How technology can become a true enabler
Saby Fernandes, hospitality industry expert in IT, explains the changing dynamics of technology in the hotel sector
The unprecedented onset of the Covid-19 pandemic has had widespread and severe impact on the hospitality industry. According to UNWTO, the pandemic is the biggest crisis in the history of tourism and has led to an 85 per cent drop in international tourist arrivals compared to 2019. Despite the unexpected downfall, the Hospitality Global Market Report 2021: Covid-19 Impact and Recovery to 2030 predicts the hospitality market to grow to $4,132.5 billion in 2021. Incorporating technologies that transform a customer’s journey into a safe and memorable experience while achieving operational improvements and cost savings will be the catalyst for this growth.
Contactless technology was on the rise even before the pandemic, given the increase in mobile technologies. Covid-19 accelerated this adoption rate, making it mandatory for hospitality organisations to incorporate it. By late 2020, 71 per cent travellers preferred hotels offering self-service technology that minimised contact with the staff.
Providing a pre-arrival experience with a contact-free check-in and check-out is now the new standard since a physical front desk is a converging point for all guests and hence a high-risk point of contamination. Integrating mobile and web-based platforms allows hospitality organisations to manage bookings and create guest profiles remotely. Mobile room keys provide guests an assurance of safety, with 46 per cent travellers stating that a mobile key solution is an important on-property feature.
Simple contactless technologies like QR code scans and mobile payments can play a significant role in re-establishing guest confidence. According to McKinsey, ‘mobile commerce’ is expected to reach 70 per cent by 2022, hinting that mobile payment facilities will inevitably become a common guest expectation. This will be further accelerated by the risks that exchanging physical cards and cash pose in a pandemic era. In addition to facilitating easy check-in and payments, incorporating QR codes can allow the hospitality organisations to further reduce physical touchpoints. From room service catalogues to restaurant menus, placing QR code tent cards that guests can scan or dynamic QR codes to scan from tablets, dynamic e-menu links at check-in to guest phones can provide both safety and convenience.
Digital e-menu options offer a simple and effective alternative to eliminate the need to sanitise physical catalogues and menus before and after each use. Digital engagements that started off as a concentration of customer service to ensure the new norms of touchless was seen being extended to hotel associates ensuring the hotel environment is safe for both the guests and staff with the use of technology. Converting existing normal or biometric smart attendance terminals can be adapted to accommodate face recognition and temperature sensing without any touch. This gives the staff as well guests a sense of comfort that they are in a safer environment.
POWERFUL ONLINE PRESENCE
In today’s digitally driven world, having strong online presence is crucial when attracting guests. A research by Trivago, prior to the pandemic, found that the hotels with optimised online profiles received up to 2.4 times more attention and led to a 171 per cent increase in bookings. As lockdowns kept people confined to their homes, social media saw an unprecedented surge. More and more travellers began researching destination facts as well as hotel details before booking. Social media presence, hotel website and online review all play a key role in attracting guests post-pandemic. Social media is an excellent tool for the hotel to share visual content, be it photos or videos. Travellers can get an idea about the ambience of the hotel and maybe even communicate with the hotel staff prior to booking to ensure a perfect stay. Since the past months were an avalanche of nasty surprises, post-pandemic guests would prefer to be better informed and be able to fine-tune their experiences.
Researching online reviews is the next step for travellers when determining the value of a hotel since it offers real-experience perspectives of a location. Operating in the pandemic era, it is important for hospitality organisations to set clear KPIs and turn customer feedbacks into action points. The hotel’s website and mobile apps are the best places to inform potential guests of the health and safety measures undertaken by the hotel.
A total of 18 per cent customers feel comfortable to travel to a destination and stay at a hotel when that destination has fewer Covid-19 cases and can test, trace and isolate them. Since studies show that traveller’s emotions such as worry impact their perception of risk, hotels can make accurate and up-to-date information available through their websites. Such measures will not only boost overall traveller confidence but positively affect the brand confidence. Given that direct sales through hotel websites increased by 300 per cent within the past year, maintaining an attractive and updated website is now more important than ever.
ROBUST B2C CRM
A reliable B2C CRM system will surely enable hospitality organisations to manage personalised connections with guests, building the brand loyalty essential for the pandemic era. A CRM solution can be used to create comprehensive guest profiles from the information collected through the contactless tech and also assist hotels analyse guest feedback. It can keep track of guest preferences not only while they are in their room but throughout the property, from bars to gift shops.
These insights are invaluable when creating a personalised experience, and Deloitte found that guests who receive personalised attention are 29 per cent more likely to share positive reviews. In an era where physical interactions are reduced, such personalisation is crucial in building guest engagement. Many CRMs can connect emails with social media profiles, allowing seamless management of online reputation. Given the importance of a positive reputation, incorporating a CRM solution that can integrate with third-party reputation management software will allow hospitality organisations to create better presence in the pandemic era.
The hospitality sector saw a massive change in guest sentiments, and in the pandemic era, they must be ready to accommodate hygiene-concerned guests hinging on mobile interaction. Hence, incorporating the right technology will be invaluable in enabling hospitality organisations to navigate through the pandemic era.
This article was published in BW hotelier issue dated '' with cover story titled 'SMART MANTRAS ISSUE VOL 7, ISSUE 4'
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