Last week I received a press release from a tech company touting the latest and greatest innovations for hoteliers in a post-COVID world. While hotels will certainly need to make significant changes, these new “tools” got me thinking.
These tools are lauded as “guest engagement solutions” and I am not so sure Up first was a new messaging platform that integrates with the messaging a guest may already have—What’s App, Messenger, Messages, etc. and integrates with the hotel systems. In theory, if I needed an extra pillow, all I need to do is pull up my Messenger app and text “need pillow” and the hotel will now know my needs, room, and location (presumably so it can be delivered in a contactless manner — either left outside of the door or place in the room while away).
Need room service, your own cell phone will now act as a remote and bring up a QR code to display the menu and ordering options. Need to change the temperature—it is already in the device you likely own.
The technology (and admittedly a lot of this is way above my paygrade) already exists to check in and get a virtual key prior to arriving at the hotel and these tools are built to enhance it.
But at what cost? Isn’t the point of traveling TO meet other people? Isn’t the point of travel to emerge yourself in an experience?
Personally, I dread the time when my interaction while on vacation is limited to my own family and my cell phone. I mean I love my kids and all, but what about that great conversation with the bartender? What about chatting up the cabin steward about his home? That taxi driver that won’t shut up but is a wealth of information?
With the way technology is going, I seriously envision a time in the not too distant future where arrangements are made remotely, vehicles are autonomous to get us to an airport, we will fly in plexiglass separated seats, and local knowledge and tours will be delivered to our wireless ear buds.
There’s a funny video about the COVID pandemic and one part of it shows how panicked people are to be around other people.
But, I don’t want to live in a world like that. Technology is fantastic and very helpful at times, but there is a limit. I want to talk to the bartender. I want to chat up the cabin steward. And yes, I want to listen to the endless drone of the taxi driver. I travel for the experience. I travel for the people. It’s easy enough to get trapped in a world of screens at home, let’s not let it take over the respite we get from a bit of rejuvenation.