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The hospitality industry is one of the hardest-hit by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hotels, in particular, have struggled quite a lot. Due to quarantine restrictions, people have had to cancel their travel plans. Public gatherings were also prohibited, which means no conventions and similar affairs. Without room bookings and events, many establishments have suffered losses. In fact, even some of the most well-known and longest-running hotels in the Philippines were forced to completely close down.
Still, there are many more establishments that have managed to weather the challenges. As the economy slowly opens back up, the focus now is not just to recover but also how to ensure the health and safety of guests. Thankfully, there are already existing technological solutions that can be applied to different facets of the industry. Together with physical distancing and other health protocols, as well as existing industry best practices, these innovations can help spur recovery while reducing health risks.
Let’s take a look at some examples of the technologies:
One of the biggest symptoms of COVID-19 is a high fever caused by the infection. As such, many commercial establishments—including hotels— now require temperature checks before allowing guests to enter. However, there are a lot of businesses that still use manual temperature scanners. While perfectly acceptable, the procedure doesn’t meet the required 6 feet of physical distance.
For something less invasive of personal space, hotels can make use of infrared scanners. These can be used just like full-body metal detectors, or even installed on surfaces like glass walls or mirrors. This way, both guests and hotel personnel can maintain the appropriate distance while still complying with safety requirements.
Close person-to-person interaction is one of the fastest ways to spread novel coronavirus droplets. This simply means you can reduce the risk of getting infected when you also reduce physical contact as much as possible. However, doing this can be a problem if the hotel doesn’t have any options for cashless, contactless payment options.
This can be solved with payment acceptance solutions like PayMaya Enterprise. With the help of PayMaya Enterprise, hotels can offer different contactless methods to their guests. These include website payments through the PayMaya Checkout plugin, as well as in-store payments made via PayMaya QR or the PayMaya ONE device.
What’s even better is that these methods of payment can also be adopted in a hotel’s in-house facilities like restaurants, spas, and gift shops. In addition, going cashless and contactless also speeds up transactions, which reduces the time of exposure and thus further lower the risk of infection.
According to several studies, coronavirus droplets can stay in the air for hours. This is certainly not ideal, particularly for enclosed spaces like hotels. To ensure the cleanliness of the air, hotels and similar establishments can invest in HEPA or high-efficiency particulate absorbing filters. These machines are capable of filtering up to 99.9% of airborne bacteria and viruses, including the flu virus and the coronavirus. HEPA filters are also useful beyond preventing the spread of COVID-19; in particular, air purifiers can also help filter allergens like pet hair and dust, as well as absorb harmful gases.
There are also devices that use UVC rays to kill microorganisms. These can be used in large, indoor spaces, including hotels, conference rooms, and restaurants. These UVC “towers” are actually the better option for restaurants, since they don’t leave any residues that can affect the safety and quality of the food.
Another way that the coronavirus can spread is if you touch a contaminated surface and then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth without washing your hands. Unfortunately, hotels have a lot of surfaces that can potentially harbor the coronavirus for hours or even days. These include door handles and room keycards.
This issue can be addressed by providing keyless room entry through smart door locks, where the mechanism can be activated by facial recognition or a mobile app. The latter is the more secure option, since the room key can be encrypted and “tied” to a guest’s phone number. Keyless locks can also be programmed to work during the time the room is booked for added security. Many smart door locks can also be activated through keypads, but this still requires the extra step of disinfection.
QR technology, which is centered on encoding information using QR or quick response codes, is another simple yet effective solution for the hospitality industry. As earlier mentioned, it can be used to facilitate contactless payments. It can also be used for disseminating and gathering information, such as for contact tracing purposes.
For example, upon entering the hotel, guests can scan a QR code that will lead them to a registration portal. Here, they can fill out a form and also give their express consent that their details can be used for tracing. This quick and easy method is definitely preferable for customers instead of using pens and paper forms. It’s also easier to sort the data electronically, since the details can be captured automatically and placed in a central database. Scanning QR codes to fill out forms is also more eco-friendly.
