There’s no question the hospitality sector has been hit hard during the pandemic. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), up to 174 million jobs could be lost by the end of 2020 due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. Almost half of hotel industry employees are also reported to still be out of work while five out of ten guestrooms remain empty.
Analysts expect this holiday season will be one of the most difficult ones for hotel owners. However, every crisis presents an opportunity: rise to the challenge, or fold. It’s a pivotal moment when you can choose to fight for survival or close your property indefinitely. Those who dig deep and utilize new IoT-based technologies to do more with less can survive this pandemic – and even come out in a stronger position than before.
With fewer employees, less revenue coming in, and low occupancy rates, implementing the right hotel IoT technology to keep your property operations running smoothly is really the only way to survive this difficult period. With the pending Employee Distress requirements, why not leverage that same infrastructure and cost to provide a true ROI. Here are some critical tools you can bring on board this winter to keep your hotel going and ultimately emerge as a more efficient, adaptive and successful business.
Location, Location, Location
One of the first IoT technology investments for a hotel operating with reduced employee numbers should be the implementation of location-based services. Even pre-pandemic, seventy-four percent of surveyed hotels and resorts were already formulizing plans to adopt location-based technology according to Hotel Management Magazine. Since being introduced, the many advantages of location technology have continued to grow and now include opportunities to enhance operations efficiency, security and guest experience personalization.
Now, in the post-COVID era, these abilities have taken on new meaning in a hotel’s bid to meet guest expectations for convenience and safety while contending with the realities of decreased resources and the need to generate profits. For example, one routine and labor-intensive task that location-based technology is helping to streamline is the real-time tracking and management of hotel assets. Remaining hotel employees struggling with more responsibilities than ever may simply not have the time to keep tabs on the whereabouts of every amenity that may be requested by a guest. Location-based technology resolves this challenge with the attaching of reader tags to each asset and the installation of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons throughout a property which can instantly determine the precise location by floor and room number.
From locating a misplaced luggage cart to being notified of when a guest places a room service tray in the hallway for retrieval, location technology ensures that amenities are readily available for the next guest to maintain high satisfaction rates, though with minimal involvement on the part of staff. By being able to track amenity usage, hotels can also identify which services are more popular among their guest demographics and in need of further inventory investment. This advantage can lead to increased profit generation at a time when alternate revenue streams are essential to business survival.
Adopt a Preventative Maintenance Approach
The need to repair onsite equipment is a recurring frustration for virtually all hoteliers that can often represent up to sixty percent of operating costs. Such expenses are bad enough during any period of market performance, but are especially detrimental when available revenue becomes scarce. Here as well, IoT location-based technologies offer the opportunity to solve a common pain point for the industry by opening the way to a much more cost-effective and proactive maintenance strategy.
With the implementing of BLE beacon sensors on escalators, elevators, refrigerators and many more types of motorized equipment, hoteliers can maintain a watchful eye on performance without tapping into their labor resources to carry out time-consuming psychical inspections. Each sensor notably transmits an alert the moment that a performance issue is identified. This ability can prevent a simple maintenance need from going unnoticed and deteriorating further into a budget-sapping nightmare. With a business able to save between twelve to eighteen percent in costs when adopting preventative maintenance capabilities, such IoT-based technologies will no doubt continue to be increasingly seen as a crucial investment by hoteliers around the world.
Mapping Out Guest Journeys With IoT
Another key edge that IoT location-based functionality can provide post-COVID hotel operations extends from the tracking of assets to identifying the real-time onsite location of guests and staff. Initially sought by hotels seeking to quickly locate an employee in distress, the same BLE-based beacon infrastructure can be used by hoteliers to adopt COVID-compatible geomarketing strategies. Seventy percent of guests are now seeking technology that accelerates their ability to do and receive what they want when they want. Geomarketing abilities are ideal in meeting this new demand while simultaneously overcoming issues related to the need to social distance or the limited availability of staff.
