Low-touch Hospitality is Here to Stay – The Hotel Conversation

An opinion piece by Ross Beardsell – JLL Executive Vice President, Advisory & Asset Management Australasia.

At the start of the pandemic, I implemented, when considered in retrospect, was an uncharacteristic experiment. For an entire day, I tried not to touch anything in a public space. After a few hours of what seemed like a long game of playground tag, I realised that it was impossible to shun much of our physical contact outside the home effectively.

However, this experiment led me to another realisation -that with better design, a much less tactile experience would be relatively easy. With simple architectural changes and better use of technology, reducing unnecessary contact with our environment could be reasonably easy. Hence, this innocent yet timely experiment was valuable in several levels

Covid-19 has placed greater scrutiny on design, particularly in public and transient spaces like hotels. Social distancing, reduced congestion points, better use of technology, and Covid cleaning protocols of rooms and public spaces are all top of mind for travellers. The overarching objective for hotels of any star rating is offer guests a low touch experience, with high guest service, with the objective to connect with guests at all journeys of their stay.

Hotel owners and operators alike are addressing these matters. Online check-in has been available for a few years, but now it is becoming the primary means of checking into a hotel. For users, an unnecessary interface, and a potential delay in access to the guest room are removed, and the hotel reception staff, rather than being head down in a computer, can focus on greeting and assisting guests.

The necessity of life has radically reduced consumer resistance to technology usage during the pandemic. In its March 2021 technology survey, Australia Post reported online consumer retail engagement was up 57% year-on-year to 2020. And I know from my own family, many purchases we did not make online before the pandemic are now being made online.

Another technology readily available is keyless room entry. A code sent to a mobile device is all that is required to open the room door. Whilst this technology was readily available before the pandemic, its adoption was slow as the legacy system worked, and the hotel had the infrastructure in place for the issuance of room keys. The W Hotel in Melbourne is at the vanguard of this technology shift, with the Marriott Bonvoy app taking care of the check-in and mobile key entry to rooms being provided through the mobile phone.

Other technology, sporadically in use previously, but now becoming mainstream, is online menu and meal booking arrangements using QR codes scanned into the mobile phone. There are several advantages to this process for both hotel and guest. An advance notice to the kitchen and fewer delays for the guests allow for additional time to enjoy other guest services.

In light of Covid-19, the cleaning of rooms and public spaces is also important in reassuring guests. Hotels now inform guests about cleaning protocols and remove unnecessary items (or touch points) from rooms. Reading materials, a legacy of the days before smart phones, are being removed from rooms in many hotels. Reducing the number of unnecessary items in the lobby allows for social distancing and increased distances between chairs. A neater, less cluttered environment not only reduces the risk but importantly makes rooms and public spaces look fresh and makes these spaces easier to clean, and importantly hotels are taking a proactive approach with sustainability initiatives, including renewable energy.

Click here to read complete article at The Hotel Conversation.