As people become more accustomed to social distancing, curbside pickup and contactless food delivery, hoteliers are taking note and exploring further technology that reduces physical contact. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the hotel industry had made moves toward contactless technology, such as mobile check-in and contactless payment options like Apply Pay, but it was far from an industry-wide adoption.
As hoteliers navigate the road to recovery, they’re looking for ways to show guests their properties are safe to stay in, now and after the pandemic ends.
“The future is going to be about building trust, and customers are going to do business with businesses that they trust,” said Matthew Woodruff, EVP of guest excellence and chief brand partner officer at Hospitality Venture Management Group. Businesses that “don’t have the necessary standards, technology and protocol, (guests will) stop doing business with those places.”
Over the past decade, communal spaces have been a trend in hotel design, as lobbies and other public spaces became a focus for work and social activities and some guestrooms got smaller, he said. The industry will have to look at how they manage people in these spaces now, he said. Some solutions will involve technology while others won’t, he said.
A couple hotel brand companies have rolled out mobile check-in through their loyalty apps, but usage typically has been low, he said. The pandemic might take that into higher gear, he said.
However, touch-screen kiosks as a way to bypass the hotel front desk likely will not come back into wider use. “This doesn’t portend a re-emergence of kiosks unless there’s some way to have them be certified cleaned so that they can’t spread viruses,”
A smartphone app for controlling different aspects of a guestroom, such as the temperature, television or lighting, can be worthwhile for a branded hotel, he said. But a guest staying in an independent hotel for a couple of days is less likely to want to download an app if they don’t intend to return to the property in the future