Transitioning to Touchless Hospitality

By Matt Valentine, Director of Aruba UK and Ireland

As with many other industries, the hospitality sector has been massively disrupted by the recurring lockdowns. As we come closer to the reality of everyone being vaccinated, this is now the time for the sector to really consider how they will get back on track and bring their customers back over the threshold.

When a lot of these shifts happen, technologists typically look at new tech for a quick fix. Interestingly, post Covid it's not new tech that’s making a change in the long-term, but rather technologies that have been around for quite some time already.

As hospitality brands move further along the path of digitalisation, IT networks have an important role to play as the data highway for IoT devices and services. From converging guest Wi-Fi and multimedia content, comfort controls, lighting, and touchless room keys – now more than ever guests expect a seamless and safe experience.

This means bringing together a fully automated, digitised, collaborative solution. But to meet the needs of converging IT/IoT, lodging needs to deliver robustness and reliability across the network, and as such, they must look towards Edge technologies to bring everything together.

Laying your network foundations

The hospitality sector has historically been ahead of the curve when it comes to investing in and activating digital transformation. IoT, in particular, is driving innovation. Yet as these businesses move their IoT initiatives from pilot to large-scale production, they ultimately have to ensure their underlying infrastructure is ready to scale.

For many, implementing an additional overlay network that supports employee safety, guest experiences and other IoT use cases is simply too expensive - and unnecessary. Instead, hoteliers can look at deploying a single platform to orchestrate seamlessly across the entire network.

 One example of where this is already being applied is Nobu Hospitality who uses the foundation of Aruba ESP - a combination of Aruba wired, wireless and security solutions - to enable highly secure and reliable Wi-Fi, as well as a range of IoT applications that help provide a superior experience for its guests. This infrastructure allows for hotels to easily layer services and applications that will deliver the customer experience that guests are seeking and to support employees become more efficient.

 The foundation doesn’t just rely on one platform, it also needs a strong and stable Wi-Fi connection. Hospitality leaders need to assess their wireless infrastructure, and look for more advanced Wi-Fi solutions, to support their IoT platform. Increasingly businesses are looking at Wi-Fi 6 - the latest wireless technology designed to provide a powerful user experience even in busy mobile environments - as the connectivity foundation for IoT. This provides enough bandwidth for seamless connectivity between a multitude of devices capable of enhancing guest experiences and in-house efficiencies. Whether it is app-enabled navigation, frictionless mobile check-in/check-out options, mobile-enabled in-room media connectivity, preferences based on dining suggestions, proximity-enabled housekeeping or lost child location service - skillfully blending digital capabilities and physical processes are critical for providing a reliable, safe and seamless guest experience.

The data-driven experience

Driving consistent and personalised guest experiences requires making sense of collected data quickly - and responding accordingly. That’s why simply deploying Wi-Fi solutions for connectivity alone is no longer enough.

Hoteliers also need to look at how their Wi-Fi solutions can enable additional innovations through an ecosystem of network partnerships that help turn the infrastructure into a powerful personalisation platform. This is where the Edge comes into play, serving as a foundation for leveraging actionable analytics from an integrated network, business applications and guest preferences. From there hoteliers can deliver new on-property experiences from wireless check-in/check-out to voice-controlled concierge services.

For example, when guests check in with the hotel’s mobile app, a digital key is sent to their phones, which communicates with the smart door locks. The guest is then automatically checked in , preventing the need for human contact at check-in desks . From their mobile app, guests then choose their preference on dining time, turn-down services, laundry or cleaning. They can also look at the hotel's services including gym or spa facilities to gauge how busy they are before leaving the comfort of their room.

As guest expectations change in this new era, hoteliers can and should look at how they can leverage data to elevate the entire guest experience. In doing so, they can not only provide a safe and seamless experience but add that layer of personalisation that drives brand loyalty and affinity in the long-term.

Rapid evolution is key to survival

The past year has proven how rapidly things can change and now, as we look to the future, we know that customer preferences and expectations are going to continuously differ. The hospitality industry has been one of the hardest hit sectors, so for them it’s even more important that they ready themselves to bounce back as much as possible.

The sector is now prepared to constantly evolve. That also means being able to harness legacy technology whilst being ready for new technology innovations that will help them adapt to new circumstances. From facial recognition check-in and room key locking, to service automation, robots and VR, to name a few. Having the right foundation and network solution in place, is the right starting point to enable this transition to a smarter, more intuitive digital hotel and for hoteliers to get ahead of expectations around future guest experiences.