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At Your Service

The latest innovation and trends in contactless guest experience and the products that are revolutionizing the service industry.

Dan Lacey

How to Take Care of Hotel Staff as COVID-19 Surges

Discover the three steps hoteliers can take to soothe fear and drive recovery efforts as COVID-19 surges in some reopened countries.

In the wake of COVID-19, the entire hospitality industry has come to agree on one thing: making guests feel safe and regaining their trust is the only way to come back from the devastating losses of the past few months. Hospitality Technology wrote about it. Skift wrote about it. We wrote about it. And so did just about everyone else.

But the key to making guests feel safe and satisfied lies largely in the hands of hotel staff—a group that has suffered major losses since COVID-19 hit, with even industry leaders like Hyatt and Hilton implementing significant workforce cuts. Beyond layoff anxiety, there are serious health concerns. Coronavirus cases are surging in the United States and could rise in other countries as well. Are staff members who are still working endangering themselves and family members?

Frankly, there is no easy way to remove health and economic anxiety from your employees. So what can you do? Take their concerns seriously, and take care of them as much as you can. You’ll reap the rewards in the form of lower turnover rates and higher guest satisfaction.

Here are a few simple ways you can start:

Enforce health and safety policies—even when it’s awkward.

There will always be guests (and staff members!) who have no interest in following the health protocols you’ve implemented to keep everyone safe. Whether it’s requiring masks or limiting the number of people in common areas, your protocols will only work if you’re serious about them. The easiest way to lose employee trust is to let unsafe actions slide.

Be clear with employees about what they should do if a guest or a coworker is breaking protocol—and emphasize that all unsafe actions should be confronted or reported. Safety is not optional for anyone. It’s the type of thing that may seem obvious, but reiterating your commitment to their safety will go a long way to soothing fear.

Then, when issues are reported or confrontations arise, follow through, stand by them, and take decisive action to resolve the situation. It may not be pleasant at the time, but it will pay off.

Optimize and automate daily workflows to lighten the load.

Because the hospitality industry has been one of the industries devastated by COVID-19 closures, many hotels have furloughed or laid off many of their employees. Even with many economies reopening, the teams coming back to work are likely much smaller than the ones in place at the start of the year.

With fewer hands—and more work, thanks to heightened cleaning and safety standards—it’s easy for hotel staff to become overwhelmed. As fear rises with case numbers, that’s only more likely. You may not be able to hire more people to help, but you can easily change your processes.

Using technology to automate processes and increase cross-departmental communication so nothing slips through the cracks can transform the daily workflows that may otherwise be difficult or frustrating. Without the stress of lost service requests and miscommunication, your staff will work more cohesively as a unit and be able to tackle the challenges they’re facing right now.

Reduce contact between staff and guests by implementing touchless service.

Basic health and cleaning standards can do a lot to minimize the chance of spreading infection—especially in common areas—but they can’t do everything. There are certain staff members who will still incur significant risk as they go about their daily duties. Housekeeping, food and beverage, and front desk employees all traditionally require direct contact with guests to do their jobs well.

Yet contactless technology and processes can reduce those risks as well and, in some cases, eliminate them altogether. There’s no better way to show staff how deeply invested in their success and wellbeing you are than to provide them with ways to deliver excellent service without compromising their personal health. Currently, there are several contactless strategies hotels can implement: from mobile check-in and mobile key, which enable guests to skip the front desk altogether, to mobile dining and service requests, which make contactless deliveries possible.

The more you can turn face-to-face interactions into digital ones, the better for your employees. In this scenario, automation won’t dampen or depersonalize the spirit of great customer service your staff brings to your company, but will streamline processes and reduce contact so they’re better able to provide even higher quality service both during and after the pandemic.

If the past few weeks of surging American cases are any indicator, COVID-19 will remain a concern across the world for the foreseeable future. The bottom line is this: How you treat your employees now will affect how your hotel recovers. Now is the time to invest heavily in hotel staff safety and satisfaction—it’s not just good for them, it’s also good for your business.

Looking to increase staff and guest safety with contactless service? See why mobile check-in may be the best place to start.

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This Summer, Communication Will Be the Key to Guest Satisfaction

As the new era of travel starts, ensure your safety protocols, services, and amenities are top of mind to create outstanding experiences for your guests.

The hospitality world is currently in limbo—some guests are convinced the COVID-19 threat is over and it’s time for a full return to normal while others aren’t convinced we’re out of the woods. But many agree on one thing: summer isn’t canceled.

According to Deloitte research, 31% of consumers are planning to spend at least one night in a hotel for leisure travel this summer. And when the New York Times interviewed epidemiologists, they were even more comfortable with the idea. 56% reported feeling okay to vacation overnight somewhere within driving distance. Those are big numbers.

With travel bookings expected to rise over the next few months and safety remaining a key factor in every stay, hotels and resorts are looking for ways to reduce face-to-face staff interactions and contact between guests while at the same time ensuring great service, and that everyone is comfortable and satisfied with their stay. It’s a tall order—and the only way to achieve it is by prioritizing digital communication at every step of the guest journey.

