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WEBINAR

Contactless Tech’s Role in the New Guest Experience

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53 MIN

Contactless experiences have become indispensable to many consumers during the COVID pandemic—a safer, more convenient way to shop, travel, and live. Yet some hoteliers remain skeptical: will contactless technology truly become a core part of the guest experience or simply fade as safety concerns subside?

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In this webinar, INTELITY CEO Robert Stevenson and THE GEORGE General Manager Kerrie Hunter discuss:

Get insights, strategies, and best practices—from both a hotelier and vendor perspective—on how to form the contactless, mobile-first experience guests are looking for in 2020 and beyond.

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Contactless Tech’s Role
in the New Guest Experience

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Robert Stevenson: Hi everyone, welcome to our webinar. We’ve focused this webinar on contactless tech and the role in the post-COVID climate and the new guest experience, as you might call it. I’m Robert Stevenson, the CEO of INTELITY and I’m here with Kerrie Hunter, Director of Operations for The George. The George has been a long client of INTELITY and using our contactless type technologies, from, even maybe before they were in vogue as they are today. Just a real quick clip on INTELITY, we’ve been in hospitality technology since 2007 and have been a forerunner in guest experience technology, that’s been the focus of the company. We’ve had many firsts, we were the first to deploy iPads, that was actually in The Plaza in New York. A really sort of iconic, first initial deployment. The day after the first iPads were launched, we placed lobby-based tablets and check-in procedures. We also developed a keyless technology based on a hardware solution and then we modified and morphed that into a software based solution, which we’ll, of course, talk a little bit about today. And our guest experience platform is used very, very broadly, we’re used from 6 rooms, our smallest property, to our largest property is about 3000 rooms. We’re used in individual boutique hotels, like The George, all the way up to some fairly large brands. We’re really at the forefront of guest experience and we’ve been weathering the COVID store with hoteliers like Kerrie at The George and we’re eager to get it behind us and on with business. I’ll turn it over to Kerrie, to introduce herself and The George. Kerrie Hunter: Hey everyone, I’m Kerrie, I’m the Director of Operations over at The George. I have worked for the owners for over 10 years and then we decided to switch from just commercial and residential real estate over to building a hotel. So this is new for me, I’m sure a lot of you have been in the business a lot longer than I have, but we’re just figuring out as we go and one of the things that we knew from the beginning we wanted to do was give the guest the best experience and make sure they felt they were more at home, than at a hotel. And also the ability to have some privacy, just as the owners like to do when they go away. We found INTELITY and we started to use the product right away to offer our guests that. It just flowed nicely, when COVID happened we had this to offer them. RS: Great, can you tell us a little bit about The George and the property? KH: Sure! It’s a historical property, it was built in 1902 as a private home for a gentleman named Charles Van Vleck and then it was turned into a residential hotel and short term stay in the 40s. And then in 2008, it got the landmark status and then my boss, Steven, purchased it 2012. And then we transitioned for a while and then we did a 2 and a half year full gut renovation. Keeping a lot of the natural beauty and old historic bones, but obviously modernizing it to bring it up to today’s standards. RS: Great, the imagery is beautiful, we were just talking before the call, I owe the property a visit, it’s absolutely been terrific. And as you mentioned, you guys were truly one of the first to dive into contactless and check-in and key. I remember, quite a while back, “We’ve got a customer live using this, who’s using this in full-force, and they’re really trying to get guests to adopt it” and making sure our service agents and customer success managers were onpoint because you guys were one of the first to really dig in and offer it. KH: Yeah, and honestly, we are able to help. The young kids love it, they think it’s great, they say “oh, this is wonderful, I don’t have to see anybody” and then the older people are like, “Oh this is good because I’m learning something new and now I have this cool thing I can tell everybody about that I have used at this hotel.” And it goes with our vibe of “we’re chill, but sophisticated” and the tablets, when you walk into the room, it automatically greets the guest with their name, they find that so appealing and so personalized. And then us, being able to tell the guests about our favorite restaurants and bars and places to go into town, right in the room without having to pick up an old-school phone and talk to the concierge. And then any requests that they have, they also just