The hotel lobby was once a place of handshake greetings and face-to-face conversations with the friendly concierge. But as socially-distant vacations become the norm, hoteliers and innkeepers that once delivered traditional high-touch, in-person hospitality are having to adjust how they welcome and interact with their guests.
Enter the era of digital touch points. From text messaging solutions to digital concierge services, being the consummate host now includes offering your guests a seamless way to communicate with staff and book experiences digitally.
We chatted with a few hotels, innkeepers, and hosts in our network about the ways they’re continuing to stay connected with their guests during COVID-19, and the new tools and strategies they have found to be the most effective.
Since purchasing Captain Swift Inn in 2018, experienced innkeepers Carolyn and Rick Bentzinger have been laser-focused on maintaining the historic elements of their nine-room property while also offering modern conveniences. As self-proclaimed ”‘happiness consultants”, the most enjoyable part of their day is making a personal impact on each guest’s experience—an element of hosting tat has been forever altered due to social distancing.
“In the hospitality industry, we’re struggling to maintain our intimate level of service and connections while wearing face masks, gloves, and standing at a distance,” says Carolyn. “Some guests have heightened anxiety, and we see it as our job to help them navigate travel experiences in this environment. We always tell our current guests that they’re trailblazers, they’re making an effort to enjoy travel safely, and we will take care of them!”
To put guests at ease, the Bentzingers have made on-site dining options available to guests who want to order from a local restaurant but dine in the comfort of their guest room or by the inn’s cozy fire pit.
In addition to their flexible dining options, The Captain Swift Inn has also implemented a text messaging app through their reservation system. Whether texting guests to inform them of a fresh batch of baked cookies or fielding a request for housekeeping, Carolyn says adding a digital communication solution has been especially helpful for guests that may be hesitant to pick up the phone and call reception.
At Windward House, an eight-room bed-and-breakfast, hosts Matt and Dan have prioritized incorporating technology from day 1. Whether taking photos of Maine’s nature hot spots with their drone or building their own digital neighborhood guides, Matt’s IT knowledge has empowered him to embrace new technologies when it comes to guest experiences.
In order to stay connected with guests 24/7, Matt and Dan have turned to text messaging, a tool that they plan to continue to use post-COVID.
“Some of our new COVID-related protocols, such as collecting breakfast orders and accepting reservations in advance by text message, have significantly streamlined our process,” says Dan. "Before COVID, we never wanted to make guests feel as if they had to be at a certain place at a certain time. But now with social distancing, it’s important we know when each guest is coming down to the dining room so that we can allow enough time for everyone to have the full Windward experience.”
With several arts and cultural events in the Berkshires being canceled this summer due to COVID, innkeepers Jim and Doug of the 11-room Devonfield Inn have had to “reinvent” their guest offerings to attract a new group of guests.
This summer, most of their guests are driving in from New York, New Jersey, and Boston and looking for outdoor activities that allow for social distancing. To satisfy the current appetite for open-air experiences, the property has launched “Yoga on the Lawn” in partnership with a Kripalu instructor. Classes take place in the shade under Devonfield Inn’s cluster of birch trees and are available to any guest who is interested at a time dictated by the guest's availability.
“With 32 acres, we are the ideal setting for outdoor events because maintaining social distancing is not a problem. We also started offering Live Lawn Concerts in late July—bringing back music to the Berkshires,” says Jim and Doug. “Lastly, we now offer two hiking trails directly on the property. The Meadow Trail is a half-mile walk around the field and the wildflowers while the Wilderness Trail is a bit over a mile and takes you through the fields and woods. For those interested in hiking, now they don't even have to leave the property.”
At The Lofthouse, a design-forward cabin nestled in the forest near Colorado Springs, hosts Tarah and Drew have created a serene retreat for those who want to relax, reflect, and create in nature.
To further inspire a lifestyle of intention and connection, The Lofthouse has built a mobile-friendly guest experience portal with ATLIST. The page showcases the property’s add-ons and activities including outdoor movie nights, s’mores kits, and massage services, as well as practical amenities like a “pre-stocked fridge” and locally sourced snack platters.
“We partnered with ATLIST to bring our guests an even more special experience while they are here— by offering amenities, services, and a gift shop! There are so many things we have wanted to offer guests in the past year, and haven’t had the best platform to do that. The team at ATLIST is just the best, coming alongside the work we are already doing by helping us create a platform that we can easily share with guests,” says Tarah.
Through the step-by-step process of customizing their portal, The Lofthouse was able to curate a few experiences guests likely wouldn’t be able to find on their own, including a guided horseback riding session with a lesser-known ranch just a 15-minute drive from the property. Meanwhile, their curated gift boxes—stocked with goodies like handmade beeswax candles and bean-to-bar chocolate—bring the best of the Rocky Mountains directly to guests.
To learn more about how you can collaborate with ATLIST to create a custom guest experience web page for your add-on services, amenities, and activities, please contact us to book a free consultation with a member of our team.