But this does not mean the hotel or destination must make the investment alone, or even all on-site. Using systems integrators and cloud resources to create digital enabled platforms for guest management, hygiene process management and physical mapping of the capacity of the facility using sensors and mobile are all methods for enabling the digital acceleration of tech investment in the property.
And personalisation of the experience is key, which leads to a discussion of personal data usage and management.
Social Distancing and the Hotel of the New Normal
Retailers, hoteliers and convention centres have the same thing in common, they are all physical locations trying to become safe yet contactless, socially distant yet memorable at the same time. As we have mentioned in previous reports, the comfort, safety and hygiene of the customer is paramount for their return to Hospitality. Using customer location data on a reliable online platform to track their movement, enable their facilities and services and limit the density of customers per square metre for health, safety and comfort are all aspects of tech-enabled social distancing.
Imagine that you are considering a day stay, for home working alternative or for having a local event. This needs to be within the sanctioned numbers of your locale. Guests want to know the population density of the location to determine their comfort level. Having a mobile app where potential visitors can see the state of the visitor density of the hotel would provide reassurance as to a safe visit.
Rich Contactless Content
With the encouragement of expanding the scope of technology and social distancing given priority, automated or contactless transaction technologies have seen an increase in implementation in the last six months. Having sensors and IoT technology implemented to see the footprint of the facility in use provides real-time insight for both the customer and the hotel, as to usage.
In order to be able to highlight the functions of both the room and the facility, augmented reality (AR) can demonstrate the use of interactive elements within hotel rooms without human contact.
AR applications within the hotel sector include offering in-house interactive elements (such as location maps and relevant points of interest). These provide digital history of the property and supply guests with relevant information when they are located within certain areas of the hotel (such as a menu if they happen to enter a restaurant).
Use of Space: Location & Hygiene for a Better Experience and as a Precaution
Hotel environments have evolved to add a healthcare layer, including well-being programs, and individual room controls. This includes materiality/ sanitised covering that protects against the spread of infection with clearly defined and explained roll-out cleaning protocols.
With contact tracing in the news, many of us are already aware of the digital footprints we leave everywhere we go. And people have a wide variety of personal responses to this.
So how does a hotel use the information a guest either willingly offers or the hotel learns via services provided? If the hotel knows preferences prior to arrival, should they customise the room accordingly? Lighting, scent, preferred pillow choice, allergies – all are useful information. But what if preferences change or implementations are seen to be presumptuous?
Hilton is continually updating its guest technology offerings, from increasing in-app functionality to making further improvements to the entertainment system. One of their ideas is allowing guests to load personal or family pictures. These display on the TV, giving their hotel room more of a familiar sense of home.
And to be both keyless and cashless means the hotel needs to be mobile data enabled. All of this data, including mobile data, should flow like fine wine. But to do that requires knowledge, and learning – gained from experience and AI. How can I check your preferences are still the same? How should I use information I collected on you from a previous stay? Is that data kept on your mobile device, or on my hotel server? Is this in the cloud or on-premise in some manner?
Using Data and Intelligence for Personalised Experiences
The final point shown in Figure 3 from the Ecosystm Digital Priorities in the New Normal study on technology direction from the pandemic, combined with Figure 4 from the Ecosystm AI Study showing the use of AI, highlights the need for technologies that support customer experiences and automate processes. Whether it is customer authentication at check-in, virtual customer assistance or rate pricing for appropriate engagement, technology can enable guest appreciation.
Summary – Three Post-Pandemic Takeaways
1. Demand for rooms will have to be viewed differently during this period, and cancellation policies already reflect this. To view recovery, use metrics that look at how the whole asset is being used on a physical basis.
2. Re-imagination of the physical asset will involve some agility and re-purposing within the business. Technology can help enable this, with some wise additions to add value. Voice, IoT and contactless mobile apps all are good candidates for enablement.
3. Data helps with understanding of guest preferences and can be used for staff learning and knowledge. But it must be held and used correctly. Listen carefully to what the guest is telling you and respond accordingly.