Moderated by: Rich Siegel, Hospitality Upgrade
Talk is starting to build on when communities and businesses can open back up – or restart – and what that will look like. The overall consensus is that it will be a gradual transition, and economies in countries around the globe will do their best to right themselves after this initial spread of COVID-19 and its resulting pandemic. The hospitality and travel industries will rise up from their months-long hiatus. Individuals will return to work and try to get back their lives to as close as to what they used to know. And, all of this while humanity awaits a vaccine to prevent such catastrophic fallout from COVID-19 again.
Without an analogous event in history to look to for exact comparison, it can be difficult (more like impossible) to project what this restart will look like, or when exactly it will come.
During HFTP’s second vendor-focused Hangout on April 15, 125+ hospitality technology solution providers came together to give their perspectives on the current state of the industry, as well as what it would take for small and mid-sized hospitality tech businesses to emerge intact on the other side and be part of the recovery process.
The problem with not knowing when the hospitality industry will restart is a huge financial question mark for not only hotels, but also the many technology vendors who service them. Vendors began suffering their own cash flow and staffing problems as marketing opportunities were cancelled, customers cut back on services, and the industry ground to a sudden halt.
The Hangout participants speculated on when exactly the hospitality industry might get back to business. What is a realistic expectation for people to feel safe and confident enough to travel again?
One attendee (and others agreed) that there would be, in a sense, two phases of travel: the first phase being pre-vaccine, consisting mostly of local and regional travel with people doing what they can to avoid getting on planes, and then a second phase possibly post-vaccine, which most likely would not occur before Spring 2021. This would mean that companies are going to have to make tough decisions, be extremely flexible and face challenges until the middle of next year.
The group then wondered: What are some proactive things we can do as an industry to advance recovery, especially for hotel supply partners like us?
On the other side of the pandemic, the hotel guest experience is undoubtedly going to be reimagined and transformed by current events. What will it take to make guests feel safe enough to spend their dollars and stay at one property over another?
In answer to this, several vendors expressed that they have already been approached about touchless, frictionless technology solutions for check-in processes, food and beverage ordering, payment and mobile keys.
Last week’s vendor-focused HFTP Hangout also imagined room cleanliness standards will be elevated to include new technologies like UV light products to disinfect rooms and health-enhancing features such as air purification filters.
The way things have been done in hotels up to this point is totally going to change, the participants agreed, and with that will come new opportunities for product and service enhancement. Perhaps at HITEC San Antonio this October 26-29, the exhibition could feature a new product showcase with these emerging touchless solutions?
However, the participants reminded one another, these opportunities would be contingent on the survival of hospitality technology solution providers in the interim, during these months of uncertainty.
The group took this opportunity to emphasize that they need to come together during this period of deep economic hardship and emphasize their companies’ collective importance to the industry. As a group they would like to be recognized as a critical contingent to the hospitality industry and be considered as recipients to a part of any financial support coming to the hospitality industry from the government. Currently, AHLA is working to represent the industry and lobby the U.S. Federal government for relief directed towards hospitality.
As we move into the Fall and away from the immediate crisis of the current pandemic, the group hopes that a successful HITEC San Antonio would signal a kick-start to industry meetings and events. In the meantime, look out for the Summer issue of Hospitality Upgrade this June. The issue will have a special section with a personal collection of stories detailing how hospitality technology professionals and solution providers have weathered these few months.
Briana Gilmore is the HFTP Communications Coordinator. Briana can be reached at Briana.Gilmore@hftp.org or +1 (512) 220-4017.