WrkOperate: Hospitality industry buckles up to provide a ‘contact-less’ experience

Services that made minimal human contact with humans existed even in the pre-pandemic era. But the importance and need for these services were understood after experiencing the COVID era. This period was revolutionary and transformative for not just one particular business or industry but also the world. With a large number of people locked in their houses, avoiding coming in contact with the virus, travel is at a complete standstill.

The hotel industry across the world has been crippled, what with being unable to conduct business for more than just a few months. Once this phase fades out, people will step out of their homes, but the skepticism to live elsewhere will be held on to. The fear of infection might impact people’s decisions to stay at a hotel. This new phase of living a normal life needs hospitality, too, to gear themselves up and prepare a world that is based on the motto ‘less contact, more hygiene.’

Although hospitality is a generic term for all hotels, not all hotels have the same touchpoints. A report by McKinsey & Company speaks about the IDEA Framework. It says that before you begin setting up your hotel for the post-COVID world, it is primarily essential to understand the core touchpoints and then find solutions for the same.

Let’s take a look at how hotels can buckle up themselves for this new phase of contactless-servicing.

Implementation of PMS
At this moment of hotel transformation, the prime change that a hotel must incorporate is of accommodating Preventative Maintenance Solutions for themselves. Integrating a PMS such as WrkSpot will reduce a lot of physical touchpoints and ensure that operations are functioning smoothly. Once installed, you can manage housekeeping, front desk, maintenance, and even sales and revenue, all at the click of just a button!

Cleaning and Hygiene protocols
The fear of contracting the virus is the prime driver that will have people scurrying back home. Hotels must bear in mind to adopt new and authorized cleaning and hygiene protocols. This means more than merely changing your laundry practices. Some of these include sanitizing guest luggage at the entry point and using electrostatic spraying technology with hospital-grade disinfectants to sanitize surfaces throughout the hotel. This is a recommended protocol by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) and World Health Organization (WHO) to treat known pathogens. Apart from these, all make sure that touchpoints such as door handles, bathroom fixtures, remotes and tabletops maintain sanitization and hygiene standards.

Gone are the olden days of housekeeping. Welcome to the new world where housekeeping is taken care of with the help of technology. By using Cloud-based IoT (Internet of Things), AI and Property Management Systems, housekeeping can be coordinated with newly-enhanced cleanliness standards. Hotels can either reduce the housekeeping frequency or not conduct housekeeping duties within the guest rooms for the duration of their stay.
Some hotels are coming up with non-technological ways, such as self-cleaning by the guests. The guests are provided with different bags upon arrival to keep their soiled bedding, soiled towels, and trash. When this needs clearance or disposal, guests can text the hotel keeping these bags outside their rooms to be collected by the staff without even entering the room.

Contactless check-in
Undoubtedly check-ins are the first touchpoint that a guest has with the hotel, marking the beginning of their entire in-hotel experience. You can do away with the whole check-in experience by enabling guests to self-check-in through their mobiles. With the help of a PMS software, guests can also be alerted when their room is ready and grant them access to their rooms through mobile keys. All of this eliminates the need to have a reception area or a lobby area as guests can altogether bypass the front desk and simply enter their rooms.

Training of Staff
Bringing about a complete change within the hotel means that the staff working in them will need comprehensive training and skill development. They need to understand how to operate both the PMS and learn to maintain bare to minimum contact with the guests within the hotel premises. Hospitality as an industry prided on personal and customized servicing. Therefore, following the opposite protocol of maintaining distance from guests unless absolutely necessary, may take a while before it’s ingrained within them. Once put to use, it will provide a worry-free experience for the guests staying at the hotel.

Coronavirus has upended the hospitality industry, and hoteliers worldwide are taking the help of technology to open their doors for business. Going beyond automated technology, the demand for Artificial Intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), chatbots, and the Internet of Things (IoT) is high. It is soon going to become a necessity for hotels looking to build a contactless world for their guests.

Adapting to low occupancy in hotels

The coronavirus pandemic has left the hospitality industry in shambles with more than 5,000 hotels closing down in the U.S. alone in March and April. According to the fact sheet by the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA), this is the biggest drop in occupancy levels that the US hospitality industry has seen in decades. The numbers are devastatingly low and will take over a year or two for the industry to overcome and return to pre-pandemic levels.

After months of lockdown and travel restrictions, slowly and steadily, some parts of the world are opening to travel, both domestically and internationally. Even so, battling COVID-19 on one side, business is anything but usual. Customers are apprehensive about stepping out of their comfortable homes. Therefore, low occupancy is like an unwelcome guest who continues to stay until further notice.

How then should hotels adjust to low occupancy? Let’s take a look at how hotels can adapt themselves to this situation and prepare for future bookings when the business goes back to normal.

Connect with guests
The unfortunate pandemic has bound us to our homes for safety reasons. However, this is also a time where connectivity has seen a rise in numbers like never before. Social media usage has been an all-time high, and it is time that the hospitality industry puts it to good use. Even as there may be few to no guests at your hotel, it is an excellent time to get in touch with your existing clientele and reach out to potential customers. This serves two purposes: one- you can keep them updated with the changes being enforced within the hotel property and two, building a strong brand relationship. For this, you can use email and editorial content that entertains and adds value to the same.

Amp up your marketing efforts
Even as this time looks like it is here to stay, it certainly isn’t. There will come a time when people will want to move out and go on vacation. When that happens, you want them to remember your brand to be their first choice of stay. To reap these future benefits, you must work on your marketing plans in the present. Amp up your marketing efforts focused on brand awareness and attracting new guests into your booking tunnel. Ensure a flexible cancellation policy and sensitive messaging relevant to the situation. Rework on your website and keep them regularly updated, letting the visitors know of your changes and packages available for guests.

Prepare for future travel bookings
According to a survey of North American leisure travels conducted by Fuel Travel, it was found that 59% of travelers still plan to take a vacation in 2020. This study reveals that many customers though having canceled their trips haven’t lost their desire to travel. Hotels must thus work for the opportunity to capture future bookings of these guests by engaging keeping them updated with the changes being accommodated by the hotel for their future stay.

Rethink your business model
Similar to hotels having to change their marketing strategies, brands must rethink their business models. This must be thought of, keeping in mind futuristic scenarios and the possibility of the rise of situations such as our present one. Any crisis is usually a good time to rethink newer ways to approach, and the one as we are in right now is a perfect opportunity for hotels to transform themselves. Sustainable practices and innovative business models are going to shape the hospitality of tomorrow.

Focus on domestic customers
For a long time, it is expected that international travel will be restricted. Even with the lift in restrictions, traveling internationally would be for business purposes more than leisure. It is highly unlikely that domestic tourism could compensate for the decline in international tourism revenue. So hotels must focus on attracting local or domestically traveling customers.

The times of COVID sure feel like a negative and loss-making time, but this could be transformative for your brand if used well. Indeed, the post-COVID era would not be anything like the pre-COVID times. But rethinking strategies that focus more on the future than the present occupancy would bring hotels to cover up for the losses that the hotels face now. We have been given a chance to reinvent ourselves and invest in what really matters. So let’s do well!