For years, technology slowly crept into the lives of consumers and businesses around the world. The near universal adoption of smartphones led to consumers worldwide acclimatizing to the idea of engaging with businesses and organizations in a digital space. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and really opened the throttle.
As Sarah McCay Tams wrote for Hospitality Net, “As market dynamics changed at breakneck speed, and consumer demands pivoted, hoteliers around the world found that they were reaching out for tech solutions to help them adapt to these new challenges and accelerate as demand returned.”
What’s more, guests seemed primed for the change. As social distancing became a requirement nearly everywhere, people across the globe turned out to be more than ready to engage with contactless hospitality technology if it allowed them to continue traveling in some capacity. However, what’s really fascinating is these consumer behaviors continued to persist even with the advent of vaccines and the lessening of travel restrictions.
It seems the pandemic has irrevocably changed consumer behavior, and a desire for contactless hospitality experiences appears to be one of them.
Let’s now take a look at exactly what contactless hospitality is and the role technology plays in it.
What Is Contactless Hospitality?
Contactless hospitality refers to the practice of using technology solutions to augment the guest experience at a hotel. These solutions are commonly referred to as “contactless” because they do not require any in-person interactions between the guest and a hotel’s staff members.
Given the experience of consumers worldwide, it’s easy to see why contactless hospitality was a significant focus for many hotels during the height of the pandemic. However, what’s interesting is the degree to which consumers have adapted to this new way of engaging with businesses, including those in the hospitality industry.
Why Does Contactless Hospitality Matter Post-Pandemic?
Once cemented, new consumer behavior can be a pretty stagnant thing. Generally people only adopt new modes of doing business in two ways: slowly over time through the normal slow course of technology progression, and quickly all at once due to some kind of earth-shattering event. COVID-19 was just such an event as outlined in the latter.
Recent industry reports and research make clear that these types of solutions are indeed increasingly popular with guests. For example, a July 2020 Oracle Hospitality and Skift Research Report indicated that 71% of guests are more likely to stay in a hotel that offers self-service technology. Additionally, a recent Deloitte study showed that 60 percent of travelers are more likely to stay at a hotel that allows contactless check-in and the ability to use a smartphone as a room key.
Essentially, COVID accelerated what would otherwise have been a decade’s worth of tech adoption into only a year or two. And consumer behavior will never be the same.
How Can Hoteliers Create a Contactless Hospitality Experience?
There are a variety of technology platforms and solutions available on the market today that enable hotel management teams to create a contactless hospitality experience. However, not all are created equal.
A truly wholistic contactless hospitality experience will include a few key attributes:
A contactless hospitality experience begins before a guest ever sets foot onto the property and enable them to check-in and request any upgrades remotely
Contactless experiences leverage web-based technology to provide guests with a seamless way to engage with a property without the need to download a native app
Contactless hospitality enables guests to be more independent during their stay and yet still engage with the property easily a key touchpoints in the guest journey
What Technology Solutions Can Enable a Contactless Hospitality Experience?
There are a few key types of solutions that are essential for hotels looking to create a contactless hospitality experience.
These technology solutions include:
Each of the above types of solutions enable a hotel to accommodate the needs of their guests without the need to ever have face-to-face conversations.
Let’s now take a brief look at each one in a little more detail.
An effective Contactless Check-In solution enables guests to easily check-in from any mobile device, with no app or software download required. Hotel guests simply need to click a link in a text or email, which reduces the average check-in time from 5-10 minutes to 1 minute.
Contactless Checkout also does its part in helping hoteliers accommodate modern consumer needs and alleviate the current staffing crisis. This type of solution allows guests to simply input their expected departure time into a form available to their web browser. This checks them out of the hotel and alerts the housekeeping team as to which rooms are ready for turnover. This is a much more effective method than knocking on room doors to see if guests have departed.
Dynamic Upsells solutions enable hoteliers to offer add-ons and upsells to guests seamlessly throughout their stay at a property. An ideal upsell solution will allow hoteliers to enable their guests to purchase upgrades, additional guest services and amenities when they are at the height of their buying intent (check-in, mid-stay, and checkout). Making these offers readily available during a guest’s entire stay is one of the best ways to ensure both high guest satisfaction rate and an increase in overall revenue.
An essential element of any contactless hospitality experience is the ability for hotel staff to push messages to guests quickly and easily via text (SMS, WhatsApp, etc.). But how hoteliers can tell they have a winning solution is to ensure the tool they are using enables them to push messages out to their guests using AI and broadcast messages to address the most common questions guests may have.
There are a wide variety of technology tools that can be used to create truly contactless hospitality experiences, which are still in high demand from everyday consumers. However, there are a few tech tools that are absolutely essential to the formula. These include, Contactless Check-In, Contactless Checkout, Dynamic Upsells and Guest Messages. These form the backbone of any strong modern guest experience and future-looking hotels would be wise to include them ASAP.
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