put through right on the phone or on the app, and it goes right to the front desk. And before they even open the door, there are towels waiting for them and they didn’t even see anybody. So, it’s a really cool experience. RH: Cool, I love to hear the actual operations use. Talk us through, take us back, we at INTELITY, we started seeing COVID woes back in January, February, we have a lot of Asia-Pacific hotels and started to see challenges, people closing down, and it started to dawn on us that this was going to be dramatic. Talk us through The George, what was your shut-down, how was your experience through the pandemic, take us through that. KH: Yeah, so, when this all happened, we’re in New Jersey, so we basically shut down March 16th, and then we were like, “oh god, what are we going to do?” So, we shut the doors for at least a week to just regroup and figure out what was going on because was automatically like, “I’m not coming back, that’s crazy, I’m not going to be in a hotel, I’m not going to see people, even if they want to stay there”. And then we started to get some inquiries, from people who had to be here. It started with two healthcare workers who got contracts to come to hospitals in this area. We were like, “What do we do? We have to take these people, they need our help and there’s nowhere else for them to go.” And luckily, we have some rooms that have separate entrances to outside. So we felt comfortable allowing them to come because they were quarantined on their own and not in the hotel. And then we started to get a lot of our regular customers that were saying, “Listen, we have to keep doing business, we have to still come and be in the area”. And then we started to say, “What can we do to make sure everybody is safe and sticks to standards?” And then that’s when we got into the electrostatic spraying and telling the guests they’re forced to use our mobile key and the tablets, because I have to keep my staff safe also, and make sure they’re not coming into contact with anybody. RS: And this timeline, to implement these safety measures, what is it all at once or all spread out? KH: Oh yeah, we moved really quickly. We’re a small team, as it is. It’s only me and four other employees, and then housekeeping. So, I can’t risk one of my employees getting sick because what would I do? It would spread like wildfire and we would all go down. So, we right away figured out, what do we have to do to be the safest we can. And we also have consultants that were telling us, in the background, what other hotels, like larger hotels, like Marriots and such, were gonna start trying to implement as soon as possible so they didn’t have to shut down or they could shut down and reopen. So we took that knowledge and we started to reincorporate it into our every day. We’ve always been known as being an extremely clean hotel and we take pride in that, just adding the extra measures came pretty naturally to us. RS: Got it. What do you see in terms of the future with these safety measures, are they evolving? Have you added new things? Where do you see it going? Just to level set, where do you see yourself at now, since you had that quick turn and you started bringing in frontline professionals, that were your first, and then opened up to the local crowd that had, were your repeat guests, are you now more in a phase of getting more OTA business and just new people that you’ve never had before? Where are you at in the timeline now? KH: Yeah, so, we are starting about a month and a half ago, two months ago, we started to get a lot of inquiries from people, especially in Manhattan, who would say “I live in the city, I live in an apartment, I’ve been stuck in quarantine for months on end, I need to get out, I need to see grass, I need to go anywhere that’s not my apartment.” And we had to tell them, “We’re really sorry, our common areas are not open, we’re not serving our breakfast, we’re not doing our wine service, but if you need somewhere to just go and lay your head down and it’s not your personal home, here’s what you can do. You can book a room with us, there’s keyless entry, you download the app, you do the keyless entry, there’s limited staff, but if you need us, this is how you contact us.” And we just started to see a major influx of people saying “Thank God you guys are here, we have dogs, and we’re in an apartment, what are we supposed to do?” And you know, we’re dog friendly, bring them on over. I’m two blocks from a really beautiful park, I’m in walking distance to a reservoir, so there’s tons of stuff to do and be outside. And we saw a lot, a lot of that. Slowly in the past few weeks, we’ve been getting back to even more normal, of just business travel and things like that. But we’re still seeing a lot of people that just wanted an outlet, theey were home for too long and their kids just needed to see something different and so did they. RS: Yeah, I’ve read a lot about that and done a little bit of it myself personally. That just go park in a hotel for a week or whatever, and just have a variation in life, and be able to see and experience something different even if all of the F&B is not available, all of the amenities are not available, it’s still a change of pace, it’s good for the human psychology. Especially, if