Before the Coronavirus, the hotel industry, similar to retail, had countless technology innovations at their fingertips. Yet, for many of us who stay in hotels frequently, stepping into a lobby often felt like stepping back into the 1990s or even earlier. Check-in was antiquated and done at the front desk where a guest physically signed documents. Check-out wasn’t much different. And entering your room was a decades-old experience. For example, despite the launch of virtual key technology in 2014, room entry was still performed almost exclusively using a key card – technology which, by the way, was introduced to the market in the 1970s.
Then, Coronavirus. According to the American Hotel and Lodging Association, since mid-February in the U.S., hotels have already lost more than $46 billion in room revenue, and are on pace to lose up to $400 million in room revenue per day based on current occupancy rates and revenue trends. In an era where guests needed reassurances that they were in a safe and clean environment, hotels began to understand that core to surviving this crisis was to adopt the customer-centric and technology-leveraged approaches implemented by brands in other sectors – like healthcare and automotive.
Mark Wilkinson-Brown, Chief Marketing Officer of Sitel Group, told Hospitality Management that “It has been a difficult time for the industry as a whole and while our data shows consumers have been more accepting than usual of challenges during this chaotic time, as we move into the ‘new normal’ and hotels reopen for business, the expectation for customer experience is higher than ever.”