Ever since COVID-19 and the term social distancing became part of our daily lives, we have all had to rethink the “old way” of doing things. We’ve been forced to make room for more innovative ways to get things moving. And that is absolutely true for the way we travel as well. The entire routine of staying in a hotel is one that we know well, but it’s far from a perfect system. And we can use this new reality as an opportunity to use technology to our advantage and make hotels safe to stay in. Let’s take a look at what a stay at a touchless hotel of the future might look like, point by point.
Just think about the arrival process, for example. We know that’s not always smooth. But imagine if you pulled up to the gate of your hotel and instead of waiting for a ticket, you were automatically welcomed right inside. By filling out your travel information with both your rental car company and your hotel information, those two companies can share data in advance, so the optical character recognition software knows it’s your car pulling up right away. This technology will also allow hotels to make sure things are safe by monitoring which cars are going in and out of the property.
Check-in can be frustrating too, waiting in line when all you want to do is lie down on that big, comfy bed and relax. But imagine walking into a hotel lobby for the first time and being greeted by a staff member who already knows you by name. This can happen with facial recognition technology, eliminating the need for you to stand in line to check in and creating a fast way to do a temperature check on every single guest. This ensures both your safety and that of all the other people around you, including the essential hotel staff. After your temperature is taken, you receive a notification on your mobile phone to complete a brief COVID-19 questionnaire and scan your valid photo ID to activate the virtual key to your room.
And then there’s actually finding your room, which is always harder than it seems. Why does room 410 come after room 406 when all you want is to find 408? With technology, you can automatically get your room details sent to your phone with GPS navigation that will direct you straight to your door. Once in the elevator, you don’t want to touch the buttons, so you can scan your virtual key to verify your floor number. The elevators can include smart sensors that limit capacity by only allowing groups traveling together or a maximum of four separate individuals inside at a time.
When you actually get to your door, you won’t have to touch anything because your own personal mobile device will be your key. And once inside, you’ll be delighted to find that the room is already set up to your exact liking based on the questions you answered about temperature, lighting and more when you set up your reservation.
Once inside your room, your mobile smart phone will become not only your room key but also your personal concierge. (If you need to request a smart device to use, hotels can provide sanitized tablets for use while at the hotel.) With all the hotel amenities right at your fingertips, you’ll be able to virtually book a dinner reservation, a spa appointment, or the gym. By booking these services in advance, the hotel’s software can keep track of how many people are using each service at a time to make sure proper social distancing is always in place. The gym can be made accessible only to those who have reserved times to make sure you have plenty of space to do your thing with equipment already reserved and sanitized just for you. And you can even set the mood with your very own music playlist that starts as soon as you walk in.
When it’s time to get ready for dinner, you’ll return to your room, using your mobile phone or tablet to close the blinds, adjust the temperature, turn on the TV, and even start the shower to the temperature of your liking using smart shower controls.
Before dinner, you’ll get the menu sent to your device, complete with nightly specials for easy review before you dine. When you arrive at the restaurant, you will be seated immediately, and you can order from your phone. If you had already dined at the restaurant before, the menu can be tailored to your previous selections so you can be reminded of what you enjoyed. Your waiter will already know your name and will let you know that your food order is on the way. A cashless app means no money or cards have to change hands, and you’ll be free to peruse what else the hotel has to offer via a mobile display of local attractions.
All of these hotel innovations and so much more are entirely possible. And they are necessary changes we as a society must support to make sure that we can continue to travel for work and pleasure in a way that is safe and seamless. Sure, a hotel experience might not look the same post COVID-19, but we can look at this as an opportunity rather than a burden. We can put essential hotel workers in the best opportunity to succeed at their jobs by minimizing frustrations, crowds, and confusion. Our need for human connection is now more important than ever, and even touchless hotels will still need a human touch. It’s simply important that we recontextualize how we manage some of the interactions and optimize how to keep everyone, hotel workers and guests, safe and happy.
The touchless hotel experience is the wave of the future. Not only will all the technologies mentioned make the hotel experience safer and more seamless, but there are also serious cost saving implications as well. By utilizing predictive maintenance technology, for example, hotels can tackle problems before they even happen. And keeping track of how guests are using services within the hotel will allow spaces to be cleaned more regularly and efficiently.
It’s not the future we were necessarily expecting, but we can’t wait to see how it all unfolds and how we can work in partnership with technological innovations to make sure we can all have a great guest experience from check in to check out.