you haven’t done anything for months and months. So it’s delightful to hear you guys were able to pick up that audience. You know like, CBRE, STR, and all of these different reporting sources and from Marriott this morning are saying that, we’re seeing the business traveler just started to poke their head up and starting to resume. You’ve got your leisure segment, you’ve got your business segment, are you seeing some of that now coming to you guys? KH: Yeah, for sure. Especially if there’s people that instead of a large meeting, maybe they’re coming to only meet with 5 other people. They used to meet with whole corporations but now it’s only a small group. But they still need to do this, they still need face-to-face contact and communication because there’s a lot that gets lost in translation of emails and Zoom calls. So, we’ve been seeing a lot of that, lately. Some larger corporations have even reached to say, “Can we rent the whole hotel?” We’re only 31 rooms. “Can we have the whole hotel? Can we just have our whole group there?” And we’re like, “Yeah, we’re here for you guys, anything you need.” RS: Great, great. That sounds quite positive. And the INTELITY platform, you guys are using the mobile app, check-in, key, and tablets. Can you talk about the contribution in the safety realm? You touched on it a little bit earlier, what kinds of things you guys pushed and leveraged. Primarily mobile or? KH: Yeah, we try our best with every guest, the second, whether it’s through an OTA or they’re booking direct, we reach out to the guests immediately and we let them know that this is the new way of things. This is how we sanitize the rooms, this is how you get your key. If somebody says, “Hey, I’m really old school, and I really need a key” then that’s fine, we get it, it’s not for everybody. But, the overwhelming majority of people are like, “Okay, Tell me what I have to do. I download this app, send it to me. Okay, this is my key.” And we explain, “It gets you in the front door, the back door and your room.” And then we just let them know that if they need anything once they’re in the rooms to use the tablet to contact us and somebody at the front desk that’s checking all of the time. We pushed it a lot more, because like I said, I need to keep my staff safe and I need to keep other guests safe. I don’t want people lingering in the lobby. I want them to come in and go to their room, that’s what you’re here for. RS: Got’cha, how has it been for the staff? Well, kind of a two-part question, we see a lot of data from a lot of hotels, what have been the reaction of the guest as they’re returning? Perhaps, they were even your traveler, that were a repeat guests, pre-COVID, they were using the property on a regular basis. Perhaps they visit for some business, something like that, and then now, they’re in this sort of new world. Has the uptake been stronger? What have the reactions been? Positive or negative? And also, on the staff side, can you comment on that a little bit as well? KH: Yeah, I definitely think that, in the beginning, when we first reopened, we were extremely contactless. Some people said, “Oh, that’s a little weird, I like to have a little more communication with people.” But they completely understood why we were doing it. It’s not only for our safety, it’s for their safety, as well. So, everybody’s been quite understanding. Blame COVID, there’s nothing we can do about it. And then as things have opened up a little, and people are doing more, and we have outdoor dining here now, and stuff like that. Our staff has definitely become more present once again. Which our guests always love. I have great staff, they always get rave reviews. RS: Yeah, that’s awesome. The art of hospitality has a lot of human touch to it. And so that’s always, as we developed the platform, that’s one of the things that’s always part of the balancing act for us, which is making it very personable and like you mentioned at the top of the conversation, allowing personalization of the guest information, and over time providing richer, more customized experiences. And I think that is a major component of why, i think guests will respond to, even when they’re just engaging on a contactless basis. Have there been pain points? Have there been things, either tech-wise or just in the reopening that were unanticipated, whether benign or big, anything like that? What have the pain points been like? KH: Honestly, I think the only thing is that we had to contact INTELITY to update everything on our tablets, in terms of the restaurants, and the bars, and stuff like that. But, I have to give it to you guys, you make it pretty easy. I make one phone call and we’re good. But, I really can’t say. Some people find it difficult to use apps, and I get that. Especially the older people, they’re like, “Oh God, can you just get me a key?” But, you know, it’s hospitality, we’re here to make people happy. So, obviously, I’ll have somebody at the front desk make them a key. I would say, you touching on the fact that hospitality is really interactive, the only real downside we see when we’re interacting with our guests, is that we all have to wear our masks, so nobody can see if anybody is smiling. [laughs] So we’re like, “Hey!!” Like over exaggerating [waves