The shift towards a contactless guest experience is spreading like wildfire. Several hotels around the world now use technology solutions to automate their check-in, in-room, and checkout experiences for visitors. COVID-19 has greatly popularized contactless technology due to the increasing awareness about possible risks that can be linked to physical contact and touch. That is why hoteliers are investing in more innovative ways to deliver a hands-free experience to guests.
However, the idea of contactless hotel experiences isn’t entirely a new one. Over the last few years, many players in the hospitality industry have implemented smartphone door locks, instant communication, and other self-service technologies. In 2014, Starwood, one of the world’s largest hoteliers, introduced two new robotic butlers at Aloft hotel in Cupertino. These robots use a combination of sensors and WiFi/4G connectivity to communicate with the hotel software, and navigate to and from the rooms without any issues or accidents.
Aloft Hotels was the first hotel brand to use robot butlers back in 2014Also, in 2016, Hilton and IBM partnered to develop a robot concierge (two feet tall with arms and legs) that can help guests find anything on the hotel property. The robot, Connie, was able to move itself to point in the right direction whenever a guest asked for directions or guidance. Connie’s eyes also display in different colors to express understanding, confusion, and other human emotions. By developing Connie, Hilton was looking to operate more efficiently, surprise their customers, and remove customer pain points such as waiting in a queue to ask questions at the reception desk. Check our smart hotel post to learn about other success stories.
What is a contactless guest experience and why does it matter?Since international travel reopened, delivering contactless experiences has become the primary goal of leading players in the hospitality industry. This involves offering contactless bookings, contactless payments, contactless check-ins, in-room voice assistants, and accepting contactless feedback. Hoteliers review all the multiple touchpoints between staff and guests in their customer journey. They also map out areas where contactless technology could be used to reduce exposure while simultaneously preserving the brand’s uniqueness at the same time. Moreover, the new generation of travelers wants the best experience at the best price with less friction and hassles.
As per PwC Hospitality Going Digital report, millennials prefer planning, booking, and staying at hotels with tech amenities Source: IntelityWith a contact-free experience, you're able to book and pay for a suitable room even before you arrive in the lobby. Upon arrival, all you need to do is find your way up the stairs or elevators to locate your desired accommodation. With the hotel’s mobile app, you’re able to unlock the door, regulate temperature, turn on the television set, and do much more. Most hotels even have Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa installed in the room to help you run simple tasks and place requests.
Benefits of contactless experience for guestsIt once seemed like a dream to be able to work and travel the world. However, various employee monitoring software, communication apps, and other collaboration tools have made remote work to become an attainable reality. Many online freelancers and remote workers who earn six-figure incomes now travel the world while working from hotels, beaches, Airbnbs, and anywhere else.
According to a research by MBO Partners, 4.8 million independent workers see themselves as digital nomads, and 17 million more are aspiring to become nomadic. More knowledge workers prefer the location-independent lifestyle that allows them to experience a new culture, new foods, new sights, new friends, and more.
Although the pandemic halted international travel and public gathering, it didn’t stop hotels from rolling out suitable packages for remote workers who would rather work from a tranquil room than a noisy home or neighborhood guest house. In fact, HotelsByDay, a company that offers day-use hotel rooms to business travelers saw a 900 percent increase in demand through the lockdown.
Bjorn Hanson, a hotel lodging consultant, said, “The privacy of an enclosed room is ideal for workers with pandemic anxiety regarding sharing space.” According to Hanson, day-use guests are a desirable market that places limited demands on hotel staff and maintenance. Hanson’s discovery agrees with Criton’s research that shows that 80 percent of travelers would download a hotel app that allows them to get all information they need, check into their desired room, and also checkout.
This research goes further to show that
- 73 percent of travelers would use an app that enables them to open the door of their hotel room.
- 30 percent of travelers would check-in and checkout via a web page.
- 47 percent of travelers would be more likely to place an order for room service via an app.
- 48 percent of travelers would be more likely to use the hotel restaurant if they can place orders for food via an app.
Examples of Tech-Driven Contactless ExperienceTechnological solutions are disrupting the hospitality industry by replacing in-person touchpoints with safer and frictionless self-service options. This includes self-service check-in and checkout kiosks, mobile (in-app) hotel navigational guides, contactless in-room entertainment, AI-enabled voice assistants, and even concierge robots.
Digital Concierge Bots for HotelsVouch is changing the future of the hospitality industry with its digital concierge system for hotels. A digital concierge is engaging because it has instant access to a large database of information and can respond to searches or queries quickly. Vouch’s bot allows hotels to receive and respond to questions or requests from guests without the need for phone calls or queues at the reception desk.
Vouch uses the Progressive Web App technology, which gives guests access to app-like interface without downloading an appBy scanning the hotel’s NFC tag or QR code, guests can access the bot from their mobile devices. Guests can place requests for spa bookings, food orders, room service orders, and any other sort of demand. When COVID-19 created the need to monitor the health status of hotel guests, the Pan Pacific Hotel, Singapore, used its bot to track guests who were not feeling well without having to run manual door-to-door checks.