Prepare Guests Before Their Stay with Pre-Arrival Messaging Through Email, SMS, or a Mobile App

Communicating with guests before they even walk in the door is your first big opportunity to reassure them from the start, as well as prepare them for the digital communication you’ll favor throughout their stay. This is where email and a hotel mobile app come into play. First, send them an email or in-app message soon after they’ve booked to let them know exactly what measures are in place for their safety, whether it’s hand sanitizer stations available in common spaces or a reduction in housekeeping visits to limit contact. It’s also important to include any restrictions you currently have in place, like reduced hours for restaurants or limits on how many people can be in common areas at once. You can also encourage them to make reservations at your restaurant(s), gym, and spa in advance to secure their spot.

Then, as their check-in date nears, send them a final message or SMS with information on their service options. The more mobile capabilities you have to offer, the more control you can give them over their stay. With that control, guests can create the experiences they want and select the level of contact they’re comfortable with—the importance of which can’t be overstated.

If you’ve implemented contactless services, such as mobile check-in and mobile key, encourage guests to check in from their smartphone and download their digital room key, so they can skip the front desk altogether. That way, they’re confident and in the know before they even walk in your door.

Keep Your Guests Informed During Their Stay Through In-Room Tablets and a Mobile App

On-premises, in-room tablets or a mobile app can entirely eliminate the need for printed collateral. Through a tablet or an app, you can communicate in two key ways: provide key information that guests can access as they please and send personalized push messages. Both are critical to a good communication strategy.

  • Equip Guests with Helpful Information

    Start by updating hotel information to encompass key new services they can tap into. Change your homepage and add in property-specific resources for COVID-19 in case guests miss that information in your pre-arrival messages. But don’t stop at the homepage—it’s just as important to pepper in small updates throughout all of your content, whether it’s updating dining options to include touchless dining delivery or housekeeping information to reflect a change in cleaning frequency.

    Not only does it create a cohesive digital guest experience, but it significantly reduces the amount of questions and help guests need from staff. And if they can’t find the information themselves, they can immediately chat with a service representative straight from the app or tablet. That’s great communication and great service.

  • Take Full Advantage of Digital Push Messaging Capabilities

    Once self-service information is fully updated, push messaging comes into play. This should obviously be a smaller piece of your communication strategy—no one wants constant message notifications—but when used sparingly, it’s an extremely effective tool for communicating with guests and increasing revenue from on-property amenities. Send personalized messages with relevant offers and information at key points during their stay, like a dining message as dinner time approaches. The options are limitless, but the tailoring is key. Accurately predicting what guests want, and when they want it, leads to exceptional guest experiences and satisfaction scores. And that’s the goal.

Here’s the bottom line: you don’t want to overwhelm guests, but it’s never been more important to ensure they’re in the loop every step of the way. This summer’s hotel stays will usher in a new era of travel, unlike anything guests have experienced in the past. They’ll need—and appreciate—any extra guidance you give them.

Technology enables communication touchpoints during every part of their stay, so they’re never far from information or staff help, even if they’re uncomfortable with physical interactions. That leads to great guest experiences and great reviews, exactly what you’ll need to increase confidence in hotel safety and lift booking numbers.

Ready to learn how you can communicate well with guests at every step of their journey? Request a demo of the industry-leading INTELITY platform.

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The Future of Hotel Dining Is Digital

Why taking your hotel dining process digital is the best way to reduce safety risks, streamline processes, and boost revenue

Over the last few months, every part of the hotel experience has been dissected, examined, and is now slowly being put back together to address the challenges hotels face due to COVID-19. Dining in particular is a tough area to rework. While hotel dining options and physical restaurant spaces can be limited, the entire process—from ordering to food prep to delivery—will always carry some level of risk.

During the last few months, some hotels have decided to temporarily shut down dining, or offer only pre-made to-go options. Now that the country is reopening, hotels are between a rock and a hard place when it comes to restarting dining efforts. You can’t afford to abandon any revenue streams, yet the last thing you need is for dining to create safety concerns or become a loss leader and a budget drain. Ultimately, the best way to drastically minimize risk while bringing hotel dining revenue back is to go digital.

Why? Three simple reasons: you can safeguard every single step of the process, streamline it, and boost your revenue numbers. Let’s break down how:

1. Simplify ordering with digital menus and mobile ordering.

Digital ordering is both safer and more convenient for your staff and guests. Printed restaurant and in-room dining collateral is difficult to sanitize and must be cleaned after every single use. With cleaning responsibilities already increasing for all employees, no one needs another item on the to-do list.

With mobile ordering, guests can view digital menus and order directly from a mobile app or an easy-to-clean hotel tablet. Not to mention that they can place their order in a matter of seconds, note their specific dining preferences, and know the order will be immediately sent to the hotel restaurant. Meanwhile, your food and beverage department can reduce time spent taking orders, easily make changes to the menu at any time, and completely eliminate any room for errors.