hands], trying to make people feel really welcome. But tech-wise, it’s been pretty smooth. We’ve been using it the whole time, so we didn’t really have to transition much between normal life and COVID. We just have to make an extra phone call to make sure that the guests understands how the system works. But other than that, it’s been pretty seamless. RS: Awesome, that’s great to hear. Yeah, we have seen in our plethora of hotels that use the INTELITY platform, a lot of ones that are little less established with check-in and key, quite a few that fall in the same realm as The George, where it was more, “Okay, we’re just transitioning this to be a little more forceful about guest safety and here’s how we would like you to do things.” But we have seen a lot of hotels that have the ability to do it with our platform in the past, but they didn;’t engage with it that much. Maybe it just wasn’t part of their operation procedure and therefore, they need updates or training. And also a particular challenge that we’ve seen, has been a lot of hotels shut down for significant periods, and they let people go. Unfortunately, they couldn’t maintain relationships with a small team, in your case. They maybe had dozens upon dozens of employees and so they’ve had to bring new staff back, as they’ve reopened and you’re in a training situation and it all comes at once for us. Hundreds of hotels raising their hands going, “How fast can we turn keyless on? How fast can we turn our mobile check-in on?” And so that’s challenging. I think it was interesting to hear on the content side, and just for the audience, we allow two directions, you can call us and we can update the content directly and we have two different variations on a stack. But we are updating our CMS capability to make more rapid fire changes at the hotel level, so we continue to improve that because that is one of the challenges always. For example, “I’m shut down, I’m reopening, I need to update my content.” or another “Hey, Mother’s Day is right around the corner and I’m going to run a bunch of stuff and I want to promote stuff to my guests, either in the app or on mobile. I want to make those changes on Friday, for an event happening on Sunday.” [insert plug for Q+A] Shifting gears, can we talk a little bit about operational results? What do the numbers look like at a high level? For example, “here’s what we saw, this is where we were before, pre-COVID and then we had COVID and things mellowed a little bit and then pretty quickly things started ramping back up.” I think there’s a new mentality out there, maybe you’re onto something, it’s segmented a bit by demographic, older people are less comfortable downloading an app, you also have people who are very conscious about what they’re putting on their phone, they might not want 20 travel apps on the phone, they might have 3, you’ve got a crowd of people that maybe [COME BACK to 21:00] I’m gonna engage in some technology here to solve something that might be an issue for them over a 48 hour period, but then you have a much larger segment of people that are like, “What do I care? My phone has gigs and gigs of memory, this is a fairly painless process, why not get the app? And if there’s just a mistake where somebody sneezed on a key card, and then I end up getting sick, my phone is under my own personal control, why don’t I do this? It’s not that painful, it takes 2 minutes to download and set up.” [COME BACK to 21:42] Can we talk through a little bit more specifics on the data in terms of what you guys have seen in terms of service requests, an uptick? And are we seeing better results? KH: Yeah! So we’ve definitely seen more service requests come through the tagblets, the guests that are here understand to stay away from others. They’re requesting towels and anything straight through the tablet. They’ll even request “Hey, what restaurants are delivering?” In terms of, the requests are minimal i would say, because we’re not serving breakfast or anything like that, so it’s typically requests like, “more towels, more sheets, can the housekeepers come sanitize?” But it’s nice that it goes directly to the staff and they take care of it. And most of the guests are surprised at how quickly it gets to them and they receive whatever they’re asking for. It’s pretty seamless. RS: Great, and you’re seeing increased volume, but the volume is based around what’s available now. KH: Yeah, and before we used to get a lot of guests passing the front desk to ask question, but now they understand, “let me not go into the lobby, let me not hang out by the front desk, let me just ask a question through the tablet.” So, we have seen it go up, yes. RS: We’ve seen this, it’s a funny piece of data from our platform. The number one thing, it may have faded by now, but it was something that jumped out at us almost 5 years ago, the number one request for information that guests were seeking was the WiFi passcode. In a prior iteration of the mobile app, we pinned that to the top, right at the top, and we allowed hotels to do that. I think that request has gone down, but we do see from property to property, based on what’s available in the COVID climate, that we’re all working through, it does vary a lot. But we do see some trends of new stuff popping