Throughout 2021 and the first half of 2022, the hospitality industry saw a steady increase in travel and hotel stays. However, travelers do have new expectations of the guest experience that will require hotels to take definitive steps to keep guests feeling safe, while also dealing with their own economic realities.
That means offering numerous measures to reduce contact, including self-service check-in and apps or tablets for in-room control of everything from TVs to HVAC systems. At the same time, hotels must ensure their back-office systems can deliver in these still-challenging times, providing them the ability to adapt to changing demands.
All of these new requirements mean increased use of digital applications. That, in turn, means hotels require a sound IT and network infrastructure, including fast, reliable Internet and WiFi connections, both in rooms and throughout the facility.
Safety measures such as self-service and contact-less check-in have become table stakes for hotels. Most are delivering it either through their own loyalty app or a lobby kiosk. In the case of the app, it may also serve as a room key while the kiosk is capable of dispensing a key, as well as taking credit cards for payment.
The next step is convenient control of various in-room systems from a single device, to reduce the number of items guests have to touch. That device can either be their own phone outfitted with the hotel app or, for the travelers who don’t use the apps, an in-room tablet.
Either way, the device can be used to control the television, lighting, heating and air conditioning as well as window blinds. It can also act as the room phone and have the ability to enable guests to order hotel services, such as spa treatments and room service –presenting an opportunity for hotels to upsell guests. Room service presents the opportunity to upsell a drink or dessert.
Finally, the device can be used to proactively deliver Covid-19 safety updates or changes in protocol, informing guests about all the measures the hotel is taking to keep guests safe.
In-room tablets present a number of advantages for hotels as compared to traditional control devices. For one, using a single is easier to clean vs. multiple devices and/or paper collateral, such as hotel guide books. Tablets are also flexible, offering the ability to offer additional applications and services as they are developed, perhaps including Internet of Things technologies for monitoring and control.
Once guests venture outside their rooms, hotels need to continue demonstrating the steps being taken to keep them safe. Digital signage can play a big role in that effort.
In areas such as gyms and pools, digital signs can detail cleaning protocols in place and outline any guest requirements, such as where and when masks should be worn. They can also inform guests when the area was last cleaned and disinfected.
Digital signs throughout the hotel can “advertise” the various Covid mitigation measures and requirements the hotel is taking, such as where physical distancing is required, how frequently various areas are cleaned, special ventilation systems in place, contact tracing policies and more.
The signage can be used for more than Covid-related topics, of course. If the hotel is hosting a conference or wedding, digital signs can offer a personalized welcome, direct guests to the appropriate rooms, provide event schedules and the like.
New demands on hotels also extend to the back office in effectively dealing with the challenges the pandemic presents.
In an article published in Hospitality.net, consultants from Horwath HTL wrote that hotels will need to establish new operating procedures to accommodate the new nature of the guest experience. They encourage hotels to focus in particular on short-term forecasting, which is important given the volatility the pandemic presents; travel plans can change on a dime. For the same reason, hotels must be able to adjust to changing demands.
Effective use of emerging technologies can also help hotels meet new requirements. Cloud-based access management solutions provide contact-less check-in with digital keys on a phone-based app. But it also provides valuable tools that enable hotel employees to perform tasks such as dealing with guest requests for extended stays and room re-assignments without requiring a visit to the front desk. Instead, all changes can be handled online.
Such solutions also enable hotel staff to monitor and control security access operations from any internet-connected device. This reduces the need for staff members to work in close proximity to one another while also helping to make them more efficient, which is crucial as hotels seek to meet growing occupancy rates while facing labor shortages.
Emerging tools can also help create more efficiencies for front desk staff. Service tracking systems can help manage and track bellmen, luggage valets, guest deliveries, laundry, room service and more. Guests can print out baggage tags at a kiosk, attach it to their bags, and leave the bags behind for delivery. They can also request baggage service ahead of time from a mobile app.
All of these emerging applications and solutions have one thing in common: they require the hotel to have sound IT infrastructure in place. Tech-driven management solutions are requiring hotels to have new levels of connectivity, both within the building and to the internet for cloud-based offerings.
Legacy networks may not suffice to meet today’s connectivity demands. Instead, hotel IT groups should investigate newer, more flexible and automated network architectures that can help them meet increasing demands brought on by the adoption of more digital technology.
For wide-area connectivity, hotels may well find software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN) services to help power reliability, scalability, flexibility and security. With SD-WAN, network control functions are abstracted from the underlying physical network. This enables hotels to choose the WAN service that matches the requirements of each application while also improving reliability. It’s a simple matter to configure backup links for each connection, such as using Internet or cellular wireless connections to back up primary links.
Robust WiFi is likewise a must in every guest room as well as common areas and meeting rooms. Strong WiFi is also important for back-office applications and should be configured separately from guest networks.
Comcast Business offers managed services to help deploy and manage advanced network technology solutions in all your hotel properties. Comcast Business offers managed SD-WAN, Internet (including Ethernet Dedicated Internet) WiFi and cyber security solutions, including distributed denial of service attack mitigation. Comcast Business also offers all the voice and entertainment services that hotels need, making it a one-stop-shop for advanced automation and personalization efforts.
SD-WAN provides strong technology foundation for hotels
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