COVID-19 has spurred the advancement of innovative technologies, especially in the hospitality sector. What new tech should hotels look out for to speed up their recovery and keep up with the new industry norms?
The gradual loosening of travel restrictions and a cautious restart of businesses all over the world are early positive indicators for global economies, especially the hospitality industry. In anticipation of a slow but steady return to normalcy, some hotels are beginning to reopen with skeleton crews for basic housekeeping and maintenance operations. However, until consumer confidence returns to pre-COVID 19 levels, hotels will have to prioritise optimising the productivity of their limited labour force and using their resources as efficiently as possible.
The hospitality industry is no stranger to handling disaster, especially after the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) outbreaks in 2002 and 2012, respectively. SARS was arguably the first wake-up call for hotels to review their crisis planning and reduce unnecessary expenses, which resulted in some effective cost-cutting measures such as closing unoccupied floors, encouraging staff to go on leave, downsizing buffet spreads and introducing pay cuts.
However, these temporary measures are only part of the solution. The World Health Organisation has warned that COVID-19 looks set to stay for a long time to come. Therefore, hotels must consider long-term strategies to ensure business resiliency and continuity in the current environment. In its own way, the pandemic has exposed the vulnerabilities of outdated, inefficient practices and procedures. Efficiency and productivity must be the new mantra of the industry in order for players to thrive.
Energy Efficiency for Business Longevity
The first step of transformation is evaluating whether existing processes can be improved upon. Operational costs will naturally be the first to come under scrutiny – especially labour and energy, which form the top two operational expenditures for hotels. While reducing labour costs would make a significant difference to the budget, experienced and skilled staff are what make up the backbone of a hotel’s success. Imposing pay cuts or retrenching staff should be a last resort.
Energy, on the other hand, comprises anywhere between three to six percent of total operating costs and is also an expense that can be easily managed. Smart building systems exist to address energy inefficiency, and with the currently reduced occupancy rates and available manpower, allowing technology to shoulder some of the burden becomes the logical next step. A proper energy-efficient system can save up to 20 percent or more of a hotel’s energy bills – a considerable figure that could ease cost-cutting pressure in other areas.
Leveraging Technology to Work Smarter
Smart building systems no longer have to be costly, labour-intensive to install, and disruptive to guests, especially with new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT). The SensorFlow solution can take less than five minutes to set up, does not incur any additional infrastructure costs and uses wireless sensors to monitor rooms and equipment. These sensors collect room usage data in real-time and send it to the AI-powered system to adjust the air-conditioning, keeping the room at optimal temperatures while silently and seamlessly conserving energy usage.
Further insights can be derived from data collection to optimise other areas of hotel operations. Establishing room usage trends from the gathered data allows housekeeping teams to plan their daily routes more effectively instead of going door-to-door on a schedule that ignores current room occupancy and often causes unintended disturbances to in-room guests. Meanwhile, hotel engineers can generate performance benchmarks from equipment monitoring data, helping them identify and address malfunctions much more quickly to reduce downtime and guest dissatisfaction.
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Conserving Resources during Downtime
These benefits of energy-efficient systems might sound like they only apply during times of high occupancy, but they are equally salient now. Despite closing floors, many hotels still need to turn on the air-conditioning once every few days to ensure proper ventilation and prevent mould formation. This would ordinarily be done manually by engineers, but a smart energy management system allows them to do so remotely via a dashboard, which is especially useful due to the limited personnel arising from mandatory split-team and work from home policies.
The system also enables engineers to continue monitoring room environmental and air-conditioning performance data remotely. They can easily identify the rooms that are most in need of attention and prioritise their maintenance efforts, allowing them to work more efficiently in a smaller team and reducing the time taken for the rooms to return to the prime condition when the hotel fully reopens.
Check out our in-depth guide to humidity control for more hotel room maintenance tips.
Paying It Forward
It is clear that smart energy management systems provide a significant cost benefit to users, but as providers of this technology, SensorFlow is striving to do more to support the hospitality industry during this difficult period. We understand that the cash flow issues and loss of revenue faced by our customers now are problems that may persist until the global situation normalises. To ease their burden, we are offering them a floating payment model until travel bans are lifted.
This means that SensorFlow will only take a fixed percentage of each month’s unique energy savings instead of a fixed monthly amount, so hotels incur costs that are proportional to their energy usage. As a result, hotels can implement SensorFlow solution at zero net cost while immediately benefiting from energy, and thus cost savings. This new payment model will help hotels optimise their critical resources in these difficult times.
Amid every crisis, the hospitality sector has demonstrated its resilience by bouncing back stronger. I am confident that this time will be no different. Efficiency and sustainability can contribute greatly to the hospitality industry’s tolerance for adversity. Our goal is to help hotels become smarter, more energy-efficient and productive in order to adapt to the demands of a changing world.
– Saikrishnan Ranganathan, Founder and CEO of SensorFlow