What you will learn:

  • Planning for recovery
  • New technologies and the shift
  • Ways to build a more frictionless sustainable travel experience
  • Some tools and engagement, things to consider for both staff and visitors

We could all write a book on the effects of Covid19 on business and especially travel. We have heard the horror stories and the continued doom and gloom. One thing we can all agree is that things will change forever, and a shift is now underway on how people will engage in travel and commerce. What is interesting after being in this industry for over 20 years is that I feel most of us knew things would change and evolve. The progression of the newer generations and their connection to social and all things virtual was the topic of many conversations. We shifted over 5 years ago from Information Age to Experience age, this was the turning point of the renewed understanding and focus on how digital will impact our industries.

Many of us also considered what the deeper impact would be, what about our lives, our work, our connection points we had all grown up with, how would values shift? We were all asking the right questions but at the time we thought we had many years before having to truly make significant changes.  Now the organizations who embraced this change, virtualized or upgraded their visitor centers, those who have given deeper thought to digital engagement will set the stage for all of us. (See changing economy blog – it’s the deeper effect from a business perspective).  (Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, Poconos, San Francisco our see case studies)

I recommend a few articles and reading points below, but one thing is clear: the decisions we make now will shape some businesses and may end others. Many intellectuals can tell you in 5 different ways how they project things will be after this pandemic, to shift completely, however I believe we can start with a simplified approach that should help us all find our path.

Basic concepts and solutions:

  • Organizations need to focus on virtual collaboration tools to ensure no matter when or how this shift, you can still work from anywhere and collaborate with anyone.
    • Standard work products will now be Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Slack, etc.
  • Think through how this will affect your ecosystem and how to deliver economic value virtually. Think through culture and mindset while using technology as a facilitator. Keep in mind that you may need to pick a product that is unique for your organization’s needs.
  • Digital transformation will take on a new meaning. Shifting from capital investments to technological advancements. What was considered a nice-to-have is now becoming a necessity.
  • Traveler facts: Now more than ever, visitors will be continuously connected, they will ask for options to have virtual rather than face-to-face communication; they are empowered by shared experiences.
  • Technology to help connect with the Internet of Things (IOT) will now be the largest shift to facilitate automation and virtual connection points.
  • Some suggestions on tools you can easily implement to ensure you can provide more virtual and digital tools for communication, meet this new demand:
    • Mobile – Not your Grandma’s native mobile app but a Progressive App that is light and easily accessed through browser or store, with the same as native.
    • Virtual terminals & Kiosks especially for high traffic areas, visitor centers, conventions centers, etc. Allowing safe and frictionless access to key information, directions, etc.
    • Video Conferencing connects your staff through any of the channels above. With a push of a button, a traveler can have a one-on-one interaction through their mobile app or kiosk.
    • AI and Chatbots, providing automated responses and information to commonly asked questions; allowing your staff to work on more strategic services.
    • Connection options using virtual technology lets your travelers connect with staff from anywhere, through a mobile device or PC. They can be easily alerted and can establish any conversation.
    • Instant Messaging and good old texting come back to life, allowing easy information and the ability for 2-way information from an expert.
    • Interactive Trails, scavenger hunts and new ways travelers can explore unique areas without having to rely on human interaction

This is a simple starting point to consider. Keep in mind that this technology can be affordable and highly impactful and will integrate directly with your existing systems. As well many organizations like ours have implemented pricing models that include no money down and leasing programs.

We all still have unanswered questions on what the post-virus and digital era will look like? And how will the digitization of these services become an essential part of our lives?  While Covid19 has brought many of us to a standstill, it is providing us the ability to step back, evaluate our position within the market, and chart the course ahead. Whether you choose to be reactive or take this opportunity to embrace this shift, coming to terms with this shift for many of us will determine our future no matter what industry you are in.

What you will learn:

  • Planning for recovery
  • New technologies and the shift
  • Ways to build a more frictionless sustainable guest experience
  • Ideas that won’t break the bank and offer efficiency and new points of revenue

Hospitality is likely one of the oldest and most resilient industries in the world. While this virus has dealt a crushing blow to our industry and life, we know this too shall pass. Many of us are now looking to the future and the changes necessary to compete in this new world of virtual meetings, social distancing, and ensuring our properties are safe for our guests.

A new normal will proceed and recovery will happen. The younger generations will lead this charge as we are all aware with many debates about millennials and their known impact on the services we offer in hotels, the addition of this virus will now shift and accelerate everything. Those organizations that understand this change and embrace the technological impact will be the ones to survive in this economy. (See blog from 2019, Why Marriot hopes you get your marketing strategy right.) The Internet of Things is now in full motion and these shifts will now make technology a necessity instead of a nice-to-have.

As responsible business owners and hoteliers, we have to prepare for the recovery and below are some ways that you can start to migrate without breaking the bank. The options below also ensure that you connect to the next generation travelers as they will be more important than ever to our recovery. The good news is, millennial travelers spent $200 Billion in 2018 and this will continue as they look for experiences, not products.

So, let’s refresh our memory of what this Next Generation of travelers want and as well consider the new climate with health and safety concerns.

  • Mobile First – is alive and well. And this isn’t your Grandma’s hotel app, it must be accessible through browser, light and quick to respond, with integrated messaging
  • Skip the Front desk – 48% of guests don’t see the value of having to line up to check-in and that was before the virus scare. Mobile check-in/out is now a necessity, Kiosks are also viable options to help ensure less human contact.
  • Mobile key – Get rid of the cost and risk of germs by pushing mobile key options at check-in. Note: Most locks can be converted and there are programs for no-money upfront.
  • Mobile food ordering – Uber isn’t the only company that should profit on the shift in food delivery. Avoid mistakes and make it easy to explore and order from anywhere on your property.
  • Kiosk or interactive connections – Concierge desks will likely change forever. Tools for reservations, exploring the destination and booking can be done through strategically placed Kiosks.
  • Instant messaging and good old texts are still a great way to connect and provide personalized services to your guests.
  • Upgrade your meetings– providing interactive ways to navigate, but also new ways to have virtual meetings or a combination of such.

As mentioned all of these solutions don’t have to be earth-shattering on your time or budget. They should connect to your existing systems and many organizations like ours offer flexible startup programs to reduce money upfront or provide one-time purchase options. No matter where you set your sight, it’s a great time to re-examine your hotel offerings and provide more frictionless engagement. Constantly connected guests will look at their mobile devices and shy from in-room products. They will also look for properties that value digital experience, provide convenience, and less human interaction alternatives.

You now have the ability to craft experiences and connect your brand to products that the next generation will require. They will be the first groups to kick-start their bookings and evaluate along with the rest of us on how to deal with our new reality.

Articles and Key Take away:

  • As luxuries become necessities, companies that fail to take advantage of further advancements through digital transformation may become companies transformed out of the industry.
  • Let’s Refresh our Memory – What do Millennials and new travelers want?
  • The virus will change how people want to engage with your property. Providing more digital options and more virtual ways for guests to connect is key.
  • 74% of travelers will choose more frictionless options of engagement but still want personalized services.
  • Video Conferencing, Instant Messaging and connecting any time through a device is the new normal.
  • Omnichannel strategy is now, more than ever, focused on connecting both online and offline functionalities.
  • You can easily build a phased approach to any automation services. Take the time to think through what makes sense for your property and team.