2. Optimize processes with automated order processing, billing, and analytics.

On the backend, going digital automates order processing—once an order is submitted by the guest, it lands directly in the queue for your staff to fulfill. During that time, guests can track their orders through the system. Meanwhile, the system is tracking all orders for staff and provides the food and beverage department with analytics they can use to optimize the menu, supply orders, and fulfillment process.

Which items are selling the best? The worst? How long do orders take to fulfill on average? How often do guests report problems/mistakes? The answers are in the data—and a digital hotel dining system does the heavy lifting so your staff has immediate access to insights that put higher revenue, reduced waste, and faster fulfillment times in reach.

There’s one last small, but critical feature of the automated backend. When guests order digitally, their bill can be automatically added to their folio, eliminating the need to exchange cash or cards with dining staff and enabling contactless deliveries.

3. Create trust and increase orders by offering contactless food delivery.

In recent months, many businesses have been saved by making the switch to contactless service. In one consumer study, 80% of respondents said they had avoided patronizing restaurants due to food safety concerns. But 66% of that same group said that if restaurants communicated changes like improved kitchen cleanliness, updated preparation procedures, and contactless food hand-off, it would strongly increase their likelihood of ordering from them.

And that’s just restaurants. Instacart, a grocery delivery app and early adopter of contactless service, saw a record 218% increase in downloads when stay-at-home orders started for many states in March. Mastercard reported in late April that they found 79% of consumers are using contactless payments during the pandemic, citing safety and cleanliness as the key drivers.

That’s all to emphasize: contactless service is not just a good idea. It’s the new consumer standard. Through mobile ordering, you can give guests an in-app option to select contactless delivery with just a simple checkbox before they submit their order. Or, you can simply notify them that you’ve transitioned to only contactless food deliveries for the time being. Either way, they get the reassurance that you’re taking their safety and the safety of your staff seriously. And as the study mentioned above shows, that leads to more trust and more orders.

Ready to learn more about how a fully digital hotel dining process can create safe, frictionless dining experiences for your guests and staff?

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3 Industry Leaders Share How COVID-19 Is Transforming Casino-Resorts

Find out how gaming leaders see casinos shifting from face-to-face experiences to contactless service in order to survive the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s no surprise that COVID-19 has done devastating damage to the entire hospitality industry. Hotel profits have been decimated, restaurants have been forced to drastically transform operations to survive, and casinos have been emptied. In March, only 1.5 million travelers visited Las Vegas, down from 3.7 million the year before. In April, many casinos and casino-resorts were closed entirely. Businesses are desperate to return to normal life and reopen to the public—and slowly, that’s beginning to happen. Now comes the challenge of safety.

For hotels and restaurants, there are technologies and distancing procedures that can be immediately implemented to drastically reduce risk and almost entirely eliminate face-to-face interactions. Casinos, on the other hand, face maybe the toughest safety challenges of any hospitality business. Interaction is fundamental. Holding cards, passing chips, exchanging money, playing a slot machine—nearly every action players and dealers take involves some form of physical touch and closeness.

With physical distancing and strict safety measures set to remain in effect even as businesses reopen, casinos are facing immense pressure to completely revamp operations and keep everyone safe. But how is that even possible right now? And what does it mean for the future of gaming? Here’s what three gaming leaders see coming for casinos and casino-resorts:

1. Cash may never completely disappear, but cashless options will reassure cautious players.

Add Covid-19 to the mix, and we’ll see a faster shift away from cash. Twenty-nine percent of consumers are extremely worried or very worried about catching the virus from cash. Those perceptions are fueled by news reports that the Fed quarantines cash for seven to 10 days to slow the spread. That will impact when, where and how often people play casino games.

Christopher Justice, President of Global Payments Gaming Solutions

Only 26% of customers used cash for transactions in 2019, marking yet another year of decline for cash. But while it’s faded rapidly in other industries, cash still has a strong foothold in the casino industry, thanks to player traditions and superstition as well as cash slot machines.

It remains to be seen whether cash will be completely eliminated in the future, but for now, it should be discouraged wherever possible. Cash-heavy games, especially traditional slot machines, shouldn’t be in the first phase of games reopened. Meanwhile, you may not be able to ban cash payments altogether, but you can provide cashless and touchless options to give more cautious players confidence in their safety and help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

2. Whether high-tech or low-tech, contactless service is a must.

Guest amenity deliveries will be consistent with In Room Dining (IRD) protocols and delivered with contactless procedures whenever possible.

Wynn Las Vegas Health and Sanitation Plan

From laundry to dining deliveries, the Wynn Las Vegas is introducing contactless service and procedures to keep employees and guests safe. They’re not the only one: MGM is taking contactless service even further, and has implemented contactless check-in for their hotel, digital dining menus, and a system to text patrons when their restaurant table is ready.

