Disruption Drives the Hospitality Industry to Innovation

by David Phillips 

Like the rest of the world, the pandemic blindsided the hospitality industry earlier this year, propelling it into an unknown future. However, disruption has sparked massive innovation across every component of the industry from offerings to marketing tactics.

As the industry looks to rebound, hotel owners, in particular, are introducing new solutions and services to entice guests, including embracing automation, a once taboo term in an industry used to thinking of service in a very human-centric way. From robot concierges to new marketing strategies, hotel owners are changing the norm to address social distancing measures and lingering travel concerns.

Automation: Plastic key cards and front desk check-ins are a thing of the past

To comply with social distancing measures, the industry must completely re-evaluate and adjust operations to reduce potential touchpoints, and automation is a crucial component at this time.

The entire check-in process can now be done through a smartphone, minimizing staff interactions and reducing exposure to a crowded lobby. Guests can check-in with a single touch and enter their room in minutes without even requiring a physical key card. Property automation system companies are catering specifically to the accommodations industry to make the integration of smart locks and devices easily accessible.

Other hotels are experimenting with robots for cleaning and delivery purposes. For example, a California-based hotel accommodates contactless deliveries through its robot ambassador, ”Rosé,” who can bring guests pillows, towels and groceries.

For an industry that has long since relied on its (human) staff to deliver customer service, this is a drastic shift to a tech-first experience. However, for hotels struggling to open with a skeleton staff to reduce overhead, an automated management system can improve efficiency and the overall guest experience.

Marketing Promotions: Using branded apps, subscription services and in-room amenities as part of the overall guest experience

Prior to the pandemic, hotels were beginning to integrate branded apps as a marketing strategy to send push notifications. Now, these branded apps are a one-stop portal for everything from reservations to room service. Used correctly, a branded app can help streamline operations and establish a direct channel of communication between hotels and guests.

Hotels are also becoming bolder in their marketing strategies to appeal to new types of guests. With the rise of the digital nomad in the U.S. as a result of work-from-home protocols, hotels are beginning to adjust their offerings to appeal to this audience looking for a change of scenery, including introducing subscription service models to give guests access to rooms, workspaces and facilities for a standard monthly fee.

Part of appealing to both new and returning guests is adjusting amenities since most hotel operators were forced to close common areas like pools, spas, gyms and even breakfast areas. It’s an opportunity to think outside the box and create a first of its kind experience for guests. Some hotels are incorporating fitness equipment into each room in place of a gym, sending personalized breakfast deliveries as an alternative to the traditional continental breakfast and others are completely redesigning rooms to have kitchenettes.

Smart Hotels: Smart devices power the guest experience

Smart technology is a key investment for hotels as they look to reduce high touchpoints in rooms. Voice assistants can control nearly everything in a room, including temperature, lighting, alarm clocks, televisions and to order room service. It also creates an opportunity for hotels to learn guest patterns and personalize the experience even further.

Pre-COVID, the hospitality industry was beginning to embrace technology, albeit slowly, to accommodate consumer behavior shifts driven by on-demand services. Practically overnight, the pandemic accelerated the need to embrace smart technology and automation urgently, putting more pressure on an industry with slim profit margins to cover the costs of implementing the infrastructure to accommodate these changes. The industry has its back against the wall, forcing change and innovative new thinking to adapt and entice guests back as travel resumes. And based on the past few months, the industry is rising to the challenge.

David Phillips is the co-founder/president of Jurny, a hospitality tech company offering SaaS-based management solutions.

This is a contributed piece to Hotel Business, authored by an industry professional. The thoughts expressed are the perspective of the bylined individual.