Hotels face labor shortages, protocol adherence challenges, and slow recovery. Here's how video technology can help.
As COVID-19 concerns ease and governments worldwide lift travel restrictions, the hotel industry is hopeful of returning to business as usual. According to STR, the consumer travel outlook is better in the short term amid increasing cost pressures, declining travel disruption, and fewer COVID-19 concerns.
But the hotels have several challenges to overcome as they reopen, ranging from labor shortages to protocol adherence and economic uncertainties. The industry’s success depends on how well they are able to deal with these challenges and any fears of a global recession.
This is where physical security solutions and video analytics can play an important role. This article explores the main challenges that hotels face and how video analytics can help the industry overcome them.
Challenges to overcome
As COVID-19 wreaked havoc worldwide, many people working in hotels and resorts left their jobs to find means in other industries. Many are not interested in returning to their jobs even after the pandemic. According to Amol Kulkarni, Co-founder and VP of Dragonfruit AI, improving market conditions only worsens the problem.
“When speaking of the challenges in the hotel industry, the overarching theme, cutting across job functions, is the severe labor shortage,” Kulkarni said. “Even though tourists and travelers are returning – sometimes in record numbers – the hospitality industry is unable to meet the demand because they simply don’t have the skilled employees like before.”
Verghese Thirumala, CEO of the Malaysia-based systems integrator Maxitulin, agreed to this, adding that those who left the industry may not return and poses a severe problem in the short term.
“The biggest challenge hotels face now is manpower shortage,” explains Thirumala. “This is affecting their ability to revamp the services. Many tourism and hotel professionals moved into other sectors when COVID-19 impacted the industry. Some started restaurants or food stalls of their own and find it a better career option now. These people don’t intend to return, and that is a problem.”
Other challenges that hotels face now include adhering to constantly evolving healthcare protocols. Although the overall threat of COVID-19 appears to have eased, the process of lifting restrictions is not moving at the same pace everywhere. For instance, while much of the Western world has completely opened to life without constraints, countries like China remain strict on the physical movement of people. Hotels have to adjust and adhere to these changing protocols quickly.
Finally, the economic uncertainties and the slow recovery are also posing challenges. Hotels must remain wary of their costs and ready for any potential downturn. Thirumala pointed out that Chinese tourists were a significant source of revenue for hotel industries in many countries. The recovery will remain slow until China opens its borders for its people to travel freely.
How video analytics can help
Over recent years, video analytics has become popular in many industries. Software and algorithms have created a paradigm shift in security, turning cameras and other devices into proactive systems that can prevent incidents. For the hotel industry, video analytics offers several advantages in the current situation.
“There are many ways video analytics can help,” Thirumala said. “For instance, because of the shortage of workers, there is a limited number of guards. This means security cannot reach everywhere. But fortunately, a combination of video analytics and static guards make a powerful security system.”
For instance, if an incident occurs where there is no guard patrol, video analytics can trigger an alarm, capture the images, and instantly send alerts to guards through their mobile phones or other systems. Since guards can see the issue in real-time, they can take quick and appropriate action.
“Then there are features like facial detection and identification that allows security officers to know when a potential threat enters the premises instantly,” Thirumala said. “It can also help improve services by whitelisting VIP customers and providing them instant premium support.”
According to Kulkarni, the critical point is that analytics leverages your existing surveillance systems to improve operations and security and lower costs. For instance, hotels can do away with employing several staff at a parking lot if they use analytics-based access control solutions.
“You don't need to have someone manually collect details of every vehicle that's coming in and going out,” Kulkarni said. “You can rely on video analytics to do at least some of the inspections and automate the reports, freeing up the limited staff you have for more critical roles. Another use case example is monitoring queue lengths and crowds at reception areas. Analytics can detect when crowds gather, or queue becomes long, helping managers optimize staff and resources accordingly.”
Obviously, this is just the tip of the iceberg for hotels but an essential factor to note is that analytics can help hotels overcome the challenges they currently face. By optimizing staff, cutting costs, and improving operational efficiency, hotels can lower their concerns when returning to business. To give an example, one of Thirumala’s clients, who had around 300 guards, was able to bring the number down to about 84 with the use of video analytics.
The need for more awareness
Video analytics has received much attention lately. But a surprising fact is that many security professionals remain unaware of the benefits that algorithms can add to traditional security systems. This is where more awareness is required.
Thirumala explained that from his experience, many security officials are excellent at investigation and risk analysis but don’t know much about technological developments. Integrators and solution providers can work together to change this situation through training programs targeted at end users.
Significantly, many solution providers are also following a vertical-centric approach that caters to the specific needs of a sector. The problems that a hotel face is different from those of a retail store. Knowing this and providing customized features helps end users even better.