Think of the current technology and processes you have implemented: how much of it can be used to transition face-to-face interactions to contactless ones? Do players need to touch chips and cards in every game? There’s no shortage of solutions that can help casino-resorts eliminate touchpoints and make patrons feel safe when they return: mobile apps, in-room tablets, touchless gaming solutions, and mobile check-in technology are just a few.

If you already have some of that technology in place, you can begin leveraging it immediately. But even if you don’t have the technology stack, it’s imperative to reduce physical touch as often as possible. Think of how to cleverly implement distancing measures throughout your property, disinfecting protocols at tables, and more.

3. Overall, digital experiences are the future—now’s the time to invest in them.

The digital transformation that we know consumers want to create a more frictionless type of environment is going to be the norm. We’re not going to exchange money as often. We could use our smart device as a room key, we can use that as a digital wallet.

Jim Murren, Nevada COVID-19 Task Force Leader and Former CEO of MGM International

As both the former CEO of MGM International and a COVID-19 Task Force Leader, Jim Murren is one of most qualified leaders in the gaming industry to advise casinos on the safety measures and tools they’ll need to combat coronavirus challenges. In his interview with Fox5 Las Vegas, he covered topics ranging from testing capabilities and temperature checks to where he sees the industry shifting. According to Murren, innovation follows every crisis, and this will be no exception. It’s time for casinos and casino-resorts to make frictionless digital experiences the new standard.

He specifically highlighted some of the strategies and tools already covered, like contactless service and cashless payments, but also a few less mainstream ideas. He suggested that the way casinos exchange chips will be altered or outright eliminated and that electronic game tables will see a major spike in popularity.

The industry was already pushing towards a digital evolution—but COVID-19 has taken going digital from a nice-to-have and made it a need-to-have. Making guests, players, and employees feel safe and cared for will be the hallmark of success for reopened casinos, and technology can be the competitive safety edge you need going forward.

Casinos and casino-resorts cannot go back to operating the way they always have—not now, and probably not ever again. To establish a new normal, leaders must be willing to evolve in order to match safety standards and draw in guests.

As you formulate your recovery strategy, keep in mind that there will be no quick fix for all of the challenges COVID-19 has brought on the gaming industry. But the more you can pivot to contactless service, touchless options, and digital experiences from the start, the more future-proof you’ll be. As circumstances continue to evolve throughout the summer and the rest of the year, you’ll be positioned to evolve with them and recover well.

Looking for ways to implement contactless check-in, service, and dining options in your casino-resort?

Request a demo of the INTELITY platform

5 Reasons Contactless Technology is the Future of Hospitality

5 Reasons Contactless Technology is the Future of Hospitality

55% of travelers report that their ideal hotel room lets them disconnect from technology—as opposed to only 39% who are looking for advanced technology to power their stay.1

Meanwhile, forward-thinking hospitality companies across the world are adopting technology to help with everything from contactless check-in to business intelligence in hopes of making stays safer for guests and more lucrative for their businesses.

That begs the million-dollar question: are companies that invest in hospitality technology—especially during a crisis—setting themselves up for failure? Absolutely not.

1. 62% of guests say the ability to request service from a mobile phone or tablet is important to them.2

Sure, plenty of guests will report severe issues with their stay, but minor issues often go undetected and unresolved. Now, health and safety procedures require less guest touchpoints, and therefore fewer opportunities to check in during their stay. Instead of letting problems fester, the ability to request service remotely allows for quick fixes and results in happier guests.

2. 70% of millennials are more likely to book a hotel with tech amenities like keyless entry, Smart TVs, or mobile payments.3

As of this year, millennials make up over half of all hotel guests, making them an essential demographic—and while price and location have so far been their top two priorities, technology is a key booking differentiator and will only continue to become more important as it empowers distancing and touchless service.

3. 58% of travelers would warmly welcome the ability to check-in via an app.4

And that was before a global health crisis. Pair that with the AHLA’s recent recommendation that hotels embrace contactless check-in and the skyrocketing demand for contactless service across industries and you’ve got a perfect avenue for increasing guest safety and satisfaction.

4. Properties that work with in-room tablet providers see up to 95% guest engagement rates.5

Not to mention up to 300% ROI, thanks to a combination of staff optimization and new revenue streams. Guests get complete control over their stay—and the ability to order food and request service without face-to-face interaction—while properties see higher satisfaction rates. Win win.

5. 65% of guests report they will pay more for available technology…6

…yet the majority of hotels surveyed provide only three out of 24 mobile functions guests indicate they want, exposing a critical opportunity for hotels to outpace their competition and future-proof their business in the post-coronavirus world by expanding mobile capabilities.

So, are guests really hoping to disconnect from technology during their stays? No. They just want to feel empowered by technology, not overwhelmed or distracted by it.

Empowered to decide how much contact they’re comfortable with, resolve an issue as soon as it appears, check in and out the way that’s safest for them, and more. Investing in technology right now isn’t a foolish decision—it’s an investment in your business’s post-coronavirus future. As long as guest safety and needs are at the forefront of the decision-making process, companies shouldn’t hesitate to embrace the next wave of hospitality technology.

