Leveraging technology to attract more guests and create a welcoming atmosphere

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by BEN GRUITA

It used to be that all a hotel needed to be at max capacity was a clean room, meal offerings, and a TV with HBO. Some in the industry still think that’s true, but that hasn’t been sufficient for a long time. As someone who travels and stays in hotel rooms more than anyone ever should, I’ll simply say that many hotels are offering facilities/services in ways that are outdated, inconvenient for the guest, or – perhaps worst of all given the COVID-19 pandemic – downright unsanitary. I am the guest who walks into his hotel room, pulls out a black light, and scrutinizes the place like a bad episode of CSI. And I’m not the only one; COVID-19 has turned us all into hyper-vigilant, germ-fighting individuals.

I could mention example after example of outdated cleaning and sanitization practices, but you’re not reading this article to be told what isn’t working anymore. You want to know what will work now and in the future.

THE BLEEDING EDGE
Nearly all technology examples mentioned here can be performed by customers on their mobile devices. No expensive additional tech is needed for them or you. For example, augmented reality (AR) uses your phone’s rear camera to show you objects on the screen as if they are real in that location. Think of placing a virtual couch in a room and walking around it. In real life, you’re just walking around a space while looking at your phone screen but on your phone, you see a couch in that space. You can also still see everything around you. Now, if you have a computer and can work your way through something as simple as Word or Excel, you can incorporate many AR-provider’s platforms.

When I book a room, I receive an email with the booking information, but you could add an invitation to download your mobile app and mention that the app allows guests to see how their room is professionally cleaned. Seeing your cleaning process can alleviate many COVID-related concerns. After downloading your app and using the AR features, guests are able to place a model of the room on their coffee tables at home to see a housekeeping “character” cleaning a generic room. Now when checking in, guests have a greater sense that their room is actually clean.

FIRST-PERSON SERVICE
Thanks to mobile check-in technology, you can use GPS and your app to notify your front desk staff of a guest’s arrival BEFORE stepping on your property. Now, your staff can have reservation information ready without guests having to lift a finger. And if front-desk staff is busy, this makes things go faster. Your app can generate a QR code that staff can scan. Once scanned, a guest gets his key and is on his way.

Once checked in, your guest can have a virtual concierge appear in front of them on their phone screen. This concierge can “walk” them right to their room. On the way there, the customer can walk by your restaurant where an AR steak can be seen on a virtual grill or you can advertise your specials.

Now settling into their room, if a guest has any problems, she can easily open your app, click on the big button that says “Concierge,” and someone appears like magic to address and remedy the problem. And an incident log is generated for recordkeeping and training purposes.

AR isn’t new. In fact, the ideas and initial tech have been around for almost 30 years. What is new is that the little phone we all carry in our pockets can do more than ever before.

POWER TO THE PEOPLE
Using nothing more than the phones in their pockets, your customer can now take a full 360-degree copy of your hotel room. The online reviews we’ve all seen with the 2D pictures are getting a facelift. Soon, your guests will be able to post a full picture of your room. That dirty toilet or vanity will sink a properties reputation faster than you can blink. What used to be discussed as something in the future is now a reality. I’ve owned AR glasses for more than a year, and – by connecting them to my phone and tracking my fingertips – I’m able to do everything I would normally do on my phone in the air in front of me. For example, a virtual version of Waze shows up when I drive, and I can move it anywhere I want simply by grabbing it. If a call comes in, I can press a non-existent button in the air to answer or decline. If I want to watch TV, I can do so in my glasses and I’m looking at a simulated 120-inch screen with surround sound coming out of the glasses frames. Remember you read about the customer being “walked” to their room via a virtual concierge? With the glasses, I can now see that and my hands are free. That interactive AR food menu now looks even better with more realistic interactions.

You want higher occupancy? A better way to train your staff? How about ways that will help you stand out from the competition? I just listed a few. Pricing can range from free all the way up to numbers with many zeros, and no one is forcing you to change. But for those of you who see that your customer is changing, congratulations! Now, what are you going to do about it?

Ultimately, I want you to know this: Changes are coming, and you can’t do anything to stop them. Why would you want to? Why wouldn’t you want happier guests and staff?

Throughout his IT services career, Benjamin Gruita has helped global brands explore and create engagement plans utilizing emerging technologies. His approach focuses on technology such as AR/VR/XR, and his clients receive insights into hardware that normally isn’t yet available to consumers. He has been a featured speaker at Yale University, MIT, Facebook, Oculus, and a guest on Fox Business Network. Benjamin often donates his services to local and international non-profit organizations focused on helping individuals improve their situation, and he can be reached at bengruita@yahoo.com.

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