- Technology solutions like in-work systems enable
hotelguests to use more self-service alternatives, significantly reducing staff responsibilities while enhancing customer satisfaction.
- Leveraging tech tools has helped hotels direct employees towards urgent and high-priority activities that require personalised engagement and support.
- Few hoteliers will forget 2020 in a hurry. With hotels forced shut, almost 40% employees lost their jobs while an equivalent number suffered salary cuts and furloughs, according to consulting firm HVS Anarock.
Faced with a manpower glut, stringent social distancing norms, evolved guest expectations and massive drop in occupancy, hotel companies turned to technology to overcome these challenges.
Samir MC, managing director of Fortune Park Hotels, a member of ITC Hotels Group, recalled how solutions like in-work systems, which enabled guests to use more self-service alternatives, significantly reduced staff responsibilities and enhanced customer satisfaction.
“Mobile check-in and self-ordering technology in restaurants make it simpler to check into hotels without requiring one-on-one interaction from hotel staff. Moreover, frequent or foreseeable activities can be handled automatically, through the use of technology,” he added.
Flagging off the digital journey
Besides digitalizing most of its communication and offerings to drive business, ITC Hotels undertook steps like QR code-enabled communication in rooms, digital menus and contactless payment options as it adapted to the new normal.
In fact, QR codes for all collaterals, digital menus in restaurants, digital invoices, WhatsApp bot for guest interaction, and even a press reader for newspapers became par for the course. Hotel Manager
“Our keyless check-ins and QR codes at restaurants ensured the need for lesser staffing. However, going completely remote and tech-driven is not the objective; rather the focus is being tech-savvy in our operations while considerate of our guests’ needs,” he added.
Customers sound the tech call
Stressing on creating a ‘digital advantage’ during the company’s 2021 earnings call, IHG Hotels & Resorts’ CEO Keith Barr said, “This is vital to enabling a seamless technology experience across the guest journey, from driving direct bookings and creating integrated digital experiences for our guests to delivering revenue-enhancing solutions for our owners.”
In 2021, the company partnered with Josh.ai to pilot a voice-controlled smart room at California’s Kimpton Rowan hotel.
Since occupancies were in single digits in early 2021, hotel companies concentrated on the events business, which had switched to the hybrid model. IHG partnered with
Raoof Dhanani, managing director at Sayaji Hotels, explains that most hotels also started using Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven chatbots with inbuilt booking engines to increase direct bookings and capture guest data at the same time. “It also sends automated emails, location, availability, quote and property images and videos to the guests as per their requirement,” he noted.
Having tasted the fruits of technology,
Out with the old
After a long journey, contemporary hotel guests often want to grab a shower and a meal rather than engage with hotel staff. A Skift study titled ‘Hospitality in 2025: Automated, Intelligent and More Personal’ found that 73% travellers want to use their mobile device to manage their hotel experience, including checking in and out, paying, ordering food, and more.
Aware that fulfilling these needs, or at least meeting it halfway, is key to winning guest attention and thereby their loyalty, hoteliers are increasingly mindful of their tech investments. A first mover, Marriott, for instance, rolled out IoT services as early as 2018, signing up to Amazon’s Alexa for Hospitality room assistant technology to allow voice control functionality to be installed in guestrooms.
Integrating IoT technology gives guests the power to customise their room settings, including lighting, temperature and curtains. Moreover, since employees can remotely monitor the performance of in-room devices, it means lesser staff on the floor. Additionally, hotels can conserve energy costs by turning off heating or air conditioning when the room is unoccupied.
An eye on the cost
By leveraging technology, hotels can direct a lean workforce towards urgent and priority tasks that require personalised engagement and support, thus easing their workload. Moreover, it can simplify their HR procedures, reduce expenses and also boost revenue generation by cross-selling services. Imagine visiting the hotel’s spa and getting a discount on a healthy breakfast the next day!
Chadha believes that the more efficient the processes, the less time is wasted, which reduces costs and increases productivity and revenue.
“As compared to 2019, our operating costs have gone down, with a significant rise in efficiency. This has happened by streamlining tasks and improving our overall quality and reliability,” he states.
However, these tech deployments come with a caveat – don’t lose the human touch.
“Whilst designing the standard operating procedures for the hotel and planning on technology; we smartly adapt systems to smoothen guest journeys. All human touch points remain intact or are enhanced with technology’s adaptation,” he emphasised.
The hospitality industry traditionally underinvested in technology, spending less than 5% of their net room revenue.
However, digitalisation is now on every hotelier’s mind. Using it mindfully will help them create a frictionless guest experience and bring down operating costs while navigating the labour shortage, making it a win-win situation for all.