up, so hotels, like our resort properties, that have been very big on F&B requests, where they’re really about dining and frankly is a big driver for their usage of the platform, even though they’re offering a more contactless, limited menu, maybe reduced options, all kinds of stuff like that, you’re starting to see stuff pop out for them in terms of menu things. That people are ordering things that they weren’t thinking about before, so they’re actually discovering some new data points as they begin to use platform in a limited, but new way, where guests are like, “This is the way I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna go on the tablet, I don’t want to touch the phone, I don’t want to hang out in the lobby.” The kinds of things you were talking about. I think there’s some data points on mobile check-in on the slides, So, check-in usage also seems to have increased, is that also correct? KH: Oh yes, like I said, we call, we have the ability to call the guests and let them know this is the way we would prefer them to enter the hotel and their room. And if they need anymore clarification before their stay, we of course tell them to call us, and we’ll go through it with them. We’ve had people say, “I’ve downloaded an app before, how do i this?” And then we’re on the phone for 20 minutes telling them how to go to their app store. But it’s worth it! And they’re like, “this is so cool” The big one we always get is, “We always lose our key”. The likelihood of losing your phone is much less than losing the key. So, we’ve actually found we have too many keys right now, because people are like, “I don’t even need a key, I’ve got my phone, we’re all good.” It’s convenient and people are really enjoying it. RS: Awesome, I think the key inventory and expense issue is very small in the mindset of what people worry about, but it’s a very expensive issue. KH: It’s a very expensive issue. And especially during these times, when the last thing I want to do is purchase things I do not absolutely need because I don’t have a full hotel. I have more than most hotels do, we’re able to be open, but I don’t have just expendable cash floating around for things like new key cards. Like, no. [laughs] RS: Yeah, we have a major brand, I’ll leave their name out for confidentiality reasons, but this is exactly the commentary they had across their properties. They’re like, “Our key card expenses are through the roof”, and what we’re seeing already in the post-COVID window is that people want, this particular brand was not using mobile check-in, they’re actually upgrading and doing more with it now via our platform. That was their comment, was like, “we were wiping down cards, that was our original gameplan, but then we realized people are not going to return the cards. ‘Cause everything is kind of icky, people will just throw it in the trash can, they’ll stick it in their pocket as a souvenir or something like that, and they’ll walk out. The likelihood of somebody actually engaging with you again on a keycard, which might’ve already been “ooky” to begin with, is even worse in the post-COVID climate. KH: And then my staff doesn’t want to touch it either. They don’t want to put on gloves, wipe it down, and then put them back. What are sanitized? What aren’t? Yeah, it’s just… RS: …noisy. Yeah. What about on the tablet side? I think you guys have seen strong engagement and I think it’s increased based on what you’re saying. KH: Yeah, well, we let them know about the tablets when we tell them about INTELITY. We don’t like to have lots of little pieces of paper all over the room. Our owners are very methodical about what’s in the room and they’ll look. And so, having tons of little pieces of paper saying “this restaurant is open tonight, no this one’s not anymore” So being able to update things within the tablet and have it on there and explain to the guest, look there for the most up to date information, is nice. And then the guests are like “Oh, okay, this makes sense” and we’re not wasting a thousand pieces of paper. And we can change whenever we want, we just have to call INTELITY. And like it said, it’s not difficult, so, thanks for making that easy. RS: Oh, you’re welcome, we try! It really is a juggling act because we have a constant stream across a lot of properties, to be able to do the updates, but we’re always happy to do it. It’s actually kind of fun. I was joking about mother’s day earlier, but I also wasn’t. It’s kind of fun to see what promotions are running and we have some very iconic hotels in our portfolio and “what are they doing? And I wish I could go there and check out that jazz night that they’re doing or their mother’s day brunch” It is fun to see. I guess one more quick question on the in-room tablet, do you still, in terms of phones, do you feel like you have to redirect people to the tablets or do you just feel like after you’ve caught them at check-in and said “This is the way we do it” they just go that direction? KH: Yeah, the majority of people, when we tell them about the in-room tablets and that’s the way of communicating with us, unless you actually pick up your cell phone, because we don’t have phones in the rooms. Most people are pretty hip with it, occasionally we’ll get the same group that didn’t