By Tom Riccio
While America slowly but cautiously reopens amidst the pandemic, businesses – including hotels – can expect to see an increase in guest traffic. With this uptick, it is imperative for hotels to keep infectious disease control and prevention strategies in place. Establishments with a clear and effective COVID-19 prevention plan will be in a stronger position to differentiate their brands, rising to the top as industry leaders. Even as vaccines and more treatments become available, the hotel industry – and many other sectors – will need to maintain safety measures to meet customers’ expectations, cultivate ongoing trust and ensure the well-being of their guests.
This is especially true now, when many Americans are feeling the woes of isolation and strict social distancing rules. We are nearly eight months into the Coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. and “COVID fatigue” has become a growing concern for curbing the virus. Some Americans are failing to observe recommended safety measures – a trend that can potentially grow as states lift social distancing guidelines.
In addition to the now commonplace hand sanitizers and general workplace protective products that Deluxe provides, to stay ahead of the curve, hotels should consider strategic technology investments that can help keep their guests safe and their doors open. There are myriad solutions available that could gain traction and make the difference in the long run by avoiding potential reputation damage from Covid-related issues.
Infrared Wall Mirrors
Temperature checks have been widely adopted as one of the primary precautions used to detect COVID-19. Some of the world’s largest employers, including Amazon and Walmart, have been checking employees’ temperatures regularly since April.
While this procedure is relatively simple, there are much less intrusive options being evaluated. Infrared mirrors, for example, are a technology that could serve as a strong alternative to the traditional laser temperature gauge. These cutting-edge mirrors can discreetly monitor the temperature levels of guests and alert management if there appears to be a sick person in the hotel.
Guest traffic flow – a staple customer experience tactic – has now become crucial in maintaining a proper COVID-19 prevention strategy. Most commonly, establishments have controlled traffic flow by ensuring maximum capacity plans are adjusted and managed at the front door. Many businesses, predominantly supermarkets, have also instituted one-way aisles marked with arrows to ensure customers stay socially distant while shopping.
Density sensors are an emerging technology that could serve as a smarter, more efficient alternative to traditional traffic flow methods. Using state-of-the-art technology and 3D perception software, these sensors can provide real-time updates on overcrowding, enabling businesses to monitor and manage capacity. One can picture a “traffic sign” outside a hotel lobby, restaurant, or store, that indicates when the next guest(s) can enter the area.
Contactless Concierge Services
With COVID-19 likely to be a very real threat for some time, it is important for businesses to limit human touchpoints wherever possible. In the hotel industry, these interactions are most prevalent at the front desk – typically during check-in and check-out.
While contactless technology has remained a relatively sporadic strategy for hotels, we may see greater adoption in light of the pandemic. As hotels continue to configure best practices for mitigating and preventing the spread of COVID-19, mobile check-in, contactless payment, and concierge service options could rise to the top as efficient, safer choices. Conducting these activities via mobile application help reduce the possibility of transmitting the virus.
Food preparation, though not a main function of all hotels, is another area that requires extra attention during the pandemic. While limiting human touchpoints remains a pillar in Covid-prevention strategies, automation could be a promising alternative solution.
One example for using automation in food preparation is the so-called “ghost kitchen.” Popping up in urban areas to fill the surge of online orders, these restaurants do not have a physical store-front and, in some cases, use robots to flip burgers, cook French fries and package food.
Utilizing automation in the kitchen works threefold by increasing efficiency, cutting back on staffing costs and reducing the risk of contaminating food. As futuristic as this might sound, it is a real possibility for hotels moving forward.
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll on the hospitality industry, forcing establishments around the world to cut back severely, suspend operations, or shut down for good. As hoteliers continue to navigate one of the harshest markets in our country’s history, it’s important to note the benefits of technology. Regardless of when the world normalizes, technology is poised to play a critical role in how hotel brands are perceived: those who invest now will be rewarded down the road.