Using their own device and without requiring any assistance from employees, guests can instantly be informed of available services or promotions that are close to their current location. A guest visiting a hotel’s outdoor swimming pool area can for example, receive a notification of current drink promotions at the adjacent bar. Those walking by the spa can effortlessly learn about all of the available services and specials to suit their own preferences. With geomarketing capabilities, hotels not only gain an unprecedented opportunity to personalize the guest experience, but also stand to maximize upselling efforts within an industry environment where close physical contact is expected to be limited for the foreseeable future.
Keeping Tabs on Hotel Cleanliness
Notwithstanding the various revenue and efficiency enhancing benefits that IoT location technologies can offer, yet another compelling reason why such platforms should be added to any hotelier’s toolkit is the ability to ensure cleanliness regulations are being followed. An increasingly sought after feature is the ability to monitor which guestrooms have been visited and disinfected by housekeeping prior to the arrival of a new guest.
Just as important is the ability to be completely transparent with guests, as fifty-seven percent of travelers are expecting to see proof of adequate sanitization. By leveraging IoT location technology to monitor the cleaning progress of individual guestrooms or public areas, hospitality professionals can also readily provide each guest with a real-time snapshot of ongoing disinfection efforts. These abilities can lead to a significant boost in guest confidence and therefore create a competitive edge, while at the same time minimizing a hotel’s liability exposure.
Enforce social distancing and offer convenient check-in
Other IoT abilities such as contactless check-in and mobile key technologies serve two purposes. First, your property can reduce the amount of foot traffic in the lobby and at the front desk, keeping guests and staff safe from contamination. Secondly, it lessens the burden on your reception staff and concierge – a team that may already be overworked given that you may be working with fewer team members than usual.
Contactless check-in offers guests the convenience of arriving at the property and avoiding long lines and wait times before receiving their room assignment. Some major hotel brands have in fact reported that guests tend to rate arrival efficiency 10% higher when using digital check-in and mobile key – a number we expect to increase as guests prioritize safety in their hotel experience. With Mobile key technology, IoT convenience further extends from arriving in the hotel lobby to each guestroom by sidestepping the need for guests to dig into wallets or purses to find their room key.
The benefits of contactless check-in and keyless entry also lead to the freeing up of staff to concentrate on more valuable guest services and engagement. When you’re working with a shoestring team on shift, letting technology take over the time-consuming check-in process can be a godsend.
Cut Unnecessary Hotel Utility Costs
Less incoming revenues means more hoteliers looking for ways to minimize property-wide expenses. However, while some hotels may unfortunately suffer from knee-jerk reactions to cut back on services that are central to the guest experience, there are ‘smarter’ ways to substantially reduce operational costs without negatively impacting satisfaction rates. In-room IoT solutions, frequently also referred to as smart technology, are now able to seamlessly work together to respond to changes in the guestroom environment based on occupancy status.
By integrating a hotel’s electronic door locks with amenities such as thermostats and lighting, a property’s energy management system can be notified of when a guestroom becomes vacant and can automatically adjust in-room settings to energy-saving levels. When a guest is issued a key and unlocks the door, the system can again instantly adjust settings to ensure that lower energy consumption does not come at the cost of guest comfort. At a time when every bit of revenue saved can mean the difference between hotel business survival and closure, leveraging IoT to more efficiently manage energy use should be a clear choice, and for many hotels can represent tens of thousands of dollars saved a year.
IoT: Creating Smarter & More Profitable Hotels
Rather than simply enduring the long-lasting repercussions of this pandemic, get creative in adding technology to lessen the burden on your smaller workforce while maintaining guest satisfaction. IoT solutions can automate many of the burdensome tasks while still providing a great – and safe – guest experience that leads to untapped sources of revenue.
Keep an eye out for the next blog in our “New World of Hospitality” series that digs deeper into how IoT can lead to greater guest satisfaction and loyalty. In the meantime, to learn more about the latest advances in hotel IoT technology, please click here.