want to download their keys, actually picking up their phone and calling us, which is fine! To each their own. But the fact that the tablets are here and that’s their way of communicating, it pulls up “what do you need, just click on it, and it goes right to us” it’s so simple. And they find it’s faster than having to dial the front desk, be put on hold, wait for somebody to get to them. Requests go right to us and we get it to them as quickly as possible. RS: Great, and one of the things that we try to do on the tablets, as well as mobile, is that when you receive a service request or some kind of communication, giving guest feedback that this is now in your hands, you guys are now processing it, making that very clear, to the guest that this is occurring. Otherwise you get this blank look of “Did it go through? Or do I need to call and follow up?” That’s the exact scenario you don’t want. Okay great, I think that’s helpful. We’ve had the arc of you guys coming through the COVID window and building back up and it looks like you’ve got some guests tech experience pre-COVID and then it’s increasing in the COVID climb out, I call it, and it’s great to see, and the numbers are great to see. What do you think about the future? Where do you think the future is for guest experience and contactless type of technologies? Is this here to stay? Or do you feel like this is something that’s going to wane? You know how things go, people care about something and then later they don’t care so much about it. KH: I think that this, we talked about with just the amount of money you pay for key cards, nobody wants to spend that anymore. Every hotel is going to be trying to cut back their expenses as much as humanly possible. I don’t think that any of this is going to happen over night, we still don’t know what’s going to happen this winter, and things could close down again, who knows. So, I feel like any way to cut expenses is good, any way to move into the new wave of the future is great. You know, computers aren’t going away, cell phones aren’t going away, I think people are going to start being more and more technology advanced. I mean, I think my two year old can use my iPad better than I can. So I mean, this’ll just be a thing, you don’t use hotel key cards anymore, you use your phone, just like you use your phone for everything else. Now in hospitality, do I think that the one-on-one interaction should just be gone? No, absolutely not. But I also feel that if you have somebody at the front desk and they don’t have to make keys, and do all of that, that’s one less thing they have to do, and they can focus on the guest and the guest experience. And making the guest happy. And maybe the 10 minutes they would’ve spent on that, they can instead put flowers in the room, and light the fireplace. So I think, it’s here to stay, it’s going to keep evolving. And I know I’ve spoken with you and your team about how you guys are continuing to grow and update things and make it even more user friendly. So those older people, who aren’t tech savvy will be able to figure it out much faster. I definitely think it’s going to keep growing. RS: I, of course, would agree. Breaking it down a little bit, do you see more app driven, I think you were using the example of various amenities, like a towel or housekeeping request, or do you see it being more freeform text oriented? How do you see people, particularly the laggards, how do you see them being the most comfortable interacting? Say maybe we have an older person that doesn’t want to download an app, what’s the part that’s going to flip and get them to interact in a digital way? KH: I think that, one: soon, I’ll be the older person, we’ll be the older people, we’ve grown up with technology, so I think that eventually, it’s going to be normal every day for us. I do think that once we explain to the older generation now, how to use the tablets, they’re able to. And it’s quite simple, and they go, “Oh, okay, I can do this.” When I explain to my dad, it’s just like your iPad, he goes, “Oh, okay, I can do that now.” So, sometimes you just have to walk people through it, but I think that overall, just simplifying it for them. They don’t need to make a phone call, they don’t need to go to the front desk, they can sit at their bed, have this in front of them and just press buttons and it will come and appear at their front door. Everybody is evolving, with the new times. RS: Yeah, absolutely, and it’s interesting to see the generations climb. That’s exactly the effect. You know with Amazon’s built a huge business around things going away from retail. And we just see this transition everywhere, billions and trillions of dollars of transition as people go digital, as they carry that forward with them in their lives. I do think, from INTELITY’s standpoint, it’s an area of focus for us, how can we make sure that the laggards can use this effectively? What UX changes can we make that make it easier for people to understand and are there navigation tooltips, like, “Hey, we noticed this is your first time using the app, press here and we’ll point out a few things to you.” KH: I think that would be super helpful. I think the only complaint that get, it’s rare, but it’s usually somebody’s checking in late at night