Sources

  1. Hotel Customer Satisfaction,” STR. 16 October 2019.
  2. 2017 Customer Engagement Technology Study: Targeting Experience, Hospitality Technology Magazine. 8 August 2017.
  3. Hospitality Going Digital, PWC. April 2019.
  4. New research identifies the technology that hotel guests really want,” Criton. 10 April 2019.
  5. Everything You Need to Know About Hotel Tablets,” Hotel Tech Report. 11 March 2020.
  6. Hotels Are Not Meeting Guests’ Desires for Mobile Solutions,” OpenKey. 9 January 2019.

See why the cutting-edge INTELITY platform is the leader in contactless guest experiences for the hospitality industry, providing mobile check-in, keyless entry, contactless service requests, and more.

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Safe, Separate, Sanitary: Your Cheat Sheet to AHLA Guidelines

Get an in-depth breakdown of how you can use “Safe Stay” guidelines to keep guests and employees informed and secure as you reopen.

Earlier this week, the AHLA revealed their new “Safe Stay” guidelines, a set of recommended hotel safety measures for American properties. As Chip Rogers, AHLA president and CEO, told USA TODAY, “It’s really an effort to make sure that no matter if you’re staying at an extended-stay economy hotel or you’re staying at the nicest luxury resort, that there will be at a minimum common standards across the entire industry.”

The regulations essentially have three core goals:

1. Keep everyone safe.

Everyone has a part to play when it comes to keeping hotels safe in the future, from management to employees to guests. Since safety is the largest section of guidelines, it can be broken up into two key sections—communicating effectively and following CDC recommendations. Here’s how:

Communicate effectively:

  • Implement front and back of the house signage to remind employees of the health standards they need to maintain and guests of CDC recommendations surrounding hand washing and face masks.
  • Inform employees about new policies, like when to stay home and self-isolate and how to report a colleague or guest who has symptoms.

Follow CDC recommendations:

  • Install hand-washing/hand sanitizer stations at key guest and employee entrances and contact areas, like lobby reception areas and employee entrances. Hotels are specifically encouraged to consider touchless options that further minimize risk.
  • Train all employees on COVID-19 safety and facility sanitation protocols and include more comprehensive training for employees that come into contact with guests most often.
  • Make hand-washing and personal protective equipment (PPE) mandatory for employees. Hand-washing should be done either for a minimum of 20 seconds with soap and water or with hand sanitizer that has 60% alcohol content or higher. Employees should also have access to PPE and training on proper utilization and disposal.
  • Keep local health officials in the loop as soon as significant health issues emerge, and let them know immediately if you confirm an employee or guest has tested positive for COVID-19.

2. Keep everyone separated.

While lockdown regulations are lifting and hotels are looking to reopen, the country is not yet back to normal—and it would be dangerous for people to interact as they normally do. As such, the hotel guidelines focus heavily on keeping people separated and minimizing contact as often as possible. Here’s how:

  • Implement physical distancing for employees and guests. Employees are advised to practice distancing in dining rooms, locker rooms, and other common spaces. On the guest side, one-way guest flow with marked entrances and exits in common spaces is the recommendation. In meeting and pool areas, physical distancing is to be enforced as well. Meanwhile, the hotel can clearly mark areas to make people aware of appropriate space for distancing. Overall, employees and guests alike should look to practice physical distancing whenever possible.
  • Provide and encourage contactless service wherever possible, especially for check-in and check-out, parking, front desk, and concierge services. The less physical contact, the better. If you’re unable to provide contactless services through technology, try to create as much separation between people as possible—and where impossible, disinfect contact points regularly.
  • Give guests control over their housekeeping services, cleaning only when they request service or when safety measures require. Then, clean thoroughly upon check out.

3. Keep hotels sanitary.

The final goal is, of course, sanitation. It’s not just housekeeping that needs to pay attention to sanitation (though they’ll do the lion’s share of the work), but also food and beverage staff, front desk staff, and more that can pitch in to ensure the hotel remains as clean as possible. Here’s how:

  • High-touch, hard non-porous surfaces and items are extremely important for sanitization standards and protocols. These surfaces carry the novel coronavirus longest and are the most dangerous when it comes to spreading the virus. Spaces and items like front desk counters, elevator panels, door handles, and public bathrooms are to be cleaned and disinfected multiple times per day to limit the chance of infection.
  • Isolate and remove from rotation any room that has hosted a guest with a presumptive case of COVID-19 until deep-cleaned using EPA-approved products and CDC-recommended cleaning protocols.
  • No-contact food delivery, minimized dining options, and increased sanitization are now priorities for food and beverage departments. When food must be served in-person or in a buffet, it must be accompanied by an attendant wearing PPE. In the case of buffets, a sneeze and cough guard must be up at all times. In short, minimize physical contact and maximize cleanliness around food.
  • Housekeeping will bear the heaviest load and should be trained accordingly: from laundry to guest rooms to common spaces, cleaning will both increase and decrease as the virus remains active. Common areas are going to require much more daily attention and recently vacated guest rooms will undergo CDC-guided deep-cleans, but maintenance for occupied guest rooms will likely decrease as daily housekeeping is eliminated to prioritize distancing. To bear the increased workload, housekeeping will need extra training on safety and CDC recommendations and may need extra hands to help out.

