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Technology


innovation has, therefore, been predominantly directed to the guest journey. The other side of the coin, however, is the hotel’s own management systems. Here, technology is being leveraged to keep the business alive in a time of low revenue. “We are already planning for the after crisis,” says Milovanov. “You know that our owners have a cash problem today, so we are developing technologies around PMS integration and contactless solutions that are easier to onboard and more cost-effective, as they require less capex and more opex. We are giving them the opportunity to still invest with us on what’s needed, without jeopardising their survival.” Accor’s revenue management system is already fully digitised, so there was no need to rework the technology, but what has changed is the way it prices its services according to owners’ ability to pay, which is based on occupancy.


Hotels have turned to digital thermometers, UV cleaning technology and electrostatic sprayers to keep guests and staff safe.


we have implemented alternative solutions for menus, including LED screens and QR codes.” The important principle here is to leverage digital means to communicate with guests to provide services and information. “Prior to arrival, guests receive detailed information about new protocols such as social distancing measures and Hyatt’s face coverings requirement,” says Vander Ploeg. “Nearly all Hyatt hotels globally now offer enhanced check-in and check-out for guests, allowing for heightened transparency in their journey.”


Even without a mobile app, guests are still kept informed and up to date with the latest information, although the apps do offer more functionality for those who err on the side of caution. “We use something quite basic, in fact almost low- tech – pre-arrival emails – as well as QR codes on arrival in the lobby, so you can scan and check the latest rules in place,” notes Milovanov. “We also use in-room communication via TV and/or QR codes. It looks simplistic, but it is reassuring, and we have placed digital messages all along the guest’s journey.” What hotels realised early on, however, was that in different regions – and among guests – there was no uniform response to the virus. Unfortunately, regulations vary in different markets as restrictions are imposed and relaxed. Also, some guests want to act as if nothing has changed, while others do not want to use public spaces at all and instead choose to isolate in their rooms.


“There really is a balance to be struck,” Quick adds. “There is a greater need now to provide a safe, but also human, experience.”


Managing expectations


Of course, keeping the personal touch in a socially distanced and highly sanitised environment is a major challenge. The focus of technological and procedural


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“Staff interaction is also currently one of our key topics, as we push the usage of back office apps like ordering, client request, housekeeping or maintenance tools to be more efficient and have more guest interaction,” Milovanov adds. Hyatt, like some of its competitors, had travelled far along the road to digitalisation before the pandemic. In recent years, it has dedicated significant efforts to evolving and integrating its technology stack, including its mobile app, property management system and service optimisation tools, with the aim of providing a more seamless experience for both employees and guests. “This foundational work of putting systems and services closer to our guests and colleagues has allowed us to more quickly meet guests’ needs in real time, and at the onset of the pandemic this optimisation prepared us to swiftly adjust colleague protocols,” says Vander Ploeg. “It also allowed us to better understand anticipated check-in time and housekeeping preferences, so colleagues are better positioned to care for our guests and increase their comfort and confidence in travelling.” None of the technology Quick, Milovanov and


Vander Ploeg are talking about is brand new, either in the back office or in guest areas, but the approach to its implementation has taken on a new urgency in the last 12 months.


“Covid is an accelerator of many things, not least mobile keys, and it has given us a broader view on what is happening in terms of hotel technology,” says Quick. “We have had to balance the response to the pandemic with the desire to serve our guests and provide hospitality services. That means finding the right balance between digital and personal services.” In the industry’s most challenging year to date, it has done well to achieve that balance. The acceleration of digitalisation caused by the pandemic could well change the face of hospitality forever. ●


Hotel Management International / www.hmi-online.com


anon_tae/Shutterstock.com


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