What was predicted for 2020?
If you asked a panel of experts at the end of 2019 to predict the next “big thing” in hospitality tech for 2020, you probably would have heard things like; Artificial Intelligence! Smart Rooms! But…. 2020 had other plans.
These technologies are important and will continue to make their way into the mainstream. However, the unprecedented events of 2020 have brought a much more immediate concern to the forefront – health and cleanliness. In line with this focus has come a move toward contactless service. This involves less physical interaction between guests and staff and also less contact points in the room. All of this whilst maintaining the highest standards to ensure guest satisfaction.
I’m not sure you know my background? Since finishing high school, I have worked in the hospitality industry in many different roles. After completing my hotel degree I initially worked in hotel operations, then in consulting and for the last 30 years in hotel technology.
When we went into lockdown, I was shocked to see the impact that it had on our industry. But my team and I knuckled down and did what comes naturally…..we focussed on what we could do to help. We reached out to all of the software vendors we represent and within a week, offering free software to help the shellshocked hospitality industry. However, they were too shocked to even take us up on completely free, no strings attached software worth thousands of dollars. So………… we looked further ahead to anticipate what they would need when they reopened to help them with the “New Normal”. Along the way, I also realised that we should and could provide as much education and support as was needed.
Webinars, Guest Speaking Engagements and Articles
This education and training took many forms. I was a panellist on several Webinars for industry associations including;
Tourism Accommodation Association – “Operating with COVID”
Accommodation Association – Guest focused hotel technology post COVID – arrival through to departure. I also arranged webinars & presentations for the two industry bodies that I sit on committees for; The Australian Institute of Hotel Engineering and the Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals, Australian Chapter.
I ran a 6 part webinar series with a colleague James Harrison from the UK. I also published several articles in relation to dealing with COVID; covering topics such as QR codes, Digital Ordering and the new cleaning regimes.
I am pleased to say that three of my articles were also picked up by the Hospitality Upgrade Magazine in the United States which is considered to be the No 1 Hospitality Technology Magazine.
Oct 2020 – Due to Popular Demand – Room Service in the “New Normal”
Sept 2020 – A Closer Look At The Technology Behind New Hotel Cleaning Regimes: Part One
Feb 2020 – Could QR Codes Transform Hospitality?
Talking to Future Leaders
One of the things I was most proud of during the last couple of months was the two guest speaking engagements I did for the students at William Angliss Institute in Melbourne.
The first presentation was to third-year students on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. I was also privileged to be asked to set a problem for the students to research. Which was “How Can the Hospitality & Tourism Industry Assure Guests That They are Truly safe post-COVID?” Since the presentation, I have had feedback from the students whose ideas included Messaging Systems, Contactless Elevator Controls, Self-Sanitizing devices, Covid-safe checklists, Hotel-safe kits; and Hygiene Certification. It’s great to see such amazing ideas.
The second lecture was on “How do we take advantage of technology to help us whilst still maintaining the human aspect of hospitality?”
It was a privilege and honour to be invited by William Angliss Institute to talk to our industry’s future leaders.
Sharing Industry Insights & Doing Due Diligence for Clients
Since March we’ve also been working tirelessly, researching solutions that will be needed by hotels once guests start returning. I am pleased to say not only did we identify a number of extremely beneficial solutions, we also worked with a number of hotel groups to help them choose the right solution for their needs and deploy it successfully.
We talk with hotel based staff, industry bodies, suppliers in Australia and globally and we share the collective wisdom. This assists properties to quickly adapt their operations to the changing needs that are lawful, meet company policy and guest expectations. I get a special joy recalling all the times people have been so appreciative of our insights and sharing of all the due diligence and learnings that we have amassed. We have spoken to hotels about how to adapt their day to day operations, providing feedback on new cleaning technologies plus software, insights and education gained in the field. We have also spoken about technology such as mobile key. It sounds fabulous but people don’t always appreciate that the door hardware often needs to be changed and in many cases, the cost justification isn’t there. We also help properties quickly understand all the options and figure out where best to focus thus saving them hours of research and evaluation. Below are some examples.
Contactless Compendiums & Ordering
We identified two leading solutions. SABA and OrderUp.
SABA is a compendium and ordering solution with an optional Chatbot. Whereas OrderUp is more Food & Beverage focused offering point of sale integration and also a payment gateway for non-house guests. Both solutions are what we call Progressive Web Apps. What this means is that they look and feel like an App but the guest doesn’t need to download them. This is a huge bonus. We all suffer from App overload. We don’t really want to download an App just to order room service when we stay at a hotel. With both SABA and OrderUp you don’t need to. The guest simply scans a QR code / NFC tag and they are in. One of the benefits of COVID and I guess there had to be some, is that guests are now much more open to using technology. Plus we have all become very familiar with how to use QR codes.
No Capital Costs
As the guest is using their own device not only do they trust it, they know how it works. They also take it with them everywhere they go. The added benefit for the hotel is that there is no capital outlay on equipment. Also as both solutions are cloud-based and operate on a Software as a Service model there is no investment apart from a small setup fee. Working with both SABA and OrderUp we have been able to negotiate fantastic deals for our clients.
