In 2020, the immediacy of the COVID-19 pandemic forced hoteliers to adopt contactless solutions as a means to keeping staff and guests safe.
In 2021, guest adoption and improved guest satisfaction scores have solidified the need to communicate, interact and engage with guests on their own terms and devices.
For hotels, contactless guest experiences have shifted from nice-to-have to now being essential to remaining competitive. Hoteliers who aren’t providing digital guest experiences, such as contactless check-in, run the risk of disappointing guests at a time when loyalty is paramount.
Meanwhile, they’re missing out on revenue-boosting opportunities and cost-cutting operational efficiencies.
As we head into 2022, we’ve identified 10 areas of focus for hoteliers to consider as they consider implementing contactless guest experiences.
1. An omnichannel check-in experience
Not every touchpoint of the check-in journey needs to rely on people. In the post-pandemic era, many consumers are more comfortable using technology to assist them in their tasks.
Smart hoteliers will offer several check-in options in order to provide a true omnichannel experience that meets guests’ needs on their own terms. With tech at the foundation, a hotel could offer an end-to-end mobile check-in experience via an app, complete with a digital room key.
The hotel could also offer check-in kiosks, providing for a true contactless experience. Hotel team members can be at the ready as ambassadors to provide value to the guest experience.
The key is providing multiple channels for guests to approach the check-in experience on their own terms.
2. Automation to amplify the guest experience
Especially when the industry is facing record labor shortage, automation is critical to maintaining a great guest experience.
At this point, investing in new hardware and software is table stakes. If hoteliers want their businesses to survive into the future, adopting tools that increase efficiency is a must.
One important step is adopting self-service tools at the guests’ first point of contact with your hotel - as soon as they walk into the lobby.
Walking into a hotel after a day of traveling through airport security and a lengthy plane ride in a hot mask and then having to wait in line again at the hotel just to get your room key is not the first impression hoteliers should strive to create.
Digital check-in should be quick, simple and straightforward. And it should work for 100% of guests on whichever device they choose.
3. Death of the traditional hotel lobby?
All this begs the question: Is the hotel lobby as we know it a thing of the past? Yes and no.
We’ll always need a lobby ‒ after all, it’s where hotels make their first (physical) impression ‒ but it is ripe for evolution. What we see changing is the role of the traditional, large-scale front desk.
Smartphone-based check-in with mobile keys and modern versions of check-in kiosks will lead to a different approach. As mentioned above, self-service culture is alive and well today.
Guests don’t want to stand in line and watch a front-desk agent type on a computer as they wait for a room key. They crave a seamless experience ‒ and digital tools provide just that.
4. Mobile wallets streamline contactless check-in
Apple’s announcement that it would implement the storage of hotel keys in its Wallet application – and Hyatt’s subsequent adoption – is a significant step toward simplifying the mobile check-in process for guests.
It’s a step toward streamlining a process that has, until this point, prevented many guests from using their phone as a digital room key. But, it only solves one part of the digital experience.
The bigger issue is verifying guest identity. That means if hoteliers want to provide a truly contactless check-in experience, they will need other digital tools so that guests don’t need to come to the front desk to verify their identity.
Some mobile apps and in-lobby kiosks can handle all parts of the process.
5. The rebirth of in-lobby kiosks
Before COVID, adoption of in-lobby check-in kiosks was low. But now, as self‐service has grown in popularity over the past decade, many hotel companies have given kiosks a try.
Because consumers are more familiar with self-serve kiosks now, using them for everything from checking in at the airport to checking out at the grocery store, adoption in the hotel industry has once again gained traction.
Kiosks will likely continue to serve an important role in the lobby even beyond the pandemic.
6. Front-desk agent role evolves
Mobile check-in solutions won’t completely replace front-desk staff. But, the automation of mundane tasks will allow that team to do their jobs better and add more value to the guest experience.
Hotels can still provide high-touch assistance, like a live receptionist to help guests through the check-in process or answer any additional questions they may have about the property, amenities, or local attractions.
It also opens up space and time for front-desk employees to incorporate upsell opportunities, including room upgrades and food-and-beverage ordering options.
7. Utilize contactless to increase revenue opportunities
A contactless, digital guest experience opens up new opportunities to upsell and increase ancillary spend. And, it can lead to quicker wins as the opportunities are right at guests’ fingertips.
For instance, if guests want a late check-out, there’s no need for them to pick up the phone and call the front desk. They can go to the app, pick their check-out time and know exactly how much they will pay.
Not only does it benefit the operator whose staff member is now not occupied completing a task that can easily be automated, but it also provides a more seamless guest experience.
8. Utilize tech to manage labor issues
This point bears repeating. Hotels were forecast to end 2021 with half a million fewer jobs, according to the American Hotel & Lodging Association. And the cost of labor is higher than ever, straining the resources of owners and management companies.
That’s why automation from tech solutions is critical. The right kind of tech can handle operations previously executed by staff, freeing up associates to perform higher value functions.
At the end of the day, there’s more resilience in the system when technology is involved.
9. Personalization as a competitive differentiator
Diving deep to learn more about who exactly is booking hotel rooms and checkin into your hotels has always been important to hoteliers.
But as we navigate an ongoing pandemic and see a completely new group of travelers emerging, guest and business segmentation has never been more important.
In short, hoteliers need a 360-degree view of their guests in order to provide a seamless omnichannel guest experience that spans all the digital touchpoints through to the on-property ones - and, in turn, builds loyalty.
Using digital communication tools, they can collect more data from their guests and learn how to better provide those “wow” moments.
10. Demand is digital
As we head into 2022 with more uncertainty on the forefront, we see the divide between innovative companies and budget-conscious companies growing even wider.
We think this divide will have critical implications for determining which companies emerge in the recovery as leaders, and which continue to struggle.
As true recovery plays out, those who took an aggressive approach to digital adoption will end up in a clear position to win.
Your customers have already adapted to a new world. They are looking to you to continue to innovate and make their experience better.
Hotels now have the tools, the incentives and the urgent need to deploy a contactless, digital guest experience that provides a better guest experience and drives revenue while helping staff work more efficiently.