It is impractical to achieve a lasting recovery from the current pandemic without thinking ahead to the future of our industry. And that future is inextricably tied to two things: the first being Covid-19-related workflow modifications which are continuing to develop daily, and the second is the constant evolution of mobile hospitality technology. Both are expected to have a lasting effect that will change hospitality’s approach to guest service – and for the better.
We predict that the ‘new normal’ will have two phases. The first, which is already underway today, is focused on adopting guidelines that support guests’ desire for cleanliness and contactless interactions.
The need for contact or the sharing of items can be altogether avoided when guests can engage hotel and other staff from a smart device. In the second phase, we will see a loosening of the physical distancing expectations as guests become comfortable again with varying levels of contact. After all, personal engagement is the very essence of the hospitality industry.
In both phases, what will matter most to guests is flexibility. Guests no longer want to be constrained to the traditional way of checking-in, interacting with hotel staff, and enjoying their stay. They will look for technologies that are mobile and secure while supporting healthy physical-distancing expectations.
Creating a genuine yet touch-free future will become long-standing traditions for hospitality markets, and this article presents just some of the ways operators are adjusting to their workflows to make it possible.
Frictionless internal communication: Hoteliers can no longer risk the potential that rooms get overlooked during maintenance and housekeeping assignments. Instead, they are looking to workforce collaboration tools that improve internal communications and the overall management of housekeeping, engineering, concierge, valet, and room service. The technology can aid a contactless workflow with SMS alerts to staff and work equally well for incident tracking, logging, dispatching, and timely follow up.
Self-service for DIY-obsessed guests: Kiosks and mobile applications have already entered the marketplace and are enjoying wide adoption, both by hoteliers and guests. As we look toward the future of hospitality, some of the most exciting technology uses will find a permanent place in the areas of hotel check-in and check-out, issuing digital room keys, customising guest stays, and ordering room service.
Digital check-in, room keys, and check-out involve guests being invited to “pre-check-in” as much as 24 hours in advance of their stay, access their rooms, and check-out using only their mobile device – completely bypassing front desk queues. By clicking links provided through text messaging from the hotel, guests can even request room upgrades during the pre-check-in process. This contactless engagement gives hoteliers more information with which to provide seamless personalised service.
Mobile room service is not necessarily new, but it has been gaining traction with either in-room tablets or room-specific QR codes which, when scanned, pop up a menu for F&B ordering. The latter has strong momentum as it allows guests to place orders without the need to download a proprietary app or having to use in-room tablets which are notoriously challenging to keep sanitised.
As we find our way through and begin to come out of this crisis, mobile and self-service technologies will continue to spread throughout the industry as a now ‘physically-distant’ guest population expects greater control over their travel and dining experiences.
Commenting on the expected rise in contactless technology in hospitality, Jane Pendlebury, CEO of HOSPA, the Hospitality Professionals Association, concluded: “While the surge in a touch-free environment was evident before the Covid-19 crisis, we can be certain it will continue, and even excel, as we move out of the pandemic. People want a guest experience that suits their needs and new technologies are giving them the tools to do just that, while keeping in line with any physical-distancing measures to come.”
James Slatter is the EMEA managing director at Agilysys