Contactless technologies became mission critical as a way to solve many of the issues created by the coronavirus crisis. As we transition from the pandemic into the next normal of semi-permanent viral safety upgrades and the dominance of regional travel, it’s important to consider the long-term ramifications of so many people furloughed or unemployed by the pandemic.
Within the hospitality industry, we are all quite aware that Covid continues to spook people all over the world, which will lead to depressed overall travel numbers for quite some time to come. Add to that the various automated systems that together mean hotels may never need to hire back a large portion of their former employees – this in an industry that historically accounts for one in ten jobs globally.
Thinking broader, eventually the government stimulus checks will run out and loans will have to be repaid, which has already led many others to predict some form of upcoming economic recession. All told, this can mean a huge amount of lower income individuals without a source of wages for quite some time as we head into 2021.
While I am a firm believer in the better angels of nature, the largest number of unemployed people since the Great Depression might lead to desperate actions by a select few. One potential result may be a sharp uptick in misdemeanors and theft, with hotels being a target for such activities.
While I am not worried about the integrity of your employees, the same cannot be said for any unauthorized persons gaining access to the guestroom floors or unknowns loitering about the lobby and other semi-public spaces. Problems may come about in the form of snatched purses from restaurant tables, missing bags left at the bell desk or minor vandalism of cars left by the front entrance.
As we’ve all now promised heightened guest safety in the wake of this rampant virus, so too must we protect our visitors and their belongings during any subsequent increases in criminality. Anything stolen will not only leave guests heartbroken, but this will also reflect quite poorly on the property. Beyond retaining a strong security department, much of the contactless technology that hotels have set up in the past months can luckily pull double duty to help prevent theft or other transgressions. More must still be done, though, because the palpable lack of hotel staff on the floors going forward will embolden others to probe for vulnerabilities.
Nevertheless, an absence of human eyeballs should be another reason to emphasize touchless technologies including mobile keycards, online payment platforms and elevator floor access systems. There are still numerous ways, though, for bad actors to harm your guests, where many of these scenarios can be prevented through the further use of automated technologies.
These touchpoints and their solutions may include:
- Security theater as a concept should be readily understood; in a very basic form entailing highly visible cameras with red flashing lights to inform passersby that they are being watched
- Concurrent with temperature checks at visitor entranceways, hotels or resorts may check identifications which, through proper integrations, can be referenced against a room booking, restaurant registry or list of event attendees
- Electronic safety devices can be used by housekeepers and other frontline staff to more rapidly notify security of intruders who are onsite
- Enforcing a stricter policy for reservations in advance at a dining outlet and pushing that information in real-time to a reception kiosk or security sign-in can help to prevent offenders from using a walk-in as cover for more nefarious deeds
- Deferring all transactions to purely online pathways can nudge guests to leave their wallets in their room safes or, at the very least, out of direct line of sight
- If you opt against smartphone-based guestroom access systems, then consider coding your room keys by some other visual marker so that expired sets can be easily spotted
- Elevator floor access restrictions are often only deployed at night, but these should now be set up for all times of day while also considering elevator cameras
- More transparent linkages between the PMS and operations management platform can help optimize front-of-house staffing levels to prevent work order backlogs such as bags waiting in the lobby or a delay in having a valet move a car from street level to a more secure garage
- Guest messaging apps can be used to communicate with guests in advance of their arrivals to coordinate staffing and ensure that there is never a moment from car to bell desk to the guestroom where any piece of luggage is left unattended
- The technology underpinning self check-in and mobile key cards can also be used to grant or deny access to other areas on property
- Biometric scanning technology embedded in modern cameras can be utilized to identify body temperature, suspicious body language or even when bags are left behind
- Even niche operations like poolside or oceanside lounge chairs can be put through an online booking portal to better inhibit unauthorized visitors
- With the rise of online ordering apps, investigate how to connect these platforms to guest messaging apps or other internal notification systems so that no delivery person ever has any reason to go beyond the reception area
My sincere hope is that my prediction about dire straits for the winter months ahead does not come to pass and that job creation surges to help out those in already marginalized positions. While cyber threats may still have a much bigger financial impact on hotel companies than any misconduct on a more personal level, it still doesn’t hurt to look at how all the new hardware and software your property has set up to combat Covid might also be redeployed for other safety purposes.
The world’s most published writer in hospitality, Larry Mogelonsky is the principal of Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited, a Toronto-based consulting practice. His experience encompasses hotel properties around the world, both branded and independent, and ranging from luxury and boutique to select-service. Larry is also on several boards for companies focused on hotel technology. His work includes four books “Are You an Ostrich or a Llama?” (2012), “Llamas Rule” (2013), “Hotel Llama” (2015), “The Llama is Inn” (2017), “The Hotel Mogel” (2018) and “More Hotel Mogel” (2020). You can reach Larry at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss hotel business challenges or to book speaking engagements.
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