Hotel Contactless Tech: What Will Stick and What Won’t?

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Contactless interactions have become crucial to the successful operation of a hotel during these times of crisis. Surveys are showing that guests want it, and hoteliers realize it. The result is a major jump in the uptake of contactless technology.

That said, not all technology is created equal, and that also goes for the various contactless tech solutions. Some tools have seen strong uptake in the past months, but might fade as the virus (hopefully) fades in the coming years. Other tech will continue to define how hotel guests interact with hoteliers for years to come.

We launched last week the latest report in our Skift Research service, Contactless Tech in Hospitality 2020. Below is an excerpt from this report looking at the future potential of different tools adopted by hoteliers. Subscribe to Skift Research for access to the entire report, and stay ahead of this trend.

Contactless tech will be less important than it seems now

This is a big headline to kick things off with. To clarify, it is clear that almost every hotel will eventually adopt some or all of the contactless technologies set out [in the report]. This is clearly a growth area with a lot of room to grow.

We believe, however, that surveys or success cases stating the importance of these technologies to guests should be read with a pinch of salt. Not only will the importance of contactless interactions undoubtedly diminish over the coming years, guests generally overstate the importance of hotel features when asked.

A case in point is a 2018 research paper published in the Cornell Hospitality Report, which shows that the vast majority of guests ‘overpredict’ what hotel amenities they will actually use. The authors surveyed 724 hotel guests staying in 33 different U.S. based hotels, questioning them before their stay about their anticipated use of hotel amenities, and then again afterwards about their actual use of amenities. Below we have visualized a selection of the findings.

Exhibit 6: Most hotel amenities are used less than expected by guests

The results show that we should be careful when assuming that the uptake of these new contactless technologies will be universal, even when guests say they want them in surveys. And when we consider the presence of these technologies as a determining factor in booking a hotel, their impact is likely to be even lower.

Of course, anticipating that there is free WiFi, or a seamless check-in process, could certainly impact booking behavior, but countless studies have found that price, location, and possibly brand, always trump any other factors. And considering the race is on for most hotels to implement these systems, the competitive advantage for hotels with contactless tech will soon be lost.

McKinsey introduced an interesting framework in a recent article to evaluate which COVID induced consumer trends and behaviors — and which technologies as an extension of that — will be here to stay, and which will likely fade. We can apply this to contactless technologies in the hotel space. Below is our view, but with the ever-changing situation this is very much an opinionated stance. Everyone should determine for themselves how they see different technologies evolve, and make decisions based on that.

Exhibit 7: Evaluating the future potential of contactless technologies

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