There's no denying that the coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating effect on the global hospitality industry. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, international tourism was down 70% in the first eight months of 2020, with declining occupancy rates and high cancellation figures.
Despite this, the hospitality sector has shown great resilience in the last few months - businesses are doubling down on sales and marketing efforts and some are turning to digital technology to adjust their approach, refocus their efforts and introduce strategies that will see them through the pandemic.
If you run a hotel and are wondering how to prepare your business for the 'new normal', leveraging technology may be the answer. Below, Peter King of Dialog360 shares five innovative ways technology can help your hotel business ride out the pandemic and come out stronger.
1. Automated check-ins
Before the pandemic, automated check-ins were considered a 'nice to have'. Now, against the backdrop of a global pandemic, this technology has come to the fore for many hotel chains. By reducing physical face-to-face interactions, fast-pass technology can help combat the spread of the virus whilst providing businesses with a more efficient way of welcoming guests.
Fast pass check-ins provide a great way to streamline the entire process from start to finish; guests go online, book, choose a room, and when they arrive, pick up their keycard to their room. When they leave, they have their bill emailed all without any physical interaction.
Other hotel chains are also leveraging apps by integrating smartphone check-ins. Fast pass technology gives customers greater flexibility in terms of when and how they check-in, which can be especially welcoming for those who are nervous about Covid-19. Some apps may also allow guests to check-in, choose their room, and even open their door all from their mobile device.
2. Contactless payment
Contactless payment has been one of the main technology trends within the hospitality industry, offering an alternative hands-free payment method. Contactless payments eliminate the need for cash or physical credit card payments, instead relying on radio frequency technology built into payment cards to perform secure cashless transactions.
Aside from speeding up the payment process, contactless payment systems can offer a wealth of data that can be used to create personalized experiences for guests, enhancing their visit and integrating with loyalty programmes.
3. Cloud communication
Cloud communication technology like Zoom and unified communication platforms (UCaaS) have seen a huge uptake during the coronavirus pandemic, with more and more businesses turning to technology to replace face to face meetings.
UCaaS technology gives back-office staff the ability to stay connected to team members via a single interface no matter where they are. Whether using voice, video, or chat, team members can keep in touch on any device.
Cloud communication technology therefore offers businesses the opportunities for more efficient back-office operations, reduced staffing needs and providing improved guest experiences. With low acquisition costs, hotels both small and large can benefit.
4. Keeping your website up-to-date
Given the current climate, it's no wonder guests are also looking for flexibility. With so much uncertainty, knowing that they can cancel and reschedule last minute has become another key decision-making factor for customers. Guests want to know hotels have policies in place to allow for sudden cancellation and the chance to rebook.
With so much information and each region having a different set of rules and regulations, your website is the perfect place to collect and share information, providing a central place for potential guests to understand any local restrictions and covid-secure cleaning policies.
Being able to share information quickly and effectively is crucial for any hotel during this time. It's therefore important to ensure your website is easy to use for customers and that your content management system is easy to update for your back-office staff. In addition, make sure that your web copy is optimised for voice search, as more and more customers are turning to voice search as opposed to typing out queries when booking hotels and holidays.
Chatbots are a type of digital technology that uses AI to respond to human interaction. They can be deployed as an app to a website or messaging channel. Using AI and rule-based behaviour, chatbots can mimic the interactions a person might have with a real employee.
A good chatbot will answer the most common questions without needing any human involvement. And, for any queries that are not so straightforward, the chatbot can take a customer’s details and pass that query on to a member of staff. Chatbots can provide options for booking directly through the platform or offer direct links to your main booking system. Being able to balance help desk staff with AI can create a customer service experience that drives loyalty and improves sales.
Leveraging technology is a fantastic way to improve your operations and ensure you're complying with government guidance, with the added benefit of making sure your customers feel safe and secure whilst staying with you. If you want to learn more about finance options that may support purchasing technology or making changes to your operations during the pandemic, take a look at our hotel finance offering.
About the Author
Peter King is a brand awareness manager at Dialog360, a business communications and collaboration solutions provider based in the UK. Dialog360’s business phone systems unify voice, video and messaging so you have everything you need in one cloud solution to run your business effectively.
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