Protecting the Guest
In the beginning of 2020, COVID-19 had an effect on the entire globe in a way no one could have ever predicted (Ok, very few people). Those tasked with ensuring our safety had to very quickly come up with a with a plan to ensure safety, security and survival for our world. No doubt to achieve this, decisions were made very quickly or referenced from previous ‘How to survive a pandemic’ manuals, to reduce spread, and stress on global health systems. This all became part of the strategy of handling COVID-19. Hopefully there’ll be a vaccination in the next 12-18 months, but until then what do we do?
Hygiene measures will become increased of course, but probably for the first time ever, hygiene will become an integral part of digital strategy. Airports are bringing in Thermal imaging cameras and new processes to protect their staff and their travellers. Many hotels are doing the same or at least building a comprehensive plan of new best practices and enhanced cleaning regimes. We’ve even heard discussion of using UVC strobes like hospitals use in their theatres to disinfect the entire room, but these are expensive, difficult to use and require expert handling for safe usage. Robots have been built to do this safely, but at $67,000 each I can’t see many hotels wanting to invest in these just yet. If you are interested to know more about UV-C lighting, and how it can be used to eliminate up to 99.9% of bacteria and viruses in a space, check out this article from Facility Solutions Group.
I’ve talked previously about guests being able securely access their own content. This is expected in hotels now, from secure WiFi to content casting, but most importantly Apps. In an ‘unbundled’ future those apps will be the cornerstone of any guest room entertainment system. But how do you create secure, safe access in the new world of heightened hygiene awareness? Yes, hygiene is now an integral part of safety and security. One thing I know is I will be thinking long and hard before I pick up a remote-control when I next visit a hotel. I know, crazy for someone who has worked with TV systems for so long to say that, but in the post COVID-19 world, I don’t think I’ll be the only one! So, if guests will be avoiding the remote control, then what can hotels do about it?
Your Guest Can Take Control
One of the first gifts you can give to your guests upon their return, is allowing them to take control. By take control, I actually mean giving the guest choices on how they control some of the features in the room. I see 3 important points in offering your guests a choice in a safe and hygienic environment:
1. Invest in new anti-microbial remote controls. Anti-Microbial remotes should be certified to inhibit the growth of any bacteria that it comes into contact with. Designed with a completely flat surface they have no recesses or raised buttons to allow bacteria to be harboured, as such they are easily wiped clean by housekeeping.
2. Provide alcohol wipes in the room. It has been proven that a 60%+ alcohol solution can kill COVID-19 bacteria, and many other common bacterium. This provides a reassurance to the guest that they can clean any surfaces they come into contact with, as well as the remote control. It is now even possible to get branded alcohol wipes, meaning minimal impact to the look and feel of your guest room.
3. Give the guest the option to use their own smart device as the remote control. After all, this is a personal device, so the guest knows where it has been, who has been in contact with it, and most likely keeps it clean(ish). From the guest perspective you remove 100% of the worry. While the integration doesn’t come without its challenges, this is a great option to give your guests. In todays connected world many guests arrive at your hotel with a remote control and digital voice assistant already in their pocket. In fact, in many hotels over 70% of these guests arrive with an Apple iPhone. Offering the guest the option of using their own device, along with a certified anti-microbial remote control and the ability to clean it themselves, will give them strong reassurance that you’ve thought long and hard about their protection.
Smart Guest, Smart Future, Smart Phone
With guests already constantly interacting with their personal smart device, why should hotels ask them to use anything else? Surveys have consistently shown us that guests want to interact with hotel staff via their own device, so why should it be any different for the Hotel TV or smart room controls? For some interesting statistics, check out this article from Nicole Dehler on HospitalityNet. So, if such a huge portion of your guests arrive ready equipped, why should we be expecting them to pick up a foreign device? Let’s give them a choice, a choice that can help them stay safe and healthy on their own terms. Just like me, many guests place their trust in hotels to keep us safe, healthy and secure. Offering the guest a choice, enables them to feel reassured. Making these options part of your strategy will enable your guests to continue putting their trust in your hotel, time after time. You will need to make them feel comfortable that you’ve thought of everything and communicate that clearly through all of your digital and non-digital touchpoints. Only then will guests feel confident in staying in your rooms and business can begin to return to normal. This pandemic will make us all re-think our structure and the way that we make decisions for the future, but you must act and not get bogged down in slow decision making. Take a risk, try something new… if it works great, if not try something else. Work with your partners and vendors to find solutions, whether it be technical, practical or commercial. Hoteliers will likely have less staff for the foreseeable future, so reach outside your organisation for help and support. You’ll find your vendor partners are only too willing to assist.