Industry Partners Check-in: Finding Answers to Difficult Questions in a New Reality

Moderated by: Sherry Marek, Datavision Technologies

During the HFTP Hangout “Industry Partner Check-in” on Wednesday, April 22, the conversation naturally gravitated to the latest hot topic in hospitality technology today: the “contactless” technologies that will emerge as a direct result of the virus pandemic. New solutions will be necessary to streamline hotel processes in a concentrated effort to reduce human contact as much as possible. The various technologies were brought up in last week’s vendor-focused Hangout, as well, as the attendees noted that hotels in the near future will have to re-imagine their check-in processes, food and beverage ordering, payment and mobile keys.

This Hangout session took the trending conversation one step further, playing devil’s advocate to ask: What are the possible implications of reimagining a totally “contactless” guest experience – in particular, on human trafficking operations?

According to this Hospitality Insights article by researchers at Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne, the hotel industry is particular vulnerable to human trafficking operations and must remain vigilant to ensure such activity is not taking place at their properties.

The front desk has traditionally operated as a property’s front line of defense, often the first to come into contact with trafficking suspects and victims. By eliminating front desk check-in and migrating to an entirely technological, touchless experience – and with no staff members coming directly into contact with guests – how will hotels be able to properly monitor for trafficking on their properties?

One attendee noted that most of the training for human trafficking centers on educating staff to recognize the signs of human trafficking and report their observations. Human trafficking flourishes under cover of anonymity. Without these face-to-face interactions, the new guest experience will completely change the ability to identify and intercept human trafficking on properties.

Another attendee gave a dissenting point of view, referencing a valuable well of data through technology that will allow hotels to track patterns and help them identify human trafficking on-site. There is a signature of movement, he pointed out, and we can identify behavior that is occurring outside of the norm by looking at this data.

For instance, this Hospitality Technology article explores how mobile, keyless entry technology can actually help hotels identify human traffickers by allowing them to capture a unique identifier, such as a smartphone and phone number. The hotel can track how many times a room is accessed so that hotel staff has visibility into who is coming and going into each room.

As hotels move forward to a contactless guest experience, they must also expand upon current training protocols for their staff members, as well as implement and clearly articulate company-wide policies on human trafficking. According to the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA)’s “No Room for Trafficking” campaign, there are additional steps that hotels can take outside of staff training. These steps include prominently displaying information for guests and staff to help them recognize the signs of human trafficking, building partnerships with local law enforcement, and empowering staff to report suspected trafficking to the appropriate authorities.

The Hangout discussion brought up an invaluable point: As the hotel industry navigates a new reality, all of the potential impacts need to be evaluated. Could there be negative fall-out regarding guest privacy or their personal safety? Fortunately, the hospitality industry is a collaborative one, always working together to find the answers to difficult questions with the guest’s wellbeing in mind.

Working Together in True Partnership

The answers will often involve a concerted partnership between technology vendors and hotel owners. In the Hangout session, the attendees also discussed how the two parties can act in true partnership. During this difficult time, everyone is in the same financial bind. When considering how vendors can offer discounts and payment deferment to their clients, one attendee suggested that if vendors decide to defer payments, they could also extend their contract terms by three months. It is an option the attendee said has been well-received and is an excellent example of the two parties working together in true partnership.

About the HFTP Hangouts

A special “thank you” goes out to Sherry Marek, co-founder and vice president of Datavision Technologies, for moderating the interesting discussions that took place in the April 22 Hangout for industry partners.

Join HFTP for the last round of HFTP Hangouts, taking place Tuesday-Thursday at 2:00 p.m. CT next week.

Briana Gilmore is the HFTP Communications Coordinator. Briana can be reached at Briana.Gilmore@hftp.org or +1 (512) 220-4017.

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About the Author: Briana Gilmore

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