As I mentioned we have worked with a number of chains to help them choose the right solution. If a fully digital compendium with information on what’s on in the local area, links to partners and the ability to order amenities and food and beverage is what the group needs, SABA is the perfect solution. However, if it’s room service and table ordering then OrderUp fits the bill.
Our clients that have taken on the solution have seen some fantastic results; for example.
– Room Service Dinner revenue is up 68% on the same time last year
– PoolSide F&B revenue is up 65% on the same time last year with less staff required
– Implemented “room cleaning” on-demand with the guests opting in for cleaning. This has resulted in a 60% reduction in the number of rooms needing to be serviced.
These are just some of the results.
As you know cleanliness, hygiene and safety have become the most important factors in the road to recovery for the hotel industry. All of the major hotel groups have developed programs to reassure guests that their hotels are a safe environment.
In summary, the cleaning process that hotels have implemented involves an additional step; disinfecting the room.
Once again we started looking into technologies that could help our industry achieve this very early on. Like Marriott who standardise on the solution across all 7,300 properties worldwide, we identified the Victory Innovations Electrostatic Sprayers as a practical solution for our industry. Having said that we have also been able to help a number of other industries with the Victory Electrostatic Sprayers. These industries include Corrective Services, Mining, Transport, Health and Gyms.
We were able to secure stock quickly as global demand skyrocketed and we have established parts and servicing here on Australian soil. We also looked at other options for sanitising including a range of chemicals, UV and Ozone and we continue to stay up to date and look for cost-effective solutions that will work for hospitality. The need to sanitise will not go away in a hurry and operations will be different forever, so solutions need to work long term for our industry to recover.
Electrostatic Sprayers provide a quick and easy way to achieve 360 degree, touchless disinfection. How do they work? Remember back to science at school and magnets. Negative and positive stick together, positive and positive repel each other.
Positives Repel Each Other
The electrostatic sprayer charges the disinfectant and makes it positive. Remember positive repels positive so when the disinfectant is shot out of the sprayer, it fans out better as the positive particles try to get away from one another. Not only that, as most surfaces are negatively charged this helps the disinfectant to stick well to the surface. This means that, no matter which angle you disinfect a surface from, the disinfectant clings to the entire surface and doesn’t need wiping off (which also stops cross-contamination). Electrostatic Sprayers take approx 70% less time than conventional spray and wipe, and use 65% less chemical. This is critical as the disinfectants used to address COVID can be extremely expensive.
Once again the feedback from customers has been overwhelmingly positive. Andrew (We can’t share his full name for privacy reasons) from the Department of Justice said the following about the Victory Electrostatic Sprayers. “It wouldn’t be a word of a lie to say, they have revolutionised the way we clean”
Prior to purchasing the Victory Electrostatic units, they were using contractors. This was extremely expensive and they didn’t feel they were getting value for money. The Victory units have “revolutionised our cleaning”. We are now able to do it in half the time and with less chemical.” And rather than using contractors, he now has full control. They are now able to thoroughly disinfect whenever and wherever necessary. This gives peace of mind to staff, guests and visitors. The reason they looked at a way to do it themselves was to avoid paying over $10K for a 40 minute ‘deep clean. Now they can do a ‘deep clean’ as well as proactive cleans when and where needed at a fraction of the cost.
Making sure things don’t fall through the cracks
We have also helped a number of hotels with a workflow solution called SARA. Lower occupancies have resulted in lower staff numbers. This generally means doing more with less and lots of multitasking. The SARA solution allows you to capture any guest request and follow it through to completion. There are automatic escalations so nothing falls through the cracks and the reporting allows you to identify trends. One of our clients is a quarantine hotel and the General Manager said SARA’s greatest benefit is the insights & productivity gains which it provides.
Protect guests from the TV remote by shrink wrapping it
The TV remote is a high touch area that guests are wary of. We felt that sanitising with UV could be a solution and looked at small UV ‘chambers’ to sanitize the TV remote. However, we found that the vast majority of UV products on the market wouldn’t actually inactivate the virus that causes COVID. We did finally find ones that would work, however at around $15K, we couldn’t see a cost justification.
We never stop looking for solutions and we found a product called the Klicker Klean. It is a sleeve that you shrink wrap onto your TV remote meeting your “clean commitment” to your guests. It can be shrink wrapped in seconds with a hairdryer. Ideally, it is replaced for each guest, however once wrapped it can be cleaned and disinfected without the worry of damaging the remote with excessive use of liquid. It is a simple effective way to show your guests you care. It takes seconds unlike the minutes it takes to properly clean and sanitise a TV remote with chemicals.
Green Shoots of Recovery
As I write, things seem to be looking up. Borders have reopened, occupancies are on the rise and there is extremely positive news concerning the vaccines. In fact, the UK started administering their first doses last week followed by Canada and the United States.
There’s no doubt about it, 2020 has been a tough year. But I am sure that, as with all challenges, there will be benefits. One of the benefits I think we will see in hospitality is the impact that COVID has had on the adoption of new technology. In many respects, you could say it’s going to turbocharge it.
I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for all of your support this year. Have a very Happy and Safe Christmas and all the very best for 2021. I hope for all of us, it’s a much different and easier year than 2020.