Guests can choose the level of interaction they want with the staff, with the property and with other guests and their behaviour patterns overtime can help in further improving their experience at a hotel.
The pandemic has hit the business world hard, but a few have been hit as hard as the hospitality industry. The road to recovery here is steep but also ripe with opportunities to rebuild completely as per changing preferences of travellers. AI-backed, identity verification has a huge role to play in the new ecosystem. Let’s discuss how.
Think of a typical check-in process at most hotels in India. You present an ID and wait for 10-15 minutes on an average for it to get validated. The validation process, in most cases, is a mere formality. Guests are manually verified, if at all, against the submitted ID document, which a naked eye is not equipped to assess for tampering and spoofing. Evaluate this against the fact that around 45 per cent of Indian adults have experienced online identity theft in their lifetime (a Norton report). Two things happen here — hotels create heavy friction for guests at check-in, and they leave a lot of room for a lapse in security in the absence of any real verification of an identity. It is a lose-lose situation that has had real-life consequences in terms of terrorism attacks, on-site illegal activity, underage check-ins etc. that we all read about on a regular basis.
Data hotels collect from guests comes under Personal Identifiable Information (PII). Moreover, India is on its way to bring in the Personal Data Protection Bill (PDP) that states requirements for notice and prior consent for the use of individual data, limitations on the purposes for which data can be processed by companies, and restrictions to ensure that only data necessary for providing a service to the individual in question is collected. The current state of data management at hotels is bleak with precious guest data buried in piles of paper, prone to identity thefts. Even digital data, where it exists, remains unprotected in the absence of systems that feature in-built data protection.
The disruption in the past couple of years has broken set notions about expected guest behaviour in Indian hotels. Some of the trends that are noteworthy are rise of staycations over luxury holidays, preference for 100% remote check-in procedures, use of smart tech to minimise contact and a keen interest in knowing who you are sharing the hotel space without ever having to meet them.
Consequently, we have seen an increasing number of hotels talking about vaccination histories of staff, insisting on vaccination certificates from guests and creating social bubbles to make their guests feel safe even if this means compromising on hotel luxuries that thrive on human contact such as pools, spas, and recreation centres. Safety is taking precedence over luxury and technology is being seen as the ultimate enabler of safe hotel spaces. In a global traveller survey by Amadeus, 34% of those surveyed said they would like to see tech minimize face-to-face or physical contact with others. Indian travellers also favoured technologies that would reduce queues and congestion in public places (32%), protect financial data and personal information (32%) and reduce the requirement of physical documents (31%).
Digital Identity Verification fits perfectly in the toolkit of a modern hotelier looking to address guest safety, reduce friction and build data protection systems from the get-go to stay ahead of the regulation. Cutting-edge technologies like image recognition prohibits document tampering in real-time. Biometric verification technologies like liveness detection and voice authentication validates the identity produced by the individual and ensures authenticity. OCR engines have made complicated form-filling redundant, across industries and functions. Moreover, these technologies are highly scalable, tested in more regulated industries like BFSI and work even in areas with low internet bandwidth. They are mobile-friendly to seamlessly fit in the life of millennials and Gen Z. In terms of accessibility, there are plenty of third-party service providers who offer these technologies through APIs or on their dedicated platforms that are built on plug-and-play models.
If used rightly, these technologies can become part of a more powerful data-driven, tech ecosystem where personalised guest onboarding becomes commonplace. Guests can choose the level of interaction they want with the staff, with the property and with other guests and their behaviour patterns overtime can help in further improving their experience at a hotel. In the long-term, the benefits of comprehensive identity verification at hotels can also extend beyond just the hospitality ecosystem to include social benefits like decrease in crime rates, and illegal activities like trafficking and drugs that target hotels as venues.
Arjit Bhargava is the Senior Vice President, Business Solutions, AuthBridge Research Services
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