Three Cs to Hotel Success: Clean, Contactless and Cloud
The pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on the hospitality industry. With COVID-19 making many consumers wary of hotels—just 26 percent say they’re happy staying in a hotel room according to Accenture research—and lockdowns limiting the options for those that do want to travel, occupancy rates have reached historic lows across the board.
But we know the desire to travel is still out there. Occupancy, while still lower than last year, is rising from its low point in the Spring. And the longer the pandemic lasts, the larger the pent-up demand will be. What’s more, given the scale of the challenge it faced, we should celebrate the structured, thoughtful, and proactive way the industry has responded so far.
Yet there’s much more to do if hotels are to make it through the next couple of years. Consumer demand may not fully return until a vaccine for COVID-19 is widely available. On top of this, hoteliers must find a way to reassure their employees that they have a safe place to work.
It’s an obvious point, but it needs repeating: if you can’t get the workforce back into hotels safely, and with confidence, there won’t be any hospitality industry for guests to return to.
Furthermore, given all the workforce fluctuations this year, equipping employees with new skills and enabling flexibility through labor-on-demand will become even more critical as hospitality companies look to rebuild post-pandemic.
As we look ahead, there are three things hotels need to do right now. One, make a visible commitment to physical safety. Two, go contactless. Three, accelerate the cloud journey.
Most hotels are already embracing the need for deep cleaning. Some, like Hilton, are even bringing in external consultants to define new standards of cleanliness for the COVID era. But the priority is not only to be cleaner, but to be seen to be cleaner. So housekeeping needs to be a much more visible part of the hotel stay than in the past.
That might mean providing guests with information on check in: When was the room vacated? When was it last cleaned? Who’s been inside since? It could also mean using mobile apps to provide housekeeping on demand or let guests request no housekeeping during their visit. Hyatt’s mobile app is a good example of this already happening.
Contactless is going to be a bigger part of hospitality’s near-term future. Yes, many hotels previously offered self-service kiosks for check-in/out. But touchscreens are not the solution here. The whole end-to-end process needs to go contactless—everything from check-in to keyless room entry to general service delivery to check out.
You also need to think about going contactless inside the room. That means swapping paper directories or menus for digital screens or mobile apps. It means automated or hands-free equipment (think curtains, lights, TVs, soap dispensers, faucets, etc). Maybe it also means offering voiceless interfaces like Alexa or Google Home as standard. Some hotels in China have even been using robots to provide contactless room service.
The essential point is to use technology to minimize the number of things a guest needs to handle during their stay.
Cloud is another priority area. It’s fair to say this industry has not been at the forefront of the journey to cloud. This is the time to catch up.
Hotels should be looking to accelerate that journey to help enable more modern capabilities—everything from more personalized marketing to fully contactless interactions to frictionless payments, even blockchain-supported loyalty programs.
These types of cloud-enabled initiatives accelerate a digital transformation and help enable a more robust data-driven culture that can apply analytics to key programs and campaigns.
Where now from here?
Covid-19 is a uniquely difficult challenge for hotels because the measures needed to keep people safe cut to the core of so much of what hospitality is about: the personal touch, the friendly interaction, the human connection. There’s no easy way through that.
The good news is that the technologies that will see hotels through the short term will also prepare them for the future. Many of the changes discussed above would have happened eventually anyway. Some (cloud being the obvious example) should have happened already.
What it comes down to is finding a way to balance the natural desire of hotels to provide good hospitality with the need to keep guests safe. That’s the essential challenge for this industry in the months and years ahead. Digital technology is going to be a very big part of the solution.
About the author
As the Global Travel Industry Sector Lead for Accenture, Emily Weiss is responsible for driving the growth of Accenture's Travel business across Hospitality, Aviation, and Travel Services through the delivery of transformational industry solutions.