As hospitality opens its doors, safer operations are at the forefront of every hospitality professional’s mind. The safer you can keep guests; the more planners will place trust in you. But there’s a lot to consider when it comes to making your hotel or venue the safest it can be, and that’s where new hotel technology can help.
From food and beverage and health and safety protocols to meetings and events: the way you invest in hotel technology will have a significant impact on your MICE and corporate business travel revenue in the months to come.
Since the pandemic began, planners have become more technological – more virtually oriented – and this trend is likely to continue in the coming future.
Not only will in-person events incorporate a virtual element – you will need to consider technologies that reduce face-to-face contact and increase guest safety. Read on to find out what technology is available, how hotels and venues can implement it, and best practices to prepare for a post-pandemic future.
Hotel technology in marketing and sales
When it comes to marketing and sales, hotel technology can help you to appeal to a changing audience of planners.
The pandemic has made travel more complicated, and as a result, their sourcing abilities have been cut. Even as lockdowns ease, there will be sourcing managers who feel uncomfortable visiting a space in-person. Travelling domestically or internationally may also be an issue.
Providing virtual tours can give planners a way to view your venue from the comfort of their homes. And while the event may take place at your venue, virtual tours will show planners that you’re going to extra measures to make their meetings and events work.
1. 3D Diagramming
Keeping guests safe and comfortable will be a top priority in the coming months. As such, planners want to know how they can run an in-person meeting or event while following social distancing guidelines.
3D diagramming allows you to showcase your space to planners in an accurate virtual setting. How many tables might realistically fit? What shape and size? How many chairs? How do you navigate those pillars?
It will also allow your teams to communicate better with the client, make your operations more efficient and result in a fantastic meeting or event.
2. Video marketing
Creating videos that connect with planners is easier and more cost-efficient than ever. They’re a great way to promote trust in your brand, drive traffic and convert leads into booked business.
According to Hubspot, 54% of consumers prefer to see video content from brands and businesses they support.
When it comes to COVID-19 operations, videos are a great way to show the world how you plan to keep guests safe. Sofitel Legend The Grand Amsterdam has a great example here, where they walk you through the hotel from check-in to MICE facilities.
3. Immersive video
Hotel nhow Rotterdam in the Netherlands also offers 3D walkthroughs of the entire property, including all of the available meeting space.
Using 360-degree video is an excellent way for you to sell and market your property to planners. Whether you use them in marketing campaigns or prepare for your sales teams, immersive video is a great way to give planners a well-rounded view of your space.
4. Virtual reality
Shortly, hotel technology will reach a stage where augmented, and virtual reality will become an expected feature available to planners. In addition to on-site events, VR is a fantastic way to help planners source venues. They could tour your venue or meeting space without ever having to leave their homes or offices.
Some hotels such as Accor are already doing this. In 2015, Shangri-La rolled out Samsung VR headsets to its global sales offices and hotel sales teams. The VR headsets can be distributed to planners and venue sourcing managers to allow them to explore the properties.
A new use for hotel technology: virtual and hybrid events
In-person meetings and events will filter back into the hospitality industry in the coming months. However, it’s likely that people will still feel apprehensive about both travelling and attending in-person – even with the safety measures in place.
As a solution, virtual and in-person is about to meet in the middle. Before the pandemic, hybrid events were a way to increase reach and bring attendees together from all over the world. In a COVID-19 world, this sort of event is set to become all the more critical.
So what technology trends are hotels adopting to accommodate event planner needs?
5. Technology Capabilities: providing the basics
Hosting a fantastic hybrid event means hotels and venues will need to be able to accommodate. A high-speed Wi-Fi connection is critical, as well as having sufficient power. A robust audio/visual setup is also necessary.
With the emergence of 5G technology, your digital infrastructure needs to be top-of-the-line, robust and able to adapt when 5G comes into play to get ahead of the competition.
6. Required Equipment: Microphones, cameras, etc.
If you plan to invest in your own A/V, then it’s essential to know which equipment is best. For example, when it comes to cameras and tripods, your technology will need to shift based on the type of meeting or event. Will it be a panel discussion? Will it require close-ups? Consider what’s most important to your planner – will they want HD and will the stream support it?
High-quality microphones are essential and must be operated well. You’ll need an audio runner to prevent mics from being left on and creating a bad experience for a hybrid audience. Wireless Lavalier microphones work well as they appear better on camera and prevent ambient noise. You’ll also need:
- Webcasting gear
- A video switcher
- A streaming platform
- Servers for storing and hosting streaming video (if not included by streaming service).
7. Partnering with virtual experts
Having great technology isn’t always so easy. A/V equipment can come with a hefty price tag, and it’s not always the most realistic option. Some hotels are partnering with A/V experts to deliver sufficient hotel technology.
