Hotels around the world have entered the most challenging period in the industry’s history. All but essential travel is now banned in many countries and subsequent hotel occupancies are absolutely rock bottom.
Could this be a blessing in disguise?
However bad the situation has gotten, many of the hoteliers I’ve spoken to have been looking at the enforced downtime as a chance to reset and reassess their systems, staff and technologies. A rare opportunity in a busy hotel.
The crisis driven low occupancies have given rise a perfect time to implement technological improvement in key areas. Below are the themes I’ve noticed.
Digitalizing the guest experience
Imagine walking through the lobby of any major hotel in your city. Aside from the guests completing check in and check out, many people are sitting around. What are they doing? In almost every hotel in the world, most of the people are staring at their phone. Walk down to the restaurant or over to the pool area and the results are exactly the same.
67% of global communication is estimated to be done by mobile app. That is an enormous amount.
Many hoteliers are missing this golden opportunity. They still contact guests by traditional methods: Menus, paper posters, flyers. It is becoming increasingly clear that this just isn’t the most effective way to reach guest’s attention.
Think about it this way: Are you more likely to read a piece of information if it is stuck on the wall of the room you’re sitting in, or if it pops up as a notification on your phone? We all know the answer.
The possibilities of bringing the guest online through an app or device are endless. We already see many properties adopting digital room keys but more advanced solutions already exist from controlling the aircon, the blinds and music to ordering rooms service and reserving Spa treatment all through the hotel’s app.
Bringing staff correspondence online
Hotel Managers are responsible for huge numbers of staff, from the Front Office and Guest Relation Agents to the Housekeeping and Engineering teams. All day every day these team members are constantly interacting with guests.
How do managers know that these conversations and interactions are going as planned? How do we know the language barriers haven’t gotten in the way or a misunderstanding has caused cultural offense? Put simply, it’s impossible.
However, we are seeing increasing trends for hotels to encourage staff and guests to communicate through live chat apps. In a world where Whatsapp, Line, Skype and Viber are at the forefront in how we communicate with each other, hoteliers know that live chat has to be accommodated to ensure smooth communications.
With a live and historical log of all the conversations happening in the hotel, managers can be much closer to the action from their desk. Problems can be solved before they reach the review website and dispute can be easily resolved with retrospective logs of everything the staff said.
Data driven insights and adjustments
If most hoteliers are asked about their guest’s spending habits they would be able to answer accurately. However, using technologies to analyse exact behaviours leads to a much more conclusive understanding of certain behaviours. Digital menus and catalogs mean hoteliers, for example, can monitor more than just what is purchased, but which areas of the menus
are viewed and which are ignored.
Data can be the most value asset any business holds and hotels should be no different. Opportunities for technologies to collect more information on your guest, of course without being intrusive are being increasingly capitalised on by the most diligent management teams.
In conclusion, despite the doom and gloom in many hotel board rooms, I hope smart hoteliers will see the break in high volume traffic as a chance to move the business forward. Hospitality, as in industry, has lagged behind others in technology leverage despite tech firms across the world making incredible advances regarding what is possible. Now could be the perfect time to implement changes, properly.
Contributed by Benjamin Abbott, Head of Sales Operations of HandiGo Co., Ltd
About the author
Ben is a founding member of HandiGo, an award winning Travel Tech startup from Bangkok. Within the 3 years of it’s operation, HandiGo has grown to be South East Asia’s primary supplier of guest concierge apps and engagement platforms.