Aside from activating door locks (and unlocking your smartphone), facial recognition technology can also be used to monitor mask-wearing compliance. Cameras and sensors can be installed in public spaces in the hotel, such as lobbies and conference rooms, to detect those guests who aren’t wearing masks or using them improperly. Management can then address the issue promptly.
These facial recognition cameras can also be integrated with infrared scanners or thermal cameras so you can conduct temperature monitoring at the same time.
It’s easy to think of items like restaurant menus as something “harmless,” but they can actually harbor viruses and bacteria for long hours. The good thing here is that it’s a little bit easier to convert traditional printed menus into digital ones. These can be something as simple as an online album on a social media page. As a bonus, if you need to update the menu (e.g., a new food offering or a price change), you can easily do so without very minimal costs.
To supplement digital menus, hotel restaurants can also implement a digital ordering system. Instead of a waiter coming to a table to write down orders, guests can simply place their orders through a portal. The information will be sent to a computer in the kitchen and the staff can prepare the meals accordingly. This further minimizes contact, since all the waiters have to do is serve the food.
High-touch objects and surfaces like countertops, stair handrails, elevator buttons, and door handles have the potential to spread the harmful microorganisms. Many hotels have adopted new cleaning protocols that emphasize the disinfection of these objects and surfaces. Still, there are a lot of ways to minimize the frequency of cleaning or at least reduce the number of people touching these objects and surfaces. For example, you can designate elevator personnel who will enforce physical distancing and also take charge of pressing the buttons. It’s a simple task, but it also minimizes the possibility of passing on germs.
Another solution is to use motion sensors for things such as faucets and lights. This way, there’s absolutely no need to touch handles or switches. Using sensors can also contribute to energy savings and water conservation efforts since there’s no risk of leaving the faucet running or the lights on in a room.
Speaking of high-touch objects, remote controls for the TV and air-conditioning units are also notorious for being hotspots for bacteria and viruses. The best solution for this is to use device pairing technology. Bluetooth is a popular solution for this, but QR codes can also be utilized. All a guest has to do is scan a code using their smartphones so they can use them to control in-room devices like the TV, aircon, and even light dimmers.
You can also centralize this function with the above-mentioned keyless entry. This means that upon check-in and activating the key, the guest’s device will automatically be paired with all the compatible devices in the room.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put an emphasis on the importance of cleaning and disinfection. However, while necessary, these procedures can also put janitorial staff at risk. One possible solution here is to use robot cleaners. These machines are steps above the household robot vacuums that are designed to only cover smaller floor areas and aren’t specialized to handle carpets and other surfaces.
For example, modern floor-cleaning robots are equipped with cameras, laser scanners, and infrared detectors so they can “map” their routes and avoid obstacles. These are also robots with different attachments so they can sweep, mop, and/or vacuum different surfaces more efficiently. There are even electrostatic sprayers that can be used for disinfection. In case a situation arises where human intervention is necessary, operators can control the robot without having to go to the location of the robot.
The main advantage of cleaning robots is that they can’t get infected by germs. They can also minimize injury. Of course, the costs can be prohibitive at the moment. Nevertheless, it’s good to know that the option is there.
Of course, not every technological solution should be something that’s ultra-modern and sci-fi-esque. Even something as commonplace as social media and messaging bots can be useful in providing concierge services and other customer service functions. Meanwhile, time-keepers and scheduling apps can be used to coordinate regular cleaning schedules and inspections to avoid disruptions.
At first glance, all of these measures might seem a little too extreme. However, consider that the hospitality industry is all about providing the best experiences. By employing these solutions, you can give your customers peace of mind and that feeling of being well cared for. These technologies are also not exclusively for the welfare of your guests, but also that of your personnel.
Another thing you have to remember is that these technologies aren’t for one-time use. Contactless payment solutions can be used even when the COVID crisis is over. The same goes for air purifiers, QR code technology, facial recognition, and many other items in this list. In short, these are long-term investments. Used strategically, these can serve you well for years and years to come.
Last but not the least, don’t forget that technological innovations in the hospitality industry mean nothing without the human touch. Make every effort to convey warmth and friendliness, even when your face is hidden by masks and face shields. Let these technologies enhance the world-famous Filipino hospitality instead of overshadowing it.