The Future of Hospitality: How We Survived 2020 & What We Hope for 2021

Gabriel Weisz

There’s no roadmap for surviving a global pandemic when you’re a hospitality tech company. Suddenly, everything we thought we could count on went out the window, and the playing field was unlike anything we’d seen before. Business verticals once viewed as rock solid nearly disappeared overnight; industry growth trends and projections felt hollow and unreliable due to a lack of data. 

When our team started working on Kontactless in 2019, bringing the power of contactless technology to hotels, restaurants, and event venues had us inspired and motivated by the potential on the horizon. Then COVID-19 hit and we were forced to reset, re-think, and re-evaluate both our business strategies and goals. 

No one said that running a tech company was easy, but after learning to look past the obstacles to uncover new opportunities, the experience has proven to be an extremely enriching one. Today, our platform is active across 12 states as well as Canada, and is on track to be in 25 states by the end of Q2 2021. 

Last year taught us innumerable lessons and gave us the space to think laterally about how to carry our product into the future. As we settle into the new year, it felt like a good moment to reflect on insights gained as well as make some predictions for 2021. 

Rolling with the Punches

Three months into 2020, lockdown restrictions forced our clients — hotels, restaurants, and event venues — to cease operations until further notice. There was no guarantee that business would pick up again, or that certain things, like indoor dining, concerts, or conventions, would be part of the “new normal.” 

However, the push to minimize human interaction, prioritize health and safety protocols, and inspire customer confidence set the stage for an exponential adoption of contactless technology. Previously considered experimental, contactless solutions quickly became a “must-have” for hospitality operators. Offering digital menus and mobile payment options via QR code were no longer remote possibilities, they were integral parts to reopening strategies everywhere. 

Prior industry experience through our legacy product Kallpod gave us a leg up in this new context. By understanding and anticipating our partners’ needs, we could adapt to identify innovative applications for our contactless tech. We went beyond traditional - and static - set-ups, allowing hotels to include more dynamic services, like in-room dining, order-ahead breakfast, or virtual mini-bars and convenience stores for greater flexibility. Guests can also use the platform to make housekeeping requests, such as if they need extra towels or new linens. The added benefit of our web-based model favors greater user-adoption rates, which translates into more revenue for our clients. 

We hit a few bumps along the way, of course. Some clients had to close their doors for good, while others had to weigh the risks of reopening for service with a reduced team of staff and the impact it could have on the guest experience. When faced with these challenges, we looked for ways to expand their service offerings without driving up operational costs. Essentially, we acted as their guides through the first key phases of digital transformation

Blue Skies Ahead?

This flexibility and willingness to adapt has paid off. We’ve reflected on what works, tapping into the power of personalization to drive growth opportunities, finding renewed value in our deep knowledge that comes from years in the hospitality industry. Staying nimble throughout 2020 allowed us to face the new year with solid insights and restructured priorities. 

While there’s no crystal ball to predict how things will play out in the coming months, at Kontactless we remain hopeful. In a space that might appear oversaturated, brands that are able to think ahead of the curve will see the best results. It’s important not to bite off more than one can chew, however; organizations that focus on what they do best will forge deeper connections with their partners and take more strategic, informed risks

Surviving 2020 was no simple task. There were moments of extreme doubt, stress, and uncertainty, when the panorama seemed as dark as it could possibly get. But we’ve managed to make it this far, and we’re proud of the work we’re doing for our clients. Helping them turn this formidable reality into a situation where they can grow and flourish is what inspires us the most. 

Rather than yearn for a return to how things were before the pandemic, we’re confident that the impact of digital transformation — spearheaded by contactless technology — will usher in a new era of hospitality even better than the last.

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