easy for guests to gain access to their rooms.
Since the modern guest carries at least one smart device with them at all times, hotels can enhance their services for better guest satisfaction while reducing touch points and human contact, and adhere to safe distancing measures by issuing virtual keys.
There's a growing number of hotels that let guests manage most of their stay via smartphones. Virtual and digital keys are hassle-free as guests do not need to deal with access cards, nor worry about accidentally demagnetising them.
Hotels will also reduce the use of plastic by eliminating physical cards, and improve operational processes by going digital.
In a bid to ensure both guest and staff safety, safe distancing is imperative. However, when personal service is involved, it may be difficult for hotels to do so. This is where robot butlers come in handy.
Deliveries of room service, housekeeping necessities and more can be carried out by these handy bots. The monotonous and time-consuming tasks can be left to technology, allowing staff more time to focus on the guests.
Virtual concierges like Ivy can also help deliver top-notch service without the need for physical contact with other humans.
Using smart devices, guests can communicate their needs such as requesting for late checkouts or make enquiries. There's a shorter wait time to getting answers as compared to getting on the phone to call front desk.
These solutions also offer integrations for the hotel to create a more personalised experience for guests.
These are some of the technology that will not only aid the hotel in improving their service standards and guest satisfaction, but also prepare them in times of crises. At the crux of it, innovation should be at the forefront of the hospitality industry to ensure it's survivability in the long-term.