2020 placed the hospitality industry in a vulnerable position, but industry leaders have been quick to respond to changing concerns, rules, measures and restrictions. Fortunately, this market is no stranger to challenges and periods of economic downturn, and hotels were quick to adhere to new health standards and pivot their offerings to build a path to recovery and a reimagined future of hospitality.
As we look to 2021, we has released a new eBook to discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic has been a catalyst to rapid change and innovation and what’s in store for hotels around the world. Here’s a snapshot of the four trends to watch coming out of this year:
A New Era of Clean, Safe Hotels
Hotels throughout the world are now expected to adopt heightened cleaning standards. In preparation for the return of guests and employees, The World Health Organization (WHO), along with international hospitality bodies including The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) and Malaysian Association of Hotels, have introduced industry health and safety protocols to assure guests that hotels are ‘clean and safe.’
The policy frameworks have already been adopted by many brands, and smaller independent hotels have been quick to follow. These new standards are also featured in dedicated marketing campaigns to promote changes that properties are making to meet these new cleanliness protocols.
This will be important in winning consumer trust. Throughout 2020, repeated surveys found cleanliness to be a major factor in a guest’s decision to book a hotel room. The recent Metova Fall Survey found that 90% of guests say it’s very or extremely important that hotels enforce COVID-19 safety, and 86% say that they now prefer a hotel with a fully contactless mobile check-in, concierge, check-out and facility reservation app, over one without.
The Reimagined On-Property Experience
In response to guest demands to reduce the number of physical, traditional touchpoints, international hotels are adopting self-service and touchless technologies to enable high-touch service but without the ‘touch’.
Guest standards must remain high, but face-to-face services like front desk check-in, ordering room service or making a phone call are getting makeovers to ensure safety.
Familiar with using the technology at home, guests are now much more comfortable using self-service technologies for contact-free check-in, check-out, concierge access, and more. In fact, 81% of business travelers have already used voice assistants during a trip according to Travelport. Mobile Travel Trends Report in 2019.
In the new on-property guest experience, we are seeing self-service kiosks for check-in/out, mobile room entry, or a mobile app that lets guests navigate the property and each touchpoint on their terms. Adopting self-service technologies will encourage guests to choose one hotel over another, with an Oracle Hospitality & Skift Research Report in July 2020 citing that a massive 71% of guests said that they’re more likely to stay in a hotel offering self-service tech.
Many properties now also offer AI-powered in-room, voice-activated assistants, with guests using their personal devices to self-manage check-in, their room key, and to engage with virtual concierges. Guest mobile devices can also be used to view digitized menus, order food and drink, and pre-book spa slots and other services through the hotel’s guest app, reducing even more traditional touchpoints.
The Rise of Contactless Technology
Advanced contactless in-room technology was gaining fans before the coronavirus pandemic, but COVID-19 has accelerated the reduction or removal of any interaction that could pose a contamination risk.
Voice-activated technology is becoming commonplace with guests likely to seek out properties offering hands-free control to minimize contact with light switches, TV remotes, thermostats, draperies and more. In-room printed materials are also being digitized, including menus, TV channel guides, and local information.
In-room entertainment has also seen a major shift, removing time-consuming usernames and passwords to watch guests’ favorite TV choices. Many hotels are now embracing hands-free casting which bypasses the log-in process entirely. Guests simply open up Netflix on their phone and hit the cast button for immediate access to their apps and shows using their own device.
A Safe, Digitally-Connected Future
Contactless technologies may be replacing some traditional elements of hospitality, but this won’t stand in the way of a great guest connection. Where this new model uses high-tech, self-service technologies, it’s opening the door to even greater levels of guest convenience and control. In recognition of their importance on safety and service in equal measure, another recent Oracle and Skift survey found that 70% of hotel executives agreed or strongly agreed that self-service technology will be important to assisting guests while minimizing unnecessary contact.
Mobile technology has been solidified as the new industry standard, but its success also requires equally high standards of interactivity and responsiveness from hotels. Guests have come to expect accelerated, attentive service from online digital platforms, and hotels will need to be prepared to fulfill requests and orders as if they were face-to-face.
Technologies which offer pseudo-human interactions (chatbots, virtual reality, and AI-powered devices) are especially crucial to keep human experience relevant. Using a voice-activated assistant in the guest room, hoteliers can communicate with guests, and provide them with complete control over their in-room experience, 24/7 access to amenities, services, Wi-Fi, entertainment controls, Bluetooth speakers – all with simple voice-activated commands.
Far from (social) distancing them from guests, these new technologies are a long-term investment that will be integral to the success of hotels and continued guest loyalty in the future.
Want to learn more? Download the full “Future of Hospitality” eBook here. It’s free! Feel free to also reach out to us on social media with other predictions you are seeing and how we may be able to help.