and they’re standing outside and they’re trying to download the app, because they didn’t do it ahead and time and theey realized they aren’t on the WiFi. So anything to streamline it, and make it a 3 step process, instead of a 4 step process is good. That would definitely other hotels see how great it is, and why thye should want to use it more. RS: What advice would you give to other hoteliers that are considering technology? A lot of hotels in your market, frankly, are just reopening, so as they’re coming open again, they’re looking at new technology, post-COVID window practices. KH: I would say it’s been great for us, it really has. It was good for us before and then it just so happened that we were able to do things so much faster, and we were able to reopen so much faster because we already had this technology in place. I would definitely say that it’s worth it, because as the stats show, we use it every day, our guests use it every day. I’ve actually had other hotels in the area call and ask us, “We’ve heard you guys have this, what is it all about, what’s going on? We need to get this.” I think the wave of what’s going to happen. RS: Great, last question. What about the cost side? This frequently is a dilemma, particularly now, it’s acute. Hotels are looking at it now, revPAR and KPI metrics are down for the year, there’s no chance of recovery for this year. If they’re a financed hotel, they’re just going to have to take it on the chin and roll it into next year. So everybody is very cost conscious, and I think the belief in technology is that it won’t pay off for them, and in prior decades they’ve been correct. So there’s an ROI concern, “Am I going to have to pay a ton of money? Where’s the ROI at?” What’s your take on that sentiment? KH: So, first and foremost, just to get anything approved in the hotel, when we were first building it, opening it, all of that, we were very cost conscious. My bosses are very cost conscious in everything that they do. So our boss really wanted to have a minimal staff, because that’s a huge overhead. When you see four people at the front desk, that’s crazy. I have one staff member at the front desk during each shift and that’s it. We don’t even have full nighttime staff, if we don’t need it. If we’re at a certain capacity, of course we do. But if we don’t need it, we don’t have it. We’re very cost conscious to begin with. We had this from the beginning and it made it possible that if somebody was coming in, at 2am, we can call them first, walk them through getting this app on their phone, and securely and safely get to their room without me having to pay someone to wait at the front desk waiting for one check-in, that’s game changing, when it comes to nickels and dimes. In the end, it really is cost effective, for us to be able to do that. If we have somebody at the front desk and we don’t want other people waiting around to be checked in and they already have this app on their phone, they go and they use it. We’re very cost conscious, we definitely get our money’s worth with this. RS: I think it’s interesting to see smaller, more boutique, sometimes luxury, sometimes mid to upper-mid scale, and then we see all the way up to brands. And we see a consistent result, that is staff savings. We did a case study with a major luxury brand, we deployed a couple of their properties, and they were unionized. And in the union world of things, you’ve got codes and job descriptions, things that employees might need to do, go clean a room or check somebody in or get a valet and a car, whatever it might be. And there’s a time allocation for each of those things, there’s so much that they can do, and this is how little they can do, and all kinds of management around that. That gives you an empirical check, which you’re kind of commenting on, which is like, “if we’re able to save a check-in, or an F&B request, those things add up.” It’s been interesting in a couple of these cases, we have the hard data to see exactly what you’re talking about. Which is, having somebody idle, waiting for a guest, is a complete waste of money, especially if they can’t be retasked, and in the case of unions, a lot of the employees can’t be retasked. Or in your situation, which is very common in smaller properties, you might only have one or two guests coming in at night, so why would somebody be standing around, holding up the wall? You can really be effective with tech. KH: Yeah, if somebody’s flight comes in at 5am, but my staff member doesn’t get here until 7:30 or 8, well, they don’t necessarily have to come in early and I don’t have to pay them extra hours. The guest can help themselves into the hotel and into their room. As long as we communicate to them that this is the way we do things, and we’ve heard from people that this is great. And it saves us in the end. RS: Very, very cool.

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Hotel Tech Report - Hotel Mobile App Developers 2020 Buyer's Guide

2020 Hotel App Buyer’s Guide

A mobile app is the MVP of digital guest experience—providing information and service to guests directly from their smartphones. What separates a good app from a great one? Find out in a guide presented by Hotel Tech Report.

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