UAE Hotels Prepare for ‘Contactless’ Guest Interactions for Post-COVID-19 Reality

Although in-person registration is mandatory in the UAE, many other customer experiences can still go through the “contactless route”.
Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan / Gulf News

Dubai: ‘Contactless’ payment methods have already gained wide acceptance as consumers seek the safest options to cope in a world infested with COVID-19. As more and more contactless options emerge, will this also be a game-changer for the hospitality and property management industry?

According to Harsha Mehta of US hotel services company Sonder, contactless transactions are already a factor in the industry. Or, as he puts it, “as long as the customers want”.

The extent to which services remain contactless depends on country regulations and customer demands. “In Dubai, identity verification is performed in person in accordance with local regulations,” said Mehta, Sonder’s executive vice president for EMEA markets. “Therefore, our reception teams are on hand to greet customers at check-in and help them get settled. This is the only mandatory point of contact.

Rules of engagement

In the future, such contactless interactions may well be the norm rather than another safety precaution taken now against possible COVID-19 infections. Even when the pandemic is made history, its legacy will remain apparent for years to come, whether in the workplace or anywhere outside the home.

In the reception area, these could define the customer experience, as much as a beautiful room and a magnificent view. “You either go to an Airbnb and there isn’t a lot of consistency in the experience you get,” Mehta said. “Sometimes you have a great experience and sometimes you don’t. Your second choice is a range of hotels to choose from, and if you want a tech experience, you pay for it.

“When a customer asks if they can settle their account two hours later, we respond quickly on our app. This is where our technology platform comes in, as the application that provides the services to clients is tightly integrated with the operational backend. In this scenario, a connection with the backend would display room availability to hotel staff, who can then make quick decisions accordingly.

Still reeling from declining guest numbers, hotels have stepped up innovation with robot concierges capable of reading emotions like Hilton’s Connie and Boston Yotel’s Vi-YO-Let robot, which rains UV lights. to kill viruses and bacteria – and including the coronavirus.

Renovation

Even existing properties can be redeveloped so that the technology can be deployed to meet contactless needs. “We work closely with the owners, we lease the building and renovate it” to optimize the design and use technology to manage day-to-day operations.

For homeowners, switching to a non-contact approach can be costly, especially if they plan to turn to sophisticated apps that can open locks remotely and control the room temperature.

But Mehta says, “We are working in a way that is economically beneficial to our partners. When you develop a building, it usually takes a year or two to lease the building. We help our partners to rent almost instantly. We started with Al Fattan Group in Dubai in 2019 and have 164 units with them and now we have signed an agreement for another 300. “

Several applications have appeared on the market that help businesses in their transition. Amazon’s Alexa with its voice assistance is a typical feature that homeowners and businesses have embraced to easily regulate devices. Lynx is a software platform that helps businesses set up keyless transactions, thermostats, and generate digital keys. Operto offers business services to implement intelligent sensor technology, with packages ranging from $ 15 per unit.


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