Pre-COVID, it is fair to say that digitalization was a side project in hospitality. As an industry, we were testing the waters in both front-of-house and operations. Then the pandemic hit, and social distancing made it business critical to go digital, and contactless, wherever possible.
However, fast forward two years and these systems are embedded, with all stakeholders experiencing improvements through streamlined, digital processes. For hotel guests, the increased use of contactless technology simply brought hospitality up to speed with expectations, particularly the use of mobile devices to control the stay experience, from check-in, to room service, room management and payment.
CONTACTLESS 2.0 IN HOSPITALITY
Contactless tech has checked-in and taken up residence, but where are we headed next? Is hospitality going to rest on its laurels? Not likely. From increased customer satisfaction and operating efficiency, to reduced costs and more autonomy for workers and guests, contactless has provided too many benefits to be left unexplored.
Looking at the next 12 months and beyond, we can expect data management and customer relationship management (CRM) to be a big area of investment in hospitality, with increasing use in day-to-day operations. By utilizing this customer-provided data, we can create incredibly personal guest journeys, from preference-sharing when booking, to creating unique moments at check-in and personalized room preparation.
Digital experiences will also increase, going beyond virtual tours and fitness, and supporting stronger connections between guest and host, such as video messages from the chef to give room service orders a personal touch. Automation will sit at the center of it all, with the challenge we face being to make guest-focused content feel like bespoke moments, not generic messaging. In the back-of-house, the widescale adoption of automation and contactless tech will lead to increased productivity, which will be particularly important as properties adapt to reduced staffing levels.
CRYPTO HAS ARRIVED AS PAYMENT
At the leading edge of tech adoption, we are already seeing crypto being accepted by hospitality businesses as payment, including The Pavilions Hotels & Resorts, Sri Panwa Phuket, The Chedi Andermatt in Switzerland, and The Kessler Collection in the U.S.A. And on the online travel agency (OTA) side, Travala.com gives its users the ability to pay for stays around the world in a variety of cryptocurrencies.
As well as big convenience for an increasing number of guests, offering Bitcoin, Ethereum and other options as a payment method also has brand and bottom-line benefits. It is a bold move that shows real innovation, as well as reducing transaction fees compared to credit cards and providing high levels of merchant security.
MEET AND EXCEED EXPECTATIONS
Through contactless tech, cryptocurrencies and widescale digitalization, the experience industry is itself experiencing better connected stakeholders, increased efficiencies and improved data capture. Moreover, hospitality businesses are able to meet and exceed guest expectations for mobile or tablet controlled stays, and in turn deliver five-star levels of customer satisfaction.
At our own Spark Innovation Sphere, which has hubs on both the Les Roches Crans-Montana and Marbella campuses, we are incubating and supporting start-ups and established businesses with Internet of Things (IoT) products and digital services that are set to further revolutionize hospitality. Exciting times indeed.