COVID-19 pandemic crisis has brought not only the challenges and limitations for the hospitality industry, but also it has demonstrated what has outlived itself and should be abandoned, and what should get more attention in the future. The difficulties created by the pandemics have unwillingly reshaped the hospitality system in the context of the needs of the customers and helped many hotels to become much more technology friendly.
Even before the pandemic new technological solutions like online booking services were actively used both by the hotels and the travellers. These services are still advancing and more interesting systems emerge – for example, VauBoo.com – auction-based online booking system for bidding on accommodation in Europe, which is designed to allow a traveler and a hotel to save money by bargaining on a price that suits both best. Moreover, VauBoo offers a combined Google/Facebook/Instagram all-encompassing marketing scheme that will increase the online booking potential of the accommodation business.
Besides the online booking systems, during the last years there has been a high level of customers’ interest in such technologies as: contactless payments, digital messaging, self-service check-in and smartphone-activated room keys. However, there was no urgent demand for these services and no ability of the most hotels to provide them until the appearance of the challenges caused by the pandemic. Notably, even though many contactless services were introduced out of necessity, they appear to help hotels to advance the service experience and interact with their customers in a more personalized way.
Considering all the current challenges and limitations, COVID-19 pandemic has created a great moment for the hotel industry to invest in new contactless technology solutions. However, it is always important to keep in mind two factors before making an investment. First of all – it is strategic thinking: the needs of the customers have changed during a pandemic, thus the new priorities of the guests and what they pay attention to while choosing accommodation should be taken into consideration. Second factor is the test of time: some of the currently popular technologies will help hotels to deliver even better experiences after the pandemic is over. Therefore, it is wise to invest in those technologies which will remain popular in the upcoming years and will help to satisfy guests’ changing needs effectively.
Top-3 digital trends that are helpful now and will remain popular after the pandemic
1. Mobile check-in
For many years now we have an opportunity to check-in online for our flights, order a taxi or food from the restaurant – it is convenient, helps to save time as it can be done anytime from anywhere. It would be a great option for the travellers to have the same simple process for checking into the hotels, moreover, it will eliminate the necessity of human interaction at the times of pandemic. Among the other benefits of the online check-in in the long-run: the hotel can learn more about the needs of the guests in advance and offer them customised services, additionally this type of service helps to save time not only for the guests, but also for the staff members and avoid any efficiency problems that often occur with the traditional reception check-in system.
2. Digital messages
Communication is a key for an excellent service – providing the guests with the digital messaging option will help the hotels to handle the requests in a more quick and efficient way and gather the feedback in purpose to improve the service in the future. It happens very often that guests leave negative feedback or hotel reviews when it is too late to fix the problem, which causes their negative impression, while the real-time messaging option allows the hotel management to react quickly and solve the issues right after they are reported. According to Medallia Zingle’s “2019 Guest Service Report”, nearly 50% of guests don’t report problems because there is no easy way to do it, or they don’t want to have a confrontation with the hotel management, however, 42% could return to a hotel if there was a quick reaction to their problems or bad experience, thus digital messaging system is a win-win tool, which will help both guests to be heard and hotels to improve their services.
3. Room keys activation by smartphones
Plastic entry cards, which require production, programming and replacement, have considerable cost and can be easily stolen or lost. The mobile key is a great solution, which helps to increase efficiency, save costs and provide guests with a more secure and faster way of getting into their rooms. Mobile keys are always in the smartphones of the guests – if they check-in through the app the hotel enables the virtual key option, this key is encrypted in order to ensure that it couldn’t be transferred to another device and none else can access it. This technological solution helps to save time of the guests during the stay, check-in and check-out, which positively influence their experience.
Introduction of the abovementioned contactless solutions in the hotels is highly required by the customers according to the recent “Hotel Guest Expectation in 2020. Before and after COVID-19” survey. Considering that our world becomes more and more digital every day, these solutions will definitely remain popular even after the pandemic is over.
Starting from this year onwards the contactless technologies will help to improve the interaction of the hotels with the customers. Among the other demonstrable benefits of using technologies: 1) increasing the level of staff efficiency; 2) saving money on operations and equipment (like plastic keys); 3) enabling the hotels to prioritize what is truly urgent for their guests; 4) creating new sense of stability and efficiency that will help the hotel business to be even more successful during and after the current crisis.
However, there is an interesting tendency: even though nearly 80% of the customers would like to have a possibility to use the contactless services, less than 30% of the hotels already introduced such options according to the “Data-Driven Look at Hospitality’s Recovery” study. Consequently, there is a huge room for the hospitality business improvement and adjustment to the current needs and requests of their guests.