Skift Take

If there is one permanent legacy from the coronavirus pandemic’s grip on the hotel industry, it is likely the move toward technology features that reduce the amount of staff interaction. Google is the latest company to join the movement.

Social distancing guidelines and heightened health and safety measures surrounding the coronavirus pandemic led hotel companies like Hilton and Marriott to encourage the use of mobile apps to check in and even select a room from the comfort of one’s smartphone.

But Google wants to extend the tech push into the guest room.

The technology company is partnering with properties in the U.S. like the Gansevoort Meatpacking near its New York City office and UK-based Village Hotels in offering its Nest Hub smart display as a vehicle for a hands-free stay, Google announced Wednesday.

While the company’s Google Assistant platform enables guests to check out without a trip to the front desk, the Nest Hub can also be used for services like scheduling a wake-up call, ordering fresh towels, or even control the TV and lights.

The move comes as many hotel analysts anticipate the industry will embrace technology features during the recovery from the pandemic in order to give guests the confidence to book a stay.

“Whatever reason is driving you to consider staying in a hotel room, you know you want to take as many precautions as possible,” wrote Google Product Manager Tom Franklin and Google Interaction Design Lead Ben Ginger in a blog post.

Along with the Gansevoort and Village Hotels, Google is initially partnering with the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess hotel in Arizona, California’s Dr. Wilkinson’s Backyard Resort & Mineral Springs, the Gale South Beach and Shelborne South Beach hotels in Miami, Synergy Chelsea in New York City, and the Viceroy hotel and Hotel Zena in Washington, D.C.

Guests simply have to say things like “Hey Google, ask the front desk for more towels,” to utilize the service.

The tech foray into the guest room comes as some of the world’s biggest hotel companies pursue their own contactless endeavors.

Marriott offers mobile check-in and digital keys through its Bonvoy app. Hilton offers these features as well room temperature and lighting adjustments and television remote control features via its Hilton Honors app.

“The core elements of our business, in the long-term, I don’t think any of that is going to change,” Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta said in May. “Certain mechanical elements of the experience are going to be digitized, but that was happening anyway. It’ll just happen faster.”

But the Google tech partnership arrives at a time when privacy concerns are renewed in the industry.

Marriott was named just last week in a London class action lawsuit from millions of former guests regarding a breach of personal data. The world’s largest hotel company announced in 2018 hundreds of millions of customers who stayed at Starwood Hotels & Resorts — which Marriott acquired in 2016 for $13 billion — had their personal information hacked.

Google itself faced privacy scrutiny in 2012 for allegedly tracking iPhone users via third-party software. But the company maintains the Nest Hub will be a secure service.

Guests won’t have to sign in to use the platform, and there will be no camera on the device. The microphone can be turned off, and Google claims no audio will be stored and activities during a stay will be wiped before the next guest checks in.

“While convenience is important, we’re also dedicated to protecting privacy,” Franklin and Ginger wrote.

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Tags: coronavirus, google, google assistant

Photo credit: Google is partnering with hotels in the U.S. and the UK in offering Nest Hub devices as a contactless guest room control. Y2kcrazyjoker4 / Wikimedia

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