The Transition to Digital is More Important Than Ever

By Gabriel Weisz 

Of the many lessons we’ve learned since the onset of the pandemic—the role of technology in providing a safer and better customer experience is perhaps most front and center.

Consumers are still feeling uneasy about leaving their homes and traveling, but contactless technology can play a pivotal role in shifting those perceptions. Especially as the potential for a ‘second wave’ remains possible, the hospitality industry must prepare for what could be the new normal in the foreseeable future. In fact, McKinsey research suggests that recovery for the hotel industry to pre-COVID-19 levels could take until 2023, or later. If this proves true, waiting for the storm to pass simply is not an option for the industry to survive.

Over the course of this year, hotel operators have been forced to adapt to an uncertain reality, almost overnight, and have faced significant struggles while providing safe, reliable service to their guests. As everyone hunkered down at home, the days of buzzing lobbies and no vacancies were suddenly a distant memory. At the height of lockdown, some wondered if the hotel experience as we know it would ever be the same again.

Six months later, we are starting to see some signs of relief. But what is most apparent is that we are witnessing an evolution in customer service—guests want an easy, seamless and quality experience, which hospitality operators can still provide, and then some. Businesses have had a chance to regroup and modify their offerings, with consumers responding in kind, seeking out comforting experiences that tap into pampering indulgence or solutions that simply make life easier.

In a recent McKinsey Consumer Leisure Travel Survey, when asked what it would take to get them to travel again, most U.S. leisure travelers wanted additional health and safety measures, including intense room cleaning, rapid COVID-19 tests at check-in for guests, and contactless check-in and check-out processes. For hotel guests, safety understandably matters most, and it turns out many consumers are even willing to pay more for it.

Doubling down on digital now, will not only address safety concerns in the immediate term, but will also enable some hotel operators to leverage existing assets in new and exciting ways. Many hotels have implemented QR code technology in the past—be it for marketing offers, or simply to offer guests an opportunity to view a menu—but they have never fully realized the technology’s potential. In a COVID-19 environment, QR code technology is finally finding its calling, and by linking with POS systems, hotel operators are not only able to showcase the restaurant menu, but also enable customers to order and leave valuable feedback, all without having to interact or touch another device or person.

Innovations like these will be a game changer for hotel operators everywhere. They lend enough flexibility to encourage universal adoption, generating more revenue opportunities for business owners without sacrificing health or hygiene protocols. In fact, hotel operators that embrace contactless technologies while expanding their services and seeking new ways to deliver a ‘human-centered’ experience, are projected to reap the rewards in future.

When our customers are happy, we’re happy. It’s as simple as that. Rather than remain hung up on how things used to be, it’s time to look ahead to the future. Making a digital game plan now can enable the industry to turn lemons into lemonade—making it far more resilient and perhaps opening up new opportunities that never would have been discovered when things were ‘business as usual.’

Gabriel Weisz is founder and CEO of Kontactless.

This is a contributed piece to Hotel Business, authored by an industry professional. The thoughts expressed are the perspective of the bylined individual.