As you look to follow the guidelines and best practices laid out in the AHLA “Safe Stay” report, keep in mind that they’re the baseline standard for hotels around the country. Research what your local regulations are and keep an eye out for new federal regulations as the situation evolves. Then, look for ways to augment them with your own protocols and standards. Safety, separation, and sanitization will be paramount to revitalizing your business in the post-coronavirus world—get a head start on delivering them now.

Looking for a way to eliminate contact points in your hotel? It all starts at check-in. Find out more about contactless check-in from a short one-sheet.

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Then, if you’re ready to learn more about how INTELITY’s cutting-edge platform can continue to reduce physical contact throughout stays by empowering contactless food delivery and touchless service, request a demo.

4 Strategies from Hospitality Leaders to Help Hotels Find Success Post-Lockdown

Why cleanliness and contactless service are here to stay, steep discounts are a bad idea, and trust is the foundation upon which your post-pandemic business will be built.

Two weeks ago, we compiled a post of five predictions from hospitality leaders about how the COVID-19 pandemic will fundamentally shift the hospitality industry. As conversations about lockdowns easing and businesses reopening gain traction, hospitality companies now need more than predictions. They need practical advice on how to bring guests back and gain their trust. To that end, here are four practical steps from hospitality leaders that can power a successful reopening for your business:

1. Understand that the current emphasis on cleanliness is never going away.

How can we do things that overlay that next level of expectation of cleanliness? Some may be short-term, and some may be long-term. Social distancing may subside, but this emphasis on clean, clean, clean is here to stay.

Phil Cordell, Hilton Senior Vice President and Global Head of New Brand Development

While many of his colleagues in the hospitality industry may disagree about how long distancing measures will remain, no one would contradict that cleanliness has skyrocketed to the number one priority for all hospitality companies. For Hilton, that’s taken shape in the form of a new initiative called Hilton CleanStay, powered by partnerships with Lysol and The Mayo Clinic, in which they’ve identified 10 high-touch areas that need enhanced cleaning and safety measures in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hilton isn’t the only large hotel brand going all-in on cleanliness. Hyatt recently announced their Global Care and Cleanliness Commitment, in which they’ll be retraining staff across the world and introducing a GBAC STAR™ accreditation, a stringent performance-based cleaning, disinfection, and infectious disease prevention program for hotels. As industry giants make the shift, other hospitality companies should prepare to shift with them and recognize that a generic commitment to safety will no longer make the cut with consumers.

2. Shift your definition of good service. At the moment, it’s no longer high-touch, but no touch.

We now have almost no touch points in the entire hotel, which is completely against a hotel’s nature of being hands-on and kind. We used to be known for the human touch—but now we’re all about no touch at all.

Rudy Tauscher, General Manager, Four Seasons New York

By definition, VIP service has been associated with high-touch guest experiences. Valets, receptionists, concierges, bellhops—these are the people that make guests feel comfortable and special throughout their stay. While those interactions might not be gone forever, they will be changed forever.

In the case of the Four Seasons New York, that has meant a dramatic shift in operations. During the pandemic, face-to-face staff-guest interactions have been almost completely eliminated, and service is being taken largely online. Guests check in and out virtually, only one person is allowed on an elevator at any given time, and room service has been halted in favor of pre-made boxed meals available in the lobby.

While standards won’t remain this stringent forever, you should anticipate that contact will be limited for some time, and changed forever. It’s likely that hotels around the world will eventually settle into a hybrid between the way things were before and the locked-down mentality we’re currently living in.

Take time to shift your team’s mindset internally and redefine what good service will look like for your business post-pandemic. What touchpoints can you eliminate—and which ones need to stay (or at least, eventually return) for the sake of guest experiences? Where can virtual service become an effective stand-in for face-to-face interaction?

3. Don’t fall into the trap of offering steep discounts: it’s not worth it. But marketing is.

You institute a strict “No Discounting” policy. Discounting “smells” of desperation and does not generate additional demand! Instead, focus on your property’s short-haul and drive-in feeder markets and relearn how to sell on value and not on rate alone.

Max Starkhov, Adjunct Professor NYU Tisch Center for Hospitality and Hospitality & Online Travel Tech Consultant

That’s not to say that discounts overall are a bad thing, however, if your strategy to bring guests back when restrictions are lifted is to slash prices, you’re on the wrong path. Unfortunately, the hospitality industry is dealing with a demand issue, which will only be solved by offering people safety and value.

