There are many physical touchpoints associated with a hotel guest’s stay including the arrival, the stay itself and the departure.
Frictionless hotel arrival, stay and departure experiences have been touted forever, and technology has been a great enabling partner in that aspiration.
However, the degree with which the hotel industry has invested and deployed these ever-more frictionless experiences has been, in the main, discretionary and based on hoteliers’ desire for differentiation and cost reduction. COVID-19 has changed all that. Frictionless has taken on a new specialized direction and imperative, and that is “touchless.”
The pace at which the traveling public’s confidence is sufficiently restored to drive pre-COVID-19 levels of business will, in no small part, be a measure of how well hotels adapt to new social and cleanliness norms. This means not just a renewed emphasis on cleaning diligence, but a re-imagining of processes to minimize interactions with others, reduce the need to touch surfaces used in common and to make it clear and obvious to the guest that the hotel is doing so. In short, how do we enable the “touchless” hotel and do so without completely abandoning all the underlying principles of being hospitable?
In this first edition of a multipart series, we establish an inventory and understanding of the many physical touchpoints associated with a hotel guest’s stay including the arrival, the stay itself and the departure. With this we can identify and prioritize those touchpoints that can be eliminated or mitigated using existing or to-be-developed technologies. Note: Due to the differing levels of service provided across the hotel ecosystem, we have indexed this guest experience example to a full-service hotel operation.
Physical interactions start at the point the guest deposits their luggage with the porter and receives a claim check in return. Both these interactions involve the touching of common surfaces. The luggage handles and the claim check itself. Next, the guest may be required to touch the front door handle leading to the lobby.
The reception desk is the next port of call and will invariably lead to touching of the reception desk surfaces during the check-in process. The exchange of a government-issued ID is typical and usually involves the receptionist taking the ID from the guest to inspect it closely. As with the claim check, common surfaces are now being touched by both parties. In logical sequence the guest will be asked to insert, tap or swipe a credit card which would not constitute a ‘touch’ event, but when asked to sign the card reader screen it would be done using the attached stylus. Depending upon the hotel practice, a printed registration card may be handed to the guest for signature. Again, as with the claim check and government ID, a common surface has been touched by both parties. Lastly, the guest will receive one or more room key cards, commonly touched by the receptionist and then by the guest.
To and from the room
Getting to and from the guestroom will invariably involve the use of an elevator. Hailing the elevator will require the guest to touch the elevator call button. Once in the elevator, the desired floor button will be touched.
For this review, we are assuming the ubiquitous use of key cards using mag-stripe or RFID proximity methods. While neither of these types of cards require the guest to touch the door locks, they do require the guest to touch the door handle itself.
This environment provides a multitude of touchpoints that the guest will likely interact with physically. Each of the following list is assumed to be adequately cleansed prior to a new guest’s arrival in the room. However, we will each have our own anecdotal stories about whether that is true or not.
Touchpoints include: light switches, air conditioning controls, TV remote control, in-room telephone(s), bedside clock, in-room tablet, draws and wardrobe handles, bathroom door handle, bathroom faucets, bathroom amenities, bathroom toilet flush, minibar/snack try items, ice bucket (and common ice machine near room), iron and ironing board, clothes hangers, curtain opener/closer, desk and table surfaces, in-room literature/stationery, cooking and chilling appliances (i.e. microwave, minifridge), glassware, courtesy water bottles, welcome gift/amenity. Food-and-beverage roomservice delivery invokes its own list of common touchpoints including those involved in signing the delivery check.
Moving around, and to and from, the hotel lobby and other common places may involve the guest touching escalator handrails. Lobby and banqueting Info Boards also constitute guest touchpoints, as do public area literature and stationery supplies.
Frequency of use by multiple hotel patrons mean the restrooms constitute a high-risk area for cross-communication of all types of pathogens. Touchpoints include entry and exit door handles, door handles/locks on cubicles, toilet flush mechanisms, faucets, soap dispensers and paper towel dispensers.
Door handles to the bar/lounge, table and chair surfaces, drinks menus, glassware, check wallet (check and pen). Credit cards and cash being exchanged with the server also constitute common touchpoints. A high-risk area in this environment is the snacks/peanuts and the bowls they are served in as these are rarely refilled with fresh stock or cleaned between guests.
Door handles to the restaurant, table and chair surfaces, menus, glassware, condiments, plates, silverware, check wallet (check and pen). Credit cards and cash being exchanged with the server also constitute cross-over touchpoints.
Door handles to the fitness room. Fitness machines surfaces and controls and free weights. Water fountain and TV remote control(s).
Door handles to the pool/jacuzzi area, table and chair surfaces, personal locker surfaces and key as well as safety rails.
The reception desk is the penultimate port of call and will invariably lead to touching of the reception desk surfaces during the check-out process. In some cases the guest will be asked to insert, tap or swipe a credit card again which would not constitute a ‘touch’ event but when asked to sign the card reader screen it would be done using the attached stylus. Logically, the guest will then receive a copy of their printed folio, touched by the receptionist and then by the guest. Lastly, the guest may return their used key cards to the receptionist which are in many cases recycled for use with a future guest arrival (without these cards being sanitized).
Physical interactions end at the point the guest picks up their luggage from the porter in exchange for a claim check. Both these interactions involve the touching of common surfaces: the luggage handles and the claim check itself. Finally, the guest may be required to touch the front door handle leading to the hotel portico.
Evidently, the number of physical touchpoints throughout guest’s arrival, stay and departure experiences could run into the hundreds.
In the next edition we will step through each of the above touchpoints and detail measures and methods to eliminate or mitigate them using existing, new, or to-be-developed technologies.
Mark Hoare and Mark Haley are Partners at Prism Hospitality Consulting, a boutique firm serving the global hospitality industry in technology and marketing. Consulting to hoteliers on the application of technologies to address long-standing or emerging business challenges is a core practice area. For more information, please visit https://prismhospitalityconsulting.com
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