As we begin to see a resumption of air travel and a reawakening of the event industry, I’m keeping my eye on the hotel industry. The focus for hotels has been on guest health and safety throughout the pandemic. What’s interesting is that those practices designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are the ones customers really want to keep.
Contactless Is the Future – and the Future is Now
Consumers – in retail, hospitality, and more – discovered the convenience and reassurance of contactless interactions during the pandemic, and it’s not something they’re willing to give up. According to Hotel Tech Report, “contactless check-in and a touchless journey can help guests feel more comfortable staying in a hotel, with 26% of consumers indicating they want digital room keys and 35% asking for contactless payment options.”
Convenience, as well as health and safety concerns, are driving the push for more contactless options. In addition to digital keys and check-in kiosks, hotels are introducing contactless solutions for their lobby markets as well. Sean Houchin, product manager for Elatec Inc., explained in an interview with Kiosk Marketplace:
A hotel is its own organizational ecosystem. Self-service conveniences can and should be able to extend to parking lot access, use of the hotel EV chargers, purchases in the restaurant or bodega or vending machines, document printing in the business office, bike-sharing and more.
Tech Investment as a Solution
Tim Peter, an HNN columnist who explores digital technology in hospitality, wrote an article in CoStar, in which he explains that “after two years of living with a worldwide pandemic, it’s not that we’re right back where we started. It’s worse. We’ve increased our labor costs dramatically and still can’t find enough willing workers to help us run our properties.” He points out that, in many cases, the labor shortage in hospitality can be solved by turning to technology.
The New Traveler – Business Travelers and Leisure Travelers Merge
In The American Hotel & Lodging Association 2022 State of the Hotel Industry Report in Collaboration with Accenture, the impact that COVID-19 has had on travel is discussed:
Bleisure travel – that is, blending business and leisure travel – has exploded during the pandemic, representing a profound shift in consumers’ attitudes and behaviors related to travel. This, in turn, will significantly impact hotel operations as the industry responds to meet the needs and expectations of their guests.
While tending to the needs of bleisure travelers, digital nomads, and a larger GenZ consumer base, hotels not only have to commit to serious sustainability measures, but they must also adapt their services to deliver to these new consumers – and that means better technology. The AHLA points to four trends in tech:
Personalization with tech – flexible check-in, data-driven customization of the experience
Self-service – mobile and kiosk check-in and digital keys, self-service markets
Contactless experiences – tech solutions that improve not only the customer experience but make the back-end more efficient and overcome staff shortage issues
Apps – Customized apps that let guests do everything from booking rooms to confirming check-in times to scheduling a massage
What was forced upon hotels in order to accommodate the few brave travelers who were willing to venture out during the pandemic has now become a solution to both labor shortages and a method of attracting guests who prefer contactless interactions, convenience, and a personalized experience.