Features

Hotels 2.0

16 Nov 2020 by Akanksha Maker
Hospitality

Travel and hospitality as we know it, have transformed indefinitely. For frequent travellers, the pandemic has caused a 180-degree turn on how we perceive a regular hotel stay. Fear and paranoia are obvious feelings towards venturing out into a hotel room again. But it’s reassuring to know that the hospitality industry has gone the extra mile, with its digital, contactless and heightened sanitisation measures, to welcome you back to the cocoon and comfort of a hotel experience — that is designed to feel as safe as home.

A Digital World 

As per a report and survey conducted by Software Advice, a company that provides advisory services, 60 per cent respondents were more likely to choose a hotel that allows them to check-in and open doors with a smartphone than a hotel that doesn’t. Complying with the digitalisation of the world that has taken place post Covid-19, the hospitality industry has endeavoured to keep up. I-ZEST, an integrated digital platform for guests and employees to ensure a zero-touch experience launched by the Indian Hotels Company for Taj Hotels across India, is one such example.

For guests staying at a Taj hotel, zero-touch check-in and check-out; and digital invoices through online payments and integrated payment gateways, are a part of the “new normal”. My recent stay at The Oberoi, Mumbai (read the review on page 78) also demonstrated the touch-free measures undertaken by The Oberoi Group. The group has implemented a touch-free check-in and check-out procedure with no contact payment options to ensure guests’ safety. Apart from this, they have also introduced QR code accessible menus at their restaurants which have recently opened up.

In addition to the above, which is now perhaps a norm at every hotel you’d stay in, The Leela Group gives you access to digital news, e-magazines and e-papers on your phone and laptop, keeping you upto date with the outside world. At ITC Hotels’ properties, physical collaterals have been replaced with digital communications accessible through a QR code. Only mandatory communication is placed in rooms.

Marriott International has gone a step ahead to convert your phone into a hotel key; in over 3,200 Marriott hotels, including those in India, guests can use their smartphones to check-in, access their rooms, make special requests and order room service. The international hospitality giant has also partnered with Apple Pay, the payment platform by Apple. Customers can now use the mobile payments platform via their iPhones and Apple Watch while checking into a Marriott property.

Hospitality goes digital with contactless payments and touch-free check-in

Digital Keys by Hilton 

Hilton Hotels and Resorts has already piloted digital keys in some of their properties around the world, much before the pandemic. It has also partnered with Kipsu, a digital messaging app, to develop a chat service.

Clean stays 

Rigorous safety and sanitisation are prerequisites at every hotel now. Campaigns that promote stringent cleanliness protocols have been launched by almost every hospitality company. WeAssure programme by ITC Hotels, SURAKSHA programme (protection) by The Leela Group and Shangri-La Cares by The Shangri-La Group, are such examples. For most brands, global cleanliness and prevention standards have been developed and vetted by Bureau Veritas, a “world leader in testing, inspections and certification”.

Some of the cleanliness protocols undertaken at hotels to defeat Covid-19 are —

• Sanitisation of vehicles that enter the premises of the hotel

• Enhanced food safety and hygiene protocols

• Sanitiser stations prominently placed throughout hotels

• Reinforced cleaning programme in public areas with frequent disinfection of all high touch areas

• Reinforced food safety standards and new protocols

• Hospital grade disinfectants used for regular housekeeping in hotel rooms

ALLSAFE BY ACCOR HOTELS

Accor Hotels has developed its very own cleanliness and prevention label called ALLSAFE, which has already been adopted by almost 95 per cent of the group’s hotels. To date, Accor has successfully certified almost 65 per cent of its hotels with the ALLSAFE label through a third-party review and accreditation process with professional auditors like Bureau Veritas, SGS, Clifton and Ecolab.

Staycation getaways 

It’s safe to say that people who are cooped up in their houses are looking for ways to holiday without the hassle of air travel. A lot of travellers are embarking on road-trips, driving to a nearby destination or even checking into a hotel in their home city for a getaway. In fact, hotels have identified this trend and are crafting unique staycation packages enticing guests to check-in.

JW Marriott Juhu has launched #StaycayWithMarriott which includes a number of benefits such as a room upgrade, lunch and dinner at Lotus Café and welcome amenities. Andaz Delhi, another hotel that’s popular with Delhi’s denizens for staycations, has curated bespoke staycation packages. This features breakfast, late checkout, discounts on F&B and a complimentary room for two children.

A destination that’s become increasingly sought after during the pandemic is Goa. A number of hotels in the beach state have also customised deals for travellers driving down from nearby cities. W Goa is offering a sizable fuel credit daily to guests along with meals at their restaurant and complimentary upgrades.

Since a majority of professionals are still “working from home”, a new trend of “workations” — that combines work with a vacation has taken off since a few months. Once you check-in, all you need is your laptop and a decent internet connection; and voila — say hello to zoom meetings with pretty backgrounds. Promoting this trend, The Oberoi, Mumbai is offering access to its business centre as a part of its “Oberoi City Breaks”  staycation deal; and is even offering its hotel rooms as an office space to corporates who want a change in scenario for their “work from home” employees.

Hotels and restaurants in Bengaluru opened up much before the other metros of the country. Inviting guests with a scintillating staycation package, Conrad Bengaluru is offering “Great Small Breaks”. A cocktail masterclass, a 15-minute reflexology massage and a beer bucket are some of the inclusions.

French hospitality giant Accor Hotels has rolled out an interesting campaign hailing back guests. Under “for the love of travel, for the love of now” programme, Accor is encouraging people to relive their “missed celebrations” that they were unable to enjoy during the lockdown. This includes offers and savings across its hotels.

Dine in the new normal 

Brands have realised that not all guests are mentally prepared for a hotel stay during this time. As we warm up to the idea of travelling again, hospitality groups have innovated ways of bringing their hotel to a guest’s home via home deliveries from their in-house restaurants. ITC Hotels, known for its lip-smacking Indian flavours at Peshawri, has tied up with Zomato and Swiggy for contactless food deliveries and pickups.

Making online food ordering a breeze from its properties’ restaurants, Taj Hotels launched an app called Qmin in Delhi. The app, pegged as an opportunity for patrons to enjoy “Taj@home”, features the restaurants from Taj Mahal, New Delhi; Taj Palace, New Delhi; Vivanta New Delhi, Dwarka; and Ambassador – IHCL SeleQtions. The app has recently expanded its presence to Chennai as well.

Marriott International too has kept up with this trend by launching a service called “Marriott On Wheels” that brings restaurants of 63 hotels in India on one digital platform. Additionally, members of its loyalty programme Marriott Bonvoy, can earn points on ordering directly through the platform.

With features like Chef on Call and Bartender on Call, The LaLiT Hotels, Palaces and Resorts is tempting its patrons to savour delicacies and cocktails from its restaurants and bars in the comfort of their homes too. Interestingly, the hotel group has pioneered “Home Delivery and Grab and Go” options through food trucks that are parked at the hotel porches in New Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru.

It isn’t an overestimation to say that the world of hospitality has evolved phenomenally. Whether the carefree times of walking to a hotel without the fear of the virus will return or no, is a question whose answer can’t be fathomed by even the gurus of the industry. Until then, it’s comforting to know that hotels are going above and beyond to make sure that our stays are not just safe but also meaningful and memorable. Perhaps this is the ray of hope we all need to hold on to, during these unprecedented times.

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