That’s where your marketing team comes in. Many properties have understandably paused marketing efforts during the pandemic, but as you prepare to reopen, it’s time to bring marketing back. You’ll need to rely on their creativity to get guests in the door.

Rather than steep discounts, you may be able to offer credits for on-property amenities or options for local patrons to celebrate things like bachelorette parties or anniversaries. Paired with those offers should be safety messaging, which will be paramount for generating bookings. By crafting messaging that offers value and safety, marketing can lead the charge to bring back profits.

4. Recognize that trust is and will always be the backbone of hospitality.

We’ve seen plans around everything from enhanced safety standards, to flexible policies, to tailored messaging being “the key” to success in a post-COVID world, but to me, they all boil down to trust. Do guests trust you enough to book your brand, your property? Will they trust you to do the right thing for them while on-property? In that case, one of the best things hotels can do is hand over more control to the guest.

— Robert Stevenson, CEO of INTELITY

Simply put, if consumers don’t trust you, they won’t book you. Before, consumers had to trust the level of service you’d provide. Now, every time they book travel, they’ll be trusting their accommodations with their safety. The stakes are higher.

Everything covered in this post contributes to creating trust: cleanliness, contactless service, safety messaging. But hospitality companies should take measures a step further. Every guest has a different definition of what a safe stay looks like. Instead of creating a one-size-fits-all experience, give them as much control over their stay as possible.

Let them decide how much contact and service they want right from the start. Would they feel safer using mobile check-in than talking to a receptionist? Would they rather schedule a contactless room service delivery than go down to the restaurant? Let them decide. As you trust them to set their own boundaries, they’ll reward you with their trust—and that’s something you can build your post-pandemic business on.

When building your reopening strategy, consider these strategies. You can’t go wrong by focusing on making your guests feel clean, safe, special, and comfortable. Regardless of the specifics, those should be the core values driving your plans for the future.

To find out more about how INTELITY can help you build a reopening strategy with the contactless, mobile-first experiences guests will be looking for, request a demo of the INTELITY platform.

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Why Mobile Check-In is a Necessity in the Age of Social Distancing

With the meteoric rise of contactless delivery and contactless payments, expect contactless check-in to become a key differentiator for hotels across the world.

In the midst of unprecedented uncertainty for many industries, one word has become a near-magical beacon to consumers that companies are taking health concerns seriously and are safe to interact with: contactless.

The restaurant industry is the best example. As a response to national restaurant closures and social distancing measures in early March, Postmates rolled out contactless delivery to all 4,200 cities they serve globally, with other delivery services like UberEats and GrubHub soon following behind with contactless strategies of their own. Individual restaurants and large chains alike are doing the same. When choosing between two restaurants, one that offers contactless delivery and one that doesn’t, the choice for consumers is clear. Safety first—and companies that can deliver it are gaining more than just business; they’re also gaining consumer trust.

The same phenomenon is sweeping grocery stores, as Instacart and AmazonFresh offer contactless delivery of grocery and store supplies. In many areas, delivery slots are filled almost as soon as they open, with supply unable to match demand. But it’s not just contactless delivery seeing a rise. When the country re-opens, ApplePay and Visa are also expecting a boom of contactless payments.

Overall, the more companies can reduce physical contact between them and their customers, the better. For hotels and resorts, that poses quite a challenge. Traditionally, one-to-one human contact has been the backbone of hospitality. A smiling face greeting guests at reception or delivering food to their door could be a difference-maker for satisfaction and reviews. But now, guests will be more concerned with safety than a warm welcome.

Last week, we highlighted five predictions from industry leaders about where hospitality is heading in light of the COVID-19 crisis. Three out of the five predictions centered around how hotels can make guests feel safe through technology and distancing strategies.

In the face of consumer demand and possible regulations for safety, limited contact will become a front-and-center piece of hospitality business strategies going forward. Technology like mobile check-in and mobile key, once regarded as luxury purchases, will become increasingly necessary for hotels and resorts of all sizes. Contactless check-in displays a clear commitment to guest safety, one that guests will trust to permeate every part of their stay.

As a result, expect contactless check-in to be a clear differentiator for booking, especially in the first few months of travel after stay-at-home orders are lifted. Eventually, it will likely be a standard option for guests at every property. Hotels that have measures already in place—or that start implementing them now—will see a greater share of bookings than those who do not.

Beyond limiting staff and guest contact, mobile check-in technology has clear benefits for hoteliers. Find out more from the mobile check-in one sheet.

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Prefer to see mobile check-in up close? Request a demo to see how it can make a difference at your property.

How 5 Industry Leaders Predict COVID-19 Is Changing the Future of Hospitality

Discover why safety, flexibility, and innovation are emerging as the top tools hoteliers will need to recover from the global crisis.

Right now, 80% of the hotel rooms in the United States stand empty. As occupancy rates continue to plummet and fear rises, industry leaders are looking to the future for hope and preparing for what comes next. How will the modern traveler’s needs shift? Where can hoteliers find advantages in a recovering market?

