Smart Solutions: The Role of Technology in COVID-19 Hospitality
Derived from the Latin word ‘hospes,’ meaning host, the hospitality industry has always aimed higher than convenience. A dish-free dinner is nice, and perpetually fresh linens are always in demand, but the allure of restaurants and hotels far exceeds those simple comforts. For years, the industry has innovated on the architecture of leisure and luxury. Decades of design have culminated in optimal communal spaces, perfect for social engagement and elegant solitude.
While the despair and disruption of COVID-19 has increased the need for both socialization and solitude, the hospitality industry has lived through a near apocalyptic situation. Combined with the inability to gather in groups, the distrust of public safety measures and the instinct to safeguard finances during market volatility leaves little room for luxury.
As we collectively aim for recovery, health will continue as the number one consumer concern and the limiter of a guest’s experience. The food could be exquisite, the ambience just right, and the service beyond belief, but if a guest doesn’t feel that their safety is accounted for, none of those elements will register.
The role of the ‘hospes’ is far from obsolete, but in order for a guest to feel like a guest, the issue of safety needs solving. And in the 21st century, solutions come in the form of smart technology.
A universal symbol of innovation, adaptation, and sophistication, technology stands as one of the only remaining avenues for public trust. Before the pandemic, smart features were being added to the guest experience as nice-to-haves and cherries-on-top. Now, the technological response of a host establishment is the official litmus test for competency, and the determining factor of customer return.
Hands free is the new bare minimum. Gone are the days of the communal drink menu, the pass-around payment, the room service brochure leafed through by previous guests sitting next to the contaminated phone. An elegant experience will invite guests to use their personal devices to interact with their surroundings.
Order For Me is one platform that’s making this possible. With advanced integrated technology, Order For Me allows guests to use a table code to access a menu and place their order, or search an establishment and order takeout. With a seamless system that delivers your bill to your phone and allows you to pay at your pace, this technology enables a truly contact-free experience. Not only is it a sign of forward thinking on the part of the establishment, it also provides restaurants with new data capabilities; taste trends can be tracked across seasons, and menus can be updated in live time.
O Vision is joining the mission, using recent accelerations in face recognition technology to enable secure entry and guest recognition systems with speed, accuracy, and security. To reduce in-person service, O Vision can integrate with any access control system and onboard guests within seconds. Long lines have always been cumbersome, but now they’re also dangerous. For front desk check ins, room access, and reservation management, facial recognition will soon be the only real solution.
No More Behind The Scenes
Technology has been used to facilitate seamless experiences, and successful innovations often employ some sense of transparency. But COVID-19 has made safety a public concern, and people are going to have to see before they can believe.
For establishments looking to regain the trust of their customers and guests, smart solutions should be at the forefront of their marketing, and technology should hold a noticeable place in the guest’s experience. For the first time, guests are looking for air filtration specifications, inquiring about HVAC systems and comparing antibacterial solutions when making their decisions. The chosen technologies need to be more than competent, they need to be visible.
Pure Room is making that easier for hosts. Pure Room employs a patented 7-step process to equip any environment with purified, allergy-friendly air and complete elimination of invisible toxins. Their process involves ozone shock treatment, 24/7 air purification, patented sanitation for soft and hard surfaces combined with a bacteriostatic barrier. With customizable options, having a Pure space means having invested in a benchmark of guest safety, a language hosts can use to garner trust and convey their commitment.
Smart solutions should be visible long before the guest becomes a guest. Along with Pure Room, the Solay Mobile App can be marketed before the guest makes their reservation. Solay is a global application-based technology that allows guests to secure pool and beachside lounge chairs from a distance. The app allows contactless reservations, and helps staff track which spaces have been used to ensure thorough cleaning between availabilities.
In the same way restaurants offer more than a dish-free meal, and hotels are valued as more than just a place to spend the night, it will no longer be enough to satisfy the demands of COVID-19. Health and safety will need to be an experience, and will require the same commitment to luxury as other guest amenities.
Technology is the best way to experience safety. Smart tech has the unique ability to merge the competing demands of health and carefree indulgence. Today, technology may be a strategy for adaptation. But soon, these adaptations will be pillars of experience, the new normals of post-COVID hospitality.
About Zain Jaffer
Zain Jaffer is the Founder and CEO of Zain Ventures, an investment firm with over $100 million in assets under management. Zain Ventures invests in a variety of initiatives including commercial real estate, technology start-ups and private equity.