COVID-19 Cleanliness technology
It has never been so critical for hotels and venues to ramp up their cleanliness efforts. Thorough sanitisation and cleanliness are now expected standards and properties will need to demonstrate to guests and planners how they plan to stick to their protocols.
Hotel technology such as robotics or automation are a few ways to get a head start, alleviate pressure on staff and ensure your guests are safe.
8. Robotics: Whiz by Softbank Robotics
Hotels such as the Garden Inn in Gilroy, CA, began using an autonomous vacuum sweeper named Whiz, from Softbank Robotics to help off-load mundane tasks from their cleaning staff. Using Whiz allows the team to focus on more skilled detail work, ensuring every inch of the hotel is clean and sanitary.
So how does Whiz work? Whiz can memorise up to 600 routes, then uses its lidar and cliff sensors to navigate changes in the environment.
The concept of cobotics is something that Stefano Bensi, General Manager at Softbank Robotics, EMEA talks about robots working alongside human staff. He stresses that cobotics “demonstrate a commitment to employee well-being at a time when mental and physical health in the workplace is becoming an ever-more-pressing concern for businesses and public health authorities.”
9. Robotics: Germ killing robots
Another way in which robots can help alleviate the strain of heavy-duty cleaning is by disinfecting. The Westin Houston Medical Centre in Texas is using LightStrike Germ-Zapping robots from Xenex.
The robots are wheeled into the rooms by housekeeping, then an “intense germicidal” light using pulsed xenon, a noble gas is emitted to kill pathogens.
10. ACT CleanCoat: self-cleaning technology
Some hotels were already using technology to aid in the cleaning process. Hotel Ottilia in Copenhagen has been using ACT CleanCoat to keep their guests as safe as can be. Rooms disinfect themselves each morning, and the transparent and odourless substance breaks down harmful microbes such as viruses, chemical compound mould spores, bacteria and airborne mould spores.
11. Hilton Digital Key
With so many health concerns nowadays and a fear of touching dirty surfaces, automation could be the way forward. Hilton developed an app called Hilton Digital Key which allows guests to open doors from their smartphone, removing the need for a key card.
12. HVAC systems – sanitise recirculating air within buildings
According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, poor ventilation in confined indoor spaces, such as workplaces, restaurants, hotels and parties, is associated with increased transmission of respiratory infections.
Many worry that air conditioning could worsen the spread of COVID-19, as it recirculates a lot of the same air in hotels. One study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention demonstrated that air-conditioning pushes the virus around by the streams of air.
As a way to combat this, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems are being used to sanitise recirculating air within buildings and creating comfortable environmental conditions for use in buildings.
13. Electrostatic sprayers
Electrostatic Sprayers are a hotel technology that uses positive and negative charges on disinfecting liquids. The spray, as a result, seeks out and sticks to surfaces, creating even coverage.
Marriott International plans to use these sprayers to ensure the disinfection of hotel spaces.
Operationalising Social Distancing
Keeping a sensible distance away from one and other has quickly (and rather scarily) become the norm. With people everywhere hyper-aware of the space between them and the next person, it’s never been so crucial for hotels to ensure social distancing measures are in place.
Not only will this help guests feel comfortable and safe, but if you can show planners that you take social distancing seriously, you may even earn more MICE or transient business.
14. 3D Diagramming
3D event diagramming software is a great technology which allows you to show planners your meeting space and gives them the ability to customise and visualise it as they would like it set up. It will also enable them to see how best to operationalise social distancing – how far apart to place tables and seats, how wide the aisles should be and what seating arrangement would work best.
Social Tables found that with the help of event diagramming, Watergate Hotel, for example, pre-sold 95% of their meeting space for 2016 3 months before opening its doors and generated $117 million worth of business.
15. Robotics (Pepper Softbank Robotics) to reduce face-to-face contact
In addition to Whiz, Softbank Robotics have another robot called Pepper. A 4ft-tall humanoid robot, it is already used in retail, hospitals, and hotels. It can help guests check-in, guide them to hotel amenities and even pose for selfies.
Pepper may come in handy when it comes to social distancing as it removes some of the need for face-to-face contact. It reads emotions by analysing vocabulary, voice and facial expressions and can understand visitors in an engaging, realistic manner.
16. Device communication (for staff)
When it comes to staff safety, some workplaces are trailing the use of devices and wristbands to monitor social distancing. There are two critical ways in which this can be done: with cellular technology and wristbands. However, questions have been raised as to whether this hotel technology respects privacy.
This technology works by warning you, with a beep or similar, when someone gets too close. This is because ideally the devices can hear one and other and can recognise when another device comes within a 2-metre range. One promising piece of tech is the ultra-wideband which can measure precise distances.
Let these safe event technology examples inspire you.
Next up, learn about post-pandemic hospitality trends coming your way!