Serge Chamelian, managing partner of h-hotelier, sheds light on some innovative technological solutions for hotels aimed at considerably reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission risks while ensuring customer satisfaction.
The reopening of hotels and other accommodations will require additional measures of safety to protect customers from the post-coronavirus stage. It is sensible to predict an increased demand for touch-free experiences, triggering the adoption of technology solutions.
Since COVID-19 made us all aware of the potential risks associated with physical touch points, contactless technology solutions are having their moment, providing customers with greater control. The shift to some of these technologies was witnessed recently, such as digital check-in, digital room keys and in-room devices, but COVID-19 accelerated the demand for these solutions, to eliminate any element of the experience that could create a risk for either customers or employees. Moreover, customer resiliency and changing expectations will force hotels to embrace new technologies and innovations.
To reduce human contact at every stage, hotels are amending their policies and standards and investing in emerging technology solutions. Below is a list of technology solutions that help meet the changing behaviors of customers:
- Contactless check-in/check-out and keyless room entry: avoiding unnecessary gatherings and queues at the reception area, providing remote access control (through the opening of doors via an app), and complying with the rules on distance between people.
- Virtual TV remote control: simplified management of room services (such as breakfast) through the ordering via an app or the interactive TV.
- Integration of voice command: through the interaction with a voice assistant, customers can activate the room functions through voice commands. This voice-technology enables hotels to address customers’ needs without needing to be face-to-face with them and facilitates the removal of all printed collateral and directories from the rooms. Another technology solution is the volumetric sensor that limits contact with certain devices (for example, lighting and air conditioning controls) and is enabled if the customer is present in the room, and disabled when customers leave the room.
- Digital concierge system (through a QR code): Hotels respond to any sort of question or request from customers (such as needing more towels, ordering room service or making spa bookings), without the need for the customer to pick up a room phone or stand in line in the lobby.
- Contactless payment (restaurant POS, front desk) and contactless access control (parking garages, elevators, meeting rooms, gyms, spas, front doors etc.) are crucial.
- Contactless temperature-check kiosk: set in the lobby for customers and in an office for employees.
- Touchless digital menu system for restaurants: customers scan a tableside QR code to view the restaurant’s menu on their own mobile device, replacing traditional printed menus and eliminating concerns in potentially passing germs between customers handling the same menus.
- Mobile app that allows hotels to better control capacity and social distancing at their pools and beaches: this technology combines mapping technology and a reservation and payment system so hotel customers can reserve things like a lounge chair, umbrella or cabana at the pool or beach, all completely contactless.
- E-mist sanitizing machine to spread disinfecting material throughout the hotel and destroy viruses and bacteria.
The challenge hotels are facing is unprecedented. These establishments need to put in place plans that allow them to remain confident as they welcome customers again to their property. Thus, forecasting multiple scenarios and taking action lay the foundations for a brighter future. Beyond what technology solutions to adopt, one of the biggest challenges facing hotels in the post-COVID-19 stage will be how much technology to adopt — from a budgeting viewpoint and from a customer experience viewpoint. Will contactless solutions become the norm? Protecting the brand promise and customer experience is very important. Thus, many hotels will make decisions on what technology to adopt and what technology to hold on to until the industry recovers globally from the pandemic.