2020 was the year everything changed for most service industries, including the hotel industry. Technology can help make guests feel safer and more comfortable as well as helping to manage operational risk. On the other hand, it’s important not to lose the human touch that adds meaning to hotel stays. So how can you use the latest technological advancements to make facilities safer while still elevating the hospitality you provide to guests during these difficult times?
We asked hoteliers across the country what technological changes they’ve made in response to COVID-19, and here’s what we learned.
Advanced Cleaning and Sanitation
Providing peace of mind is a great way to elevate the guest experience at your property. As one could expect during a pandemic, all respondents mentioned increasing sanitation efforts to reassure guests of their safety.
One way is to hire an outside specialist. For example, we heard from Kevin Geick, a manager at Bio Recovery, a nationwide disease and biohazard cleanup company: “Many hotel chains have begun providing for professional disease disinfection services within their budgets. We have been contracted by a number of hotels throughout the U.S. to provide regular cleanings, and we’re hearing that the plan is to advertise the use of our services within the hotels as a way to make guests feel more comfortable.”
Of the in-house options, several respondents mentioned implementing “fogger” devices. These disinfect enclosed areas by atomizing agents such as hydrogen peroxide or hypochlorous acid, creating a mist or fog that remains suspended in the air long enough to kill both airborne and surface-based pathogens in any place the air touches, including ceilings, walls, crevices, furniture and floors. These foggers are most often used to sanitize hotel units between guests.
A similar device is the electrostatic sprayer often used in larger public spaces like lobbies or gyms. This device uses a “wand” to rapidly spray an EPA-approved solution that sticks to surfaces and disinfects them while also being safe for humans to breathe. These sprayers are often used in conjunction with air purifying systems to eliminate pathogens both in the air and on surfaces.
Clearing the Air
We heard from the Hilton Garden Inns in both Worcester and Springfield, Massachusetts, where a state-of-the-art air filtration system has been installed at each property to protect both guests and employees in common areas. The AtmosAir bi-polar ionization indoor air quality devices are installed in the hotel’s HVAC system and have proven 99.92% effective against coronavirus in the air and on surfaces.
Lynda Paquette, managing member of Angels Rest on Resurrection Bay, in Seward, Alaska, reported the property has added UV-C air filters to all units: “Once cleaned, each unit is purified with the UV-C light air filter for several hours. This does mean it’s more difficult to accommodate early check-ins and late check-out requests but, thankfully, our guests have been understanding.”
Also in Alaska, where the state requires proof of negative COVID-19 tests at the airport, the Tordrillo Mountain Lodge has taken the extraordinary step of elevating guest experience through the peace of mind created by on-site testing.
“We’re using the BD Veritor™ Plus System on site for rapid COVID-19 testing of staff with results available in 15 minutes,” said owner Mike Overcast. “This testing is also available for guests if they experience any symptoms.”
Taking the “Touch” Out of “High-Touch”
Hotels have long been considered a “high-touch” service that requires plenty of positive, face-to-face interaction to achieve and maintain a great guest experience. So what can be done when almost everything about “high-touch” is considered unsafe?
Most of our respondents reported that their hotel employees are now expected to wear masks throughout the property and that plexiglass shields have been installed in the registration area. In addition, Cathy Balestriere, general manager of Crane’s Beach House Boutique Hotel & Luxury Villas, Delray Beach, Florida, reported “we immediately purchased the Ring technology for remote contact and check-out options.”
Other hotels have moved their check-in and -out procedures to unstaffed kiosks that validate identity, process payments, assign clean rooms, and more. These high-tech kiosks are similar to those used at airline self-check-in and use touch screens, facial recognition technology, credit card readers, etc.
For independent hoteliers, cost-effective options include digital solutions that tie into loyalty programs and work through mobile apps, smart TVs, and more to complete self-check-ins and -outs, without the need for a physical kiosk.
Use of these devices would pivot the responsibilities of your front-desk staff from manual guest processing to more of a host role, elevating hospitality by welcoming guests, answering questions, and handling concerns in order to personalize their stay.
Another large element of elevating the hotel experience is to offer convenience items for purchase in your gift shop or lobby. But how to do so when approaching a sales counter and even exchanging money has been discouraged?
We heard from Janine Williams, founder of Impulsify Inc., which provides technology that maximizes incremental revenue and improves the guest experience in hotel retail outlets. Their self-pay kiosk automates purchases and provides a faster checkout procedure.
“Guests can scan and go with minimal interaction, no cash and no one else touching their purchases,” she said. “This provides reduced cross-contamination in a time when so many guests are nervous about shopping.”
Taking Operations Digital
As a final thought, what if implementing these technological improvements can also help save the environment? Many of the procedures described above take place in a digital environment that can save literally tons of plastic and paper. Even more can be saved, and operational efficiencies achieved, if your property implements a digital, mobile solution that can both customize and automate processes including staffing schedules; employee training; all checklists for safety, cleaning, brand consistency, etc.; regulatory audits; performance goals and achievements; and much more. These digital solutions keep track of your operational status in real time, alert you to any concerns, and save time and administrative costs. This could make more time for your staff to focus on providing an excellent experience to every guest.
Elevating Your Hospitality
Whether you are ready to fully invest in technology or not, you still have multiple opportunities to deliver elevated hospitality, providing a safe place and personalized service to your guests.
As a buyer of travel-size toiletries and single-use cleaning and convenience items for your hotel pantry, you can also have an effortless, secure purchasing experience that sets your mind at ease. At Weiner’s, we provide the products proven to be most in demand by hotel guests through the personalized customer service that will exactly meet your operational needs.
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