A Touchy Subject: How the Hospitality Industry Will Adapt Post COVID-19

June 9, 2020

A Touchy Subject: How the Hospitality Industry Will Adapt Post COVID-19

For even the most seasoned road warrior (Which I count myself a member) – travel tends to bring out those germophobic tendencies that otherwise seem like an afterthought within our daily existence.

While I likely fall on the more conscientious side of the spectrum – I suspect all of us revert to some form of protective behavior when leaving behind familiarity.

Transition in Travel

Within my ever-ready travel cases, I keep hand sanitizer and alcohol-based wipes. When I take my seat on a plane, I immediately open the air vent and direct it away from my general area – assuming that this provides me with some ‘invisible shield ‘of germ protection. I also spray down my living area and video control module with a blast from a travel-sized Lysol canister on longer flights. Overkill? - perhaps – but these precautionary steps at least allow me to travel with peace of mind by providing me a level of psychological protection.

Enter Covid19 - and, while the prospect of catching a common cold is neither pleasant nor welcomed - it pales in comparison to the possible significant health impacts the Coronavirus might have on a traveler.

While much is still uncertain about this viral menace – to be sure it is something we do not want to tangle with – nor be the carriers of – which might even have implications to others.

Hotels Honing Technology

Within my role as a hospitality and technology professional – I am responsible for, among other things – ensuring our guest experience is enjoyable, efficient, and accommodating.  These products include:

  • Providing the right entertainment options for in-room TVs
  • Access to lighting and climate control - including voice interface
  • Implementing various public space service strategies - such as digital signage
  • Lobby kiosks for computer and printer usage

Trusted hotel brands have specific, regimented cleaning protocols. But, combatting a pandemic at this magnitude requires additional, non-traditional  approaches to increasing guest safety.

As hotels become more sophisticated with approaches to cleanliness (electro-static sprayer, UV emanating robots, etc.) – guest-facing technologies too can now serve an elevated role in providing actual (and perceived) levels of comfort for guests. Technology serves the objective of  driving down the interaction points and ‘touch frequency’ opportunity of guests within their hotel room.

Think about the frequently interacted with elements within a hotel room (or home living environment for that matter) such as light switches, thermostats, shades, remote controls, etc. Each of these surfaces could – in theory – contribute to the collection and transference of germs. It is impossible to eliminate the need to interact with some surfaces in a hotel room. However, technology can play a huge role in minimizing these interactions.

Automation Improves Guest Comfort and Safety

Hotels can create a sense of comfort for the guest vs. forcing them to interact with switches, levers, and remote controls. Allowing the guest to use a personal and trusted mobile device as their room’s command center limits their interactions with touch surfaces.

Again – whether real or perceived – control is key and, in this case, hygienic control.

Additionally, by activating voice commands in a room (i.e., Alexa like technology) – a hotel can provide guests access to information and functionality without ever having to get out of bed.   With virtual digital assistants, VDAs, a guest can call the front desk, discover room service options and order, and tune the TV to ESPN – all by just uttering a command. It also means changing the temperature and switching lights on and off with a brief word.

Hotels have been reviewing this nascent technology over the last few years and invested millions in application development for mobile phones. The current pandemic crisis should hasten the development and deployment of these solutions. Each can go a long way to bringing guests back to hotels with a greater sense of safety—Hi-touch to no-touch.

Written by
Scott Hansen

Scott is an accomplished hotel executive with over 21 years of experience in eCommerce and guest-facing technologies. He is recognized as a global industry expert in hotel technology and regularly keynotes hospitality conferences. Through his work with Marriott International and the industry group Hospitality Technology Next Generation (HTNG), Scott has pioneered guestroom entertainment technologies common today and established some of the first-ever agreements making streaming content available in the hotel for the first time.

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