Part four of a four-part series exploring the changes and opportunities ahead as we enter the new evolutionary, post-pandemic stage of hospitality.
By: David Millili, CEO, Angie Hospitality
Fast forward to the year 2021. You’ve just arrived at your hotel following a long flight. Using your smartphone, the check-in process is relatively seamless, and you make your way through the lobby towards your room. Approaching the door, you once again reach for your device, tapping through the mobile app to quickly unlock your room and roll your luggage inside. Scanning your surroundings, you make note of the chic, minimalist decor. On the bed lies a neatly packaged robe, which you requested before your arrival, along with a variety of single-use toiletry products, and a set of towels. An eco-friendly bag is provided to place any items which require replacement during your stay. The room also features a minibar and cabinets, which both make use of a UV sanitization system. So starts the post-pandemic journey of the hotel guest room.
Walking over to the bed, you take a seat and once again grab your phone. Opening the hotel app, you adjust the temperature and lighting of the room, before getting comfortable. You have just over an hour until your dinner meeting, and you plan to squeeze in a Netflix episode before heading to the restaurant. Placing your device in front of the flat-screen TV, you quickly scan the QR code, and, within seconds, you’re settled in and browsing your recently watched shows.
Although advanced in-room technology has been on the horizon for some time now, the coronavirus pandemic has, undoubtedly, accelerated the wide-spread implementation of these solutions. To reduce or remove entirely those interactions which pose contamination risk in a post-pandemic world, hotels are finally surging ahead to embrace a mostly contactless future, especially as it relates to the in-room experience.
In the first quarter of 2020, Netflix had 69.97 million subscribers in the U.S. alone. In 2018, Deloitte revealed that a larger percentage of households subscribed to a streaming service (69 percent) than traditional TV (65 percent). The writing is on the wall; the streaming revolution is here to stay and has ushered in a wave of smart devices and services which promise viewers easy access to the apps and platforms they love. Understandably, viewers have become highly accustomed to the convenience provided by these platforms and, as such, expect hotels to offer the same experience and comforts they would have at home.
Although Smart TVs offer built-in apps for guest use, accessing personal accounts via a traditional TV remote can be a rather time-consuming process. For many guests, the prospect of manually typing in their username and password to gain access to their accounts is rather underwhelming. Instead, many hotels are now looking to a truly hands-free solution that grants guests immediate access to their preferred apps and shows via casting. The first-generation casting solution, Google Chromecast, was announced on July 24, 2013, and has finally made its way into hotel rooms. Bypassing the log-in process entirely, guests can simply open up Netflix on their phone and hit the cast button. Understandably, this solution becomes especially attractive to hotels and guests given our current circumstances. With new-age casting technology, complete privacy is ensured between guests, rooms, and devices, and guests can connect to the TV automatically after joining the hotel WiFi, or via a QR code shown on the TV welcome screen.
The driving question on the minds of hoteliers and industry leaders is, what will hospitality’s rebound look like? In a post-pandemic world, who is the new guest? In the coming months, hotels will adopt a wide range of regulatory changes that impact cleaning standards and embrace heightened demands for self-service innovation. Reformed cleanliness will take center stage in hotel marketing efforts, as properties work to regain the trust of nervous travelers. These new standards and cautionary practices will, in many ways, act as the key differentiator between those properties which make a swift recovery, and those who struggle to inspire occupancy once again.
With this in mind, those hospitality touchpoints which formerly relied on an in-person exchange will likely be shifted to a self-service option. These may include self-service kiosks for check-in/out, mobile room entry, or, in many cases, a mobile app that empowers each guest to navigate the property and each touchpoint entirely on their terms. Some properties may even embrace the use of AI-powered technology and virtual reality features, including in-room, voice-activated assistants, and concierge robots. In the guest room, many common, high-touch features will be subject to removal or change, including the use of a TV remote. With safety risks now top of mind for every hotelier and guest, hotels must embrace a more innovative in-room experience that allows for contact-free entertainment and high-touch service.
Beyond offering guests the ability to stream their preferred content on their guest room TV seamlessly, casting also provides personalized welcome screens, hotel, and travel information, managed promotions to upsell property services, and an interactive exploration mode. Guests can easily access concierge services, order room service, or explore the hotel property’s features all from the comfort of their hotel room, using their mobile device.
If instant gratification and hands-free service are the way of the future, there is no denying that touchless, contactless, and self-service technologies will play a critical role in transforming the in-room guest experience. 2021 is right around the corner so let’s get ready to rebound, stay tuned for the final installment of the Ripe for Rebound series, in which we discuss embracing a hands-free service model.