The Dystopian Near Future of the Hospitality Industry. A Parody or Potential Reality?

Contactless check-in and robot room service might become the norm rather than the novelty gimmicks they seem to be now.

The article is authored by Dilip Puri, Founder and CEO of the Indian School of Hospitality and former Managing Director and Regional Vice President of Starwood Hotels and Resorts South Asia.

I FIND a lot of leaders quoting older management mantras which have regained relevance in today’s crisis. One of them is “what gets measured, gets done”. And that’s the biggest challenge we face today. An inability to truly measure the health, economic and social impact of Covid19, going forward. Are we racing with time or against time? Will the recovery start in one month, three months, six months or longer? How long will the recovery take for our industry? And after that, what will the ‘new normal’ be?

Let’s start by taking a dystopian view of the near future for the hotel industry.

Post 9/11, baggage scanners became ubiquitous in hotels. Post Covid19, thermo scanners are likely to become the norm. Will a guest’s health condition be a pre-condition to check-in? Or will his travel history become a mandatory requirement to reserve a room?

Market segments will change. MICE will almost certainly drop. What could this mean for banquet operations? Will seating styles with more social distancing norms be adopted? Round tables meant for 8 being used to seat 4? 

Will we see the death of the small meeting's business as they get replaced by online meetings?

Sanitisation stations at every entry point to a hotel or a restaurant, perhaps a part of the hostess desk?

Remember - what gets institutionalized gets monetised. Hence, if cost efficiencies derived from the ‘During Covid19’ phase get institutionalized, what will it mean for productivity. Lower payroll? Lower FTE to room ratios?

As brands struggle to return to profitability, will frills go away? Reduced breakfast spreads, non-inclusion of transport, no free amenities in rooms? Perhaps the familiar welcome drink tradition may become a hand sanitizing ritual instead.

Perhaps hotel L&D initiatives take a more blended approach with more online training, given that many employees will have become used to consuming online learning during the lockdown.

Contactless check-in and robot room service might become the norm rather than the novelty gimmicks they seem to be now.

Hotels currently have club floors or wings. Will they now have isolation/quarantine floors as a norm?

Sanitization chambers become the new spas.

Will partial work from home for functional and support roles become a norm?

Will hotel rankings become based on health and safety than on product and service quality?

All employees will have to have some form of special medical training and more frequent medical checks.

Will hotel CSR activities continue on providing food to the poor? 

Will hotels need to think of even more animation to keep guests within their premises?

Will the array of toiletries like soap, shampoo, conditioner, moisturizer give way to an array of hand sanitizers? Will taps run on timers of 20 seconds to sanitize your hands? And the door may not open if you haven’t done that before leaving the room.

Some of these possible new normals may be stretching it a bit, but it should prepare hoteliers to start thinking about how they go about rebooting – for whichever future we’re facing.


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