Using Voice Technology to Engage Guests in Leading HotelsVolara is partnering with Google to enable hotels to deploy contactless room control solutions and guest engagement. By speaking from their hotel rooms, guests can request services, access extra information, entertainment options, and recommendations. Since Volara runs on the Google Nest Hub, guests are able to use the voice assistant to operate television sets, watch shows, stream music, make calls, set alarms, adjust room temperature, and more.
This solution from Google and Volara also features private, automated, and conversational interactions between guests and staff. Volara’s easy-to-use voice assistant technology is finally giving travelers the opportunity to genuinely enjoy their travel experiences knowing full well that every request can be attended to whenever they speak from their rooms.
According to the CEO of Volara, David Berger, with this solution from Google and Volara, hoteliers can reinvent their guest experience while also reducing costs. Delivering contactless guest engagement replaces the antiquated bedside clock, paper directory, and Bluetooth speaker.
Automating Accommodation Experience from Check-in to CheckoutJurny is addressing two of the biggest problems in the hospitality industry—efficiency and profitability. Jurny’s technology is designed to meet the evolving demands of a new generation travelers who desire a service that seamlessly puts them in a hotel room without much friction. This solution is pioneering the next generation of on-demand hospitality by enabling an automated check-in and checkout experience for guests, while generating increased revenue for hotel owners at the same time.
Jurny partners with hotels and rentals enabling them with social distancing-based technologyThe company is championing a new, immersive, professional, and comfortable way to experience home, luxury and cutting-edge technology as a hotel guest. Guests don’t have to place multiple calls to book reservations or wait in line to check-in after a long day’s trip. From the Jurny app, guests can use the single-touch check-in and check-out feature, access keyless entry, WiFi connection, 24/7 virtual support, and even request for on-demand cleaning services.
Delivering a Personalized Experience to Hotel GuestsXperium is using deep learning to create personalized automation for more than 2000 hotels around the world. This platform is designed to increase guest satisfaction, revenue per booking, and overall operational efficiency. With Xperium, guests can experience seamless and contactless check-in and checkout by performing all activities from their personal devices. Hotel staff can approve room selections and even monitor the check-in/checkout process via Xperium’s integrated visualization dashboard. Its DataHub reports also provide insights that are highly beneficial for travel agencies and tour operators who want to understand purchase intent and guest behavior.
Xperium’s platform follows guests on all steps of the customer journey, from sending confirmation emails to asking feedback
Serving Guests with Safe, Seamless, and Personalized Hotel ExperiencesPrefme, a universal hotel app, is providing highly customized experiences for travelers across multiple partner hotels in different parts of the globe. Guests can choose from Prefme’s robust list of hotels, pre-book services if need be, and even enjoy personalized offerings based on past visits to partner hotels.
Prefme interfaceBy sharing their profile, Prefme Number, and/or eat, stay and fly preferences in advance, users can customize their stay at every partner hotel. With these details, hotels can access guest preferences before their arrival in order to personalize room inventory, food menu, and/or fulfill special requests. From the Prefme app, guests can review bills, make payments, unlock designated hotel doors, and make in-room requests. These features are beneficial for those who never want to physically interact with other guests or staff.
Improving Connectivity and Convenience for Hotel GuestsMonscierge is delivering user-centric guest experiences for leading hotels around the world. The platform is also improving collaboration and job satisfaction for hotel staff with its analytics feature that promotes task accountability, ticket management, and more. Monscierge has three core products that are connected and form its hospitality content management system (CMS)—Staff Connect, Apple TV for Hotels, and Connect Signage.
Staff Connect is making task management and collaboration easier for hotel employees, Apple TV for Hotels is giving guests control over their entertainment preferences, and Connect Signage is an interactive digital concierge that is making it easier for hotels to display menus, recommendations, etc.
ConclusionAs remote working and freelancing continue to gain popularity and acceptance, there’s also an ever-increasing demand on hotels to deliver comfortable and safe experiences for digital nomads who are willing to travel across the world. Millennials and the Gen Z population prefer a high-level contactless experience from hoteliers, especially since contactless hospitality can still have a personal touch.
According to Etihad Airways' vice-president of Guest Experience and Delivery, Linda Celestino, there are many things that can be replaced by automation in this digital age. However, one of the few things that cannot be replaced is how another person makes you feel. For Linda, the personal touch is what creates a connection, warms the heart, and nurtures loyalty.
While guests want hotels to offer automated services for them to feel safe and secure, they also crave personalized hospitality.
As you design your self-service hotel experience, make every effort to understand your ideal guests. There’s no ROI in implementing costly technologies that won’t improve the guest experience. By serving personalized, contactless experiences, you will have more guests eager to return. Your lobby and other spaces should be warm, inviting, and welcoming.
Grace Morris is a tech and digital marketing enthusiast who loves to travel and is passionate about learning about emerging trends in digital media and the Internet. Her interest in helping businesses leverage their digital authority has led her to a career as a Digital Content Specialist in Traqq. Her next goals include writing a book and becoming an event speaker.
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