The hospitality industry is turning to technology to help attract customers in the wake of the global pandemic, but will it be enough to revive struggling businesses across the globe?
Covid-19 is wreaking havoc on the hospitality industry. With the skies mostly closed to commercial travel, and stringent social distancing and hygiene requirements imposed on hotels, restaurants, theme parks, and other places of business, customers are not leaving their homes, nor are they spending enough money, to allow existing business models to remain profitable. At the same time, landlords are continuing to demand rent for the unused space, and suppliers expect payment for goods that may or may not be used. To survive the novel pandemic, hospitality industry businesses must create new business models and integrate new practices that promote a safer consumer experience.
Technology can help protect consumers from infection, and hospitality businesses from shuttering their doors. But as hotels have already lost over $46 billion in room revenue and 4.8M hospitality and leisure jobs have been lost since the start of the pandemic in the US alone, the question begs to ask: will it be enough to enable these businesses to recover from Covid-19’s wake?
So many changes in so little time
After months of restrictions on where people can travel, shop, dine, and unwind, and intensive education on what constitutes proper hygiene and social distancing, consumers have naturally undergone a shift in their perceptions of what good and desirable business practices entail. They now have higher expectations of hospitality industry businesses, from how they clean their surfaces and the manner in which meals are prepared and served, to just how many people surround them at any given vicinity, at any given time.
To draw customers back to their businesses and revive their hotels, restaurants, and other establishments, hospitality professionals must learn this switch in customer perceptions (and the accompanying consumption habits) and focus their efforts on a necessarily consumer-centric approach that sufficiently balances safety and satisfaction.
Technology for an enhanced customer experience
The health and safety concerns brought on by Covid-19, as well as the pandemic’s subsequent shift in consumer demands and expectations have all accelerated existing technology trends within the hospitality industry. Technological innovations have long been implemented in hospitality businesses, but are now being updated and optimized to serve customers in this new normal. For example, online booking systems have been around for years. However, they are now being adapted to allow faster, clearer, and more seamless navigation, enable more customers to use the site at any given time, and allow customers to make hassle-free changes and cancelations, as required.
A push for touchless tech has spurred the hospitality industry to adopt a ‘bring your own device’ strategy that allows customers to use the smartphones as hotel key cards, restaurant menus, payment devices, and more. Doing so not only promotes safety by limiting contact between customers and hospitality employees and preventing the need for physical objects changing hands, but it also eliminates unnecessary and vexing idle time spent waiting for service, boosting customer satisfaction exponentially.
Radars and thermal cameras are being employed to detect possible sources of infection and help manage crowds, reducing consumers’ fears over leaving the comfort and security of their homes, and encouraging them to frequent hospitality establishments. And advanced technologies, like Highroad Launchpad portfolio company Aura Air are being developed and marketed to enhance the cleanliness of shared air in residential and commercial spaces alike.
Leveraging the human behind the technology
As Covid-19 restrictions begin to be lifted, but the threat of the novel pandemic continues to loom, the hospitality industry’s customers expect technological innovations to make service safer and more seamless than ever before. That being said, there is no expectation of interacting with robots; customers still crave and demand “human-like” interactions with hospitality businesses. They want to feel personally tended to from behind the chatbot and facial recognition software. They want the smile and human touch that makes them feel valued – and they want to share their appreciation of your services with you.
Can tech help the hospitality industry recover from Covid-19? Sure. Hospitality tech is the driving force behind the industry’s revival after months of shuttered doors. However, it is the marriage of these innovations with the human connection of each hospitality business owner and its employees with its customers that will ensure the industry’s long-term survival and success. As such, the two must be intrinsically woven together, to identify and implement new strategies and solutions for a Covid-proof future filled with great service and great support.
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