In the answers to those questions, common thought patterns are emerging and leaders are finding some consensus about what the future of hospitality looks like. Here are 5 predictions about how hospitality is evolving—and how your business should, too.

1. Guest safety is the next big competitive advantage: the more proactive you are, the quicker you’ll recover.

Certified safe places such as regulated hotels will become popular and home rentals without safe ratings will fall away. Airbnb will struggle. Hotels will have a new normal of much lower occupancy.

Timothy O’Neil-Dunne, Principal at 777 Partners

At least for a while, the new normal in the hospitality industry will be finding ways to raise occupancy rates to their former numbers. Simply telling people you care about their safety will not be enough; you’ll need to have concrete proof your property is a safe space.

New safety standards and laws are bound to pass, and compliance will be essential. If you can show guests that you have top-level safety measures in place, you’ll not only outpace your direct competition—you may take back some of the guests you’ve lost to short-term rentals as well.

2. But it’s not just about bookings. Safety will also be a top driver of technological innovation and guest satisfaction.

From a technology perspective, there’s going to be a lot more of a boom on [the] Internet of Things (IoT) and sensors.

Alex Ajdelsztajn, Director of Property Internet at Marriott

Places that are built for gathering are now going to be focused on keeping people safely apart and catering to guests who are much more likely to be worried about germs and interpersonal interactions. So how can you keep guests happy and safe while on property?

According to Ajdelsztajn, IoT devices and sensors are going to become increasingly important. Not only will they equip hoteliers to monitor cleanliness and distancing, they’ll display your commitment to safety in a tangible way—and the value of that can’t be overstated.

3. Flexibility and transparency will be key to enticing people back to travel.

Once things are getting better, there will still be a lot of uncertainty. Can you travel and is it safe to travel? Flexibility will be very important for quite some time. To give more transparency on the rates – are they flexible, and how flexible are they?

Axel Hefer, Trivago CEO

There’s likely going to be a long period of time between lockdown and full recovery. In the interim, people are going to be more hesitant to travel, but not for lack of want. In fact, people are desperate to get out of their homes and resume normal life, including travel. But they’re also scared.

Beyond health worries, they’re facing financial uncertainty and won’t be prepared to pay steep cancellation fees or risk a refund while the world remains unstable. That leaves hospitality companies with a unique challenge: enticing travelers to book.

Flexibility and transparency are the key. Be completely clear about your policies regarding booking changes and cancellation upfront and loosen penalties. As a result, guests will feel more secure and booking rates will rise.

4. Properties will need to create both spaces where people can gather and spaces where people can distance.

Physical spaces will morph to ensure the utmost of cleanliness and space between people so that people can socialize, work, and interact with the ability to moderate their sense of distance. As time develops, the hospitality industry is going to have to adapt to people needing and wanting to plug in and out of socialization.

Josh Wyatt, CEO of NeueHouse

At least for a while, people are still going to need to distance themselves from one another even after the country reopens. Yet, they’ll also need to return to some level of normal social interaction. As a result, hoteliers are in a bit of a bind, left to meet and balance both needs.

Explore how you can create both types of spaces at your property, and give guests the freedom to choose how they spend their time. Consider restricting some common areas with capacity maximums while leaving others open to host meetings, events, and more. Guests will not only appreciate the extra consideration but may also be more likely to recommend your property to others looking to travel in the new world.

5. The only way to prepare for a rapidly-evolving, unpredictable new travel market? Innovation.

There is a plethora of easy-to-implement solutions that can help us overcome the current crisis. The timing is on our side for catching up with what technology can offer our industry. The ones that do this not only will weather this unprecedented crisis but will also come out stronger and more equipped to deal with a completely new travel market.

Rom Hendler, CEO and Founder of InnoVel

There are plenty of common sense measures hoteliers are taking during this time to stay afloat: preserving cash, reducing costs and searching for new revenue sources, just to name a few. Meanwhile, the long-term future of the travel market will remain in constant flux until the crisis subsides, making it difficult to do much more than wait. Right?

Wrong. By investing in innovation—whether it’s repositioning internal teams and processes or finding technology that can power your comeback strategy—you’ll be more prepared to handle the industry’s evolution, no matter how much it shifts.

There you have it: the future of hospitality is in safety, flexibility, and innovation. As you plan for the future, keep in mind how you can begin to weave them into your long-term strategies. Remember, these aren’t just trends; they’re seismic industry shifts that are likely here to stay.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking to find out more about how you can take immediate steps to help your business bounce back—and build a foundation to future-proof it in the process—check out our blog post, Recouping Losses from a Drop in Occupancy.

Ready to learn more about how INTELITY can help you maximize ROI, staff efficiency, and guest safety?

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For additional information about our Mobile & In-Room Dining features, download the PDF one-sheet after filling out this short form.

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For additional information about our Mobile Check-In solution, download the PDF one-sheet after filling out this short form.