The hotel industry has undoubtedly been one of the hardest hit sectors due to the covid-19 pandemic. As hotels consider strategies to increase occupancy rates, they are turning to technology to help overcome guest fears of contracting the virus at their properties. For instance, Hilton’s Digital Key technology allows guests to check-in and out of properties using their mobile app for a truly contactless experience. Hilton is also considering the adoption of electrostatic disinfectant technology and ultraviolet light to sanitize surfaces and objects. Hotels around the world are contemplating the use of robots to clean rooms or deliver food to protect their guests and staff from acquiring the virus.
In an industry that is designed to deliver a welcoming and personal experience to its guests, it may seem contradictory to replace human interaction with technology. According to the latest U.S. National Technology Readiness Survey (NTRS) results released by Rockbridge at the start of the pandemic in March of 2020, consumer interest in using contactless technologies in hotels was moderately high even though few guests had used them in the past during a hotel stay. A full one-half to two-thirds of guests have used or are interested in using their mobile phone to complete tasks that limit human interaction or touching of surfaces and objects.
Older guests who are more vulnerable to covid-19 were less interested in these types of technologies than their younger counterparts in March, so the hotel industry may need to take additional steps in marketing and implementation to encourage adoption among this group. Alternatively, the continued threat of the virus may encourage these reluctant guests to try new technologies at a faster pace than what might be expected, as is happening in other services industries, like digital banking.
While these technologies may be necessary in the current age, one of the downsides of using technology within the hospitality experience is that it has the potential to reduce guests’ feelings of being welcome, cared for, and treated well during their stay. Interestingly, hotels can use personalized service technology to help convey to guests that they are special and are recognized by the hotel. A personalized service system provides more preferential and customized service by capturing information from a customer’s previous visits to provide a more personalized experience during guests’ future stays. The service might include setting the room temperature to the one a guest prefers or making extra pillows available based on historical requests.
Based on findings from the NTRS, the vast majority of hotel guests feel it is important that their travel experience be personalized to their needs so the implementation of this type of system would help guests feel like they are still valued even if face-to-face interaction is limited.
Technology has the potential to help the hotel industry combat the coronavirus, but also maintain its commitment to serving its guests. Many guests are open to technology that helps reduce human interaction and contact with surfaces during a hotel stay, so the hotel industry should take advantage of the variety of offerings available to protect its guests and employees. The industry can implement personalized service technology as well to show guests they still remember and care about their unique needs.
Written by: Sara Farbry, Vice President, Methods