Despite all the consequences of the pandemic, it has been a period to test travel resilience. While hotels and other lodging outlets deal with the travel industry's most challenging moments, properties making qualitative changes are in the best position for a recovery. In order to maximize this opportunity, hotels are embracing new technological innovations to create a more seamless experience for guests.
New Concepts for Serving Hotel Guests
The pandemic has forced hotels to rethink their business models and how they engage with their target market. The need for more flexible urban mobility, which is making populated areas more interconnected and walkable, is part of the transformation to a fuller package for travelers.
Social distancing is a concept that will likely last beyond the pandemic, at least as a preparation plan for another outbreak. Travelers currently think about social distancing as a deciding factor in choosing hotels, since everyone is trying to avoid crowds during the pandemic. That means there will continue to be a need for allowing more space for social engagement, especially in dining areas. Plastic partitions are helping these amenities remain open.
The pandemic will have a lasting impact on how technology plays a role in future consumer relations. Check-in and check-out processes will be geared for smartphone users. Hotels can take advantage of the AI trend by using automated bots to answer guest questions. It will speed up both the booking process and enhance guest experiences with more agile services.
Two key technologies the hotel industry has focused on developing during the transformation to more digital solutions are keyless access to hotel rooms for guests using mobile devices and visual recognition software. Facial recognition technology may eventually be used for identity verification and has already become helpful in tracking down criminals. Even with everyone wearing face masks, the software has still been accurate at identifying individuals.
Robotics have already been used for industrial applications and are starting to enter the hospitality industry. The combination of robots, AI, and IoT will create a more personalized experience for hotel guests and serve as a stand-in for hospitality services. Hilton Hotels has experimented with an AI-based robot named "Connie" that can occupy the front desk to answer guest questions about the hotel and neighborhood.
These robots will help fill in the gaps created by staff downsizing due to budget cuts. Another emerging technology that's ideal for hotels to embrace is virtual reality (VR), in which headsets let guests explore a city visually without leaving the hotel. VR headsets have already been implemented at Atlantis Dubai Hotel and Les Roches in Switzerland. VR creates memorable experiences, especially for travelers who aren't sure where to go after they check into their hotel room. VR can be used for entertaining guests by taking them on virtual tours, as well as for training hospitality employees.
Hotels will further transform to meet new hygiene standards and requirements for clean facilities. A greater emphasis is now placed on sanitizing door handles, elevator buttons, and anything else touched by humans. Guests will have less physical contact with hotel personnel but more ways to communicate electronically.
While the future and length of the pandemic is uncertain, companies that rely on the travel industry can use this interim period to innovate and renovate. Connecting with an emerging smart ecosystem will help improve tourism during and after the pandemic period. Hotels that resist investing in innovation may be upstaged by competitors that do. Lodging properties that mix new technology with personalized solutions will have the greatest advantages moving forward.