It is no news that the pandemic has accelerated the digitalization of the hospitality industry. Now more than ever, travelers and hotel guests are expecting to be able to use their phone to plan and manage their travel experience. The needs and behaviors of guests have changed and the demand for digital access has increased, resulting in many hotels now reviewing their strategies and prioritizing investments in technology to become more competitive. The world has changed and so have guests’ expectations – the «new normal» is here to stay. Strategies that worked 18 months ago no longer apply and the hotel industry must adapt to the guests’ new requirements.
In the survey The Hospitality Technology’s 2021 Lodging Technology Study – Reimagining Hospitality«(1), conducted by industry leading Hospitality Technology, IT managers from more than 22,000 hotels around the world were asked to rank their planned IT initiatives. The survey found that hotels still want to invest in new technology, but not only to support hotel operations, but also to generate recurring revenue. Furthermore, the respondents prioritized initiatives that would improve guest loyalty and increase guest and staff safety as well as strengthening the security of the hotel’s data. Reducing the number of physical touchpoints was also top of mind.
The same survey highlights how hotels are planning to use innovative technology to respond to the guests’ preference for digital solutions. A majority of hotel owners already offer or plan to offer digital booking, mobile check-in, contactless payment and mobile keys. Check-in and checkout via a kiosk were also a priority. Despite current budget constraints, these prioritized areas reflect a significant change in the guest experience.
A majority of hotel owners already offer or plan to offer digital booking, mobile check-in, contactless payment and mobile keys.
Demand for guest safety requires new check-in options
The pandemic has changed our expectations on safety when we travel. Regardless of the current status of restrictions or requirements for contactless, most travelers want to have a digital option when they check in to a hotel.
Even though the digital or mobile guest journey is offered as an alternative to traditional check-in, the availability of a mobile guest app has become a very important criteria when guests research and select hotels for upcoming trips.
For guests who want to manage as many steps of the check-in process by themselves, the most important search criteria are digital or mobile check-in and mobile keys. Thus, the hotel’s information about the availability of a mobile guest journey can have significant impact on bookings. When booking through an OTA or other type of travel agency, information about the hotel is presented based on the hotel’s offerings and the search results are filtered. Hotels that offer a guest app with mobile check-in and mobile keys are listed higher than those that do not.
In addition to increasing bookings, a mobile guest journey also saves time and provides convenience, allowing guests to spend more time enjoying their stay. At the same time, the hotel can be run more efficiently, requiring less staff since guests can handle more steps of the guest journey directly in the app.
A safe and healthy work environment
Mobile solutions can help creating a safer and healthier work environment. When guests check in with their phone or use a mobile key to unlock the room, the in-person contact between hotel staff and guests is reduced and the physical handling of key cards is eliminated. Instead of dealing with the frustration caused by lost or non-working key cards, guests can have access to a mobile key in their phone and can easily share it with other people under the same reservation.
Recovery strategies – resource optimization and cost efficiency
For many hotels, one of the largest challenges now is how to maintain high quality service with a decimated workforce. It is likely, that for many hotels, occupancy will increase faster than they will able to rehire and staff their teams back up. At the same time, hotels must meet the guests’ new safety requirements and demand for a contact-free stay. The most cost-effective way forward is to use technology to increase efficiency while keeping costs at bay. The mobile guest journey supports a faster recovery as it takes some of the burden off the hotel staff’s shoulders so they can focus on revenue-generating services.
«The mobile guest journey supports a faster recovery as it takes some of the burden of the hotel staff so they can focus on more revenue-generating services.”
Digital personalized services create extra revenue opportunities
After many months of low occupancy, it is now critical for hotels increase the revenue from every reservation by promoting and making special offerings and services easily available to their guests. What does this mean for your hotel? Well, do you remember when you last used an app to order from your favorite restaurant, grocery store or clothing store? How often have you added that extra offer or service that pops up just before checkout? It probably happens more often than you want to admit. This is called «upselling» and means that customers are offered additional services or products that improve their experience while generating extra revenue for the seller. Until now, hotels have been limited to sell these extra services at the front desk when guests check in, but unfortunately this is not the best time to sell. We have all been waiting in line to check in at the front desk, tired after a long day. When it is finally our turn check in, we are not receptive to the offers the front desk staff are trying to sell. On the contrary, a mobile guest journey, would allow the hotel to communicate these offers directly to the guests through the app. Guests are more likely to take advantage of special offers, make a dinner reservation, book a spa treatment, arrange for an excursion or purchase concert tickets – if the offers are presented at a time when it is more convenient for them. In addition, guests can use the app to make their next reservation – generating more direct bookings and better profitability for the hotel.
For the hotel industry, “the new normal” is already here. With the help of mobile technology and a mobile guest journey, hotels are much better positioned to grow their business and increase their visibility in a recovering hospitality market.
Pernilla Brodd is CMO and head of Strategic Alliances at Zaplox. Pernilla has nearly 30 years of broad experience in the technology field with leading roles in Sales & Marketing, Partner Strategy & Development and Product Management, strongly focused on expansive growth and sales within segments as Hospitality Technology, Supply Chain Logistics, and Global Software and Hardware Vendors – in Europe and North America.
Zaplox is a market innovator of the contact-free mobile guest journey and mobile key services for the global hospitality market. The company operates in Europe and North America and offers a turnkey platform for managing the guest»s hotel stay, improving the check-in and check-out process, and distributing mobile keys for the hotel rooms directly to guests» mobile phones. Zaplox solutions allow hotels to add Zaplox functionality to their existing hotel app, or to launch their own mobile app in a cost-effective way. Zaplox was founded in 2010 in Lund, Sweden, and the Zaplox stock is listed on the NASDAQ First North Growth Market.