Israel’s recovery: Green passports and hotel tech

BHN speaks to one hotel brand and one technology supplier in Israel to hear what travel and hospitality looks like in a post-Covid world.

  • What are the travel limitations currently in Israel? What are your thoughts on Covid passports — do you think they’ll be introduced globally?

David Mezuman, founder and CEO of Duve

New Covid regulations have proven extremely successful in ensuring guest safety and have been the key in the reopening and recovery of the hospitality industry.

Currently — Green passports work mostly through an official app. Every adult that has been vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19 can sign up and be issued a ‘green passport’. The passport is a live video screen in order to prevent fraud.

Adults can use the passport to enter concerts, restaurants and of course, hotels. Without the passport or a document stating proof of antibodies or recovery from Covid-19, you will not be able to stay at hotels in Israel. This is a requirement for everyone over the age of 16 as children are not vaccinated yet. Children under 16 are required to provide a negative Covid test taken at least 72 hours prior to check-in day.

Of course these new regulations require hotels to reach out to guests immediately after booking — to let them know what to expect on arrival, particularly about new procedures that have been put in place, or which documents must be provided.

As for whether the passports can be introduced globally, there is no reason why green passports shouldn’t be introduced internationally. They are proven to be successful and have the potential to boost international travel.

The problem is that they require a lot of policy making and must become a universal standard for crossing borders. So unfortunately for the near future I believe that fast, on-site Covid-19 testing to check for the coronavirus is the solution for international travelers.

In the meantime, the Covid-19 situation is going so well locally that they will probably stop using the green passports domestically altogether in a short period of time.

  • What does hospitality look like in Tel Aviv, an area where most of the population is vaccinated?

David Mezuman, founder and CEO of Duve

Travellers are regaining confidence in the ability to go on a safe holiday. Occupancy rates are high reaching 50–70 per cent, hotel pricing is up accordingly and people are eager to travel after a very challenging year. Since hotels have been open for several months travellers have full confidence in the new system and nothing is holding people back from booking their holiday.

The current challenge is restoring international tourism and having clear universal standards for hotels. People want to know that the hotel is operating in a way that ensures their safety.

  • What’s changed in terms of hotel operations? Have any new solutions been needed?

David Mezuman, founder and CEO of Duve

The most prominent change is levels of uncertainty around travelling. Guests need to receive accurate and reliable information from the hotel regarding their destination and their stay. Especially now, guests need the sense of security and are entirely open to engaging with hotels digitally, which is a great opportunity to gain a loyal customer base and offer more experiences.

At the same time, travellers have high expectations. Going on holiday is more emotional than ever and hotels can’t miss the opportunity to impress their guests with up to date and constant communication.

After a year like 2020, the typical guest has many questions regarding the hotel’s operations, what amenities are open such as the pool, SPA, the gym etc. Hotels need to share a lot of information with guests but also become available to answer questions. This is usually managed either by automated messages through SMS and WhatsApp. Shared links lead the guests to the hotel’s personal guest app, where they can view updated information or by QR stands deployed at the common areas and in the guest rooms.

While many hotels may be operating with reduced staff or limited services, they must find ways to improve in other areas and elevate the guest experience to exceed travellers’ expectations. The Setai, for example, one of the hotels working with Duve, offers a free Covid test in the hotel lobby so people arriving with children can complete this upon arrival and get quick results within the hour. It’s a service they wanted to provide to accommodate their guests and it has been very efficient.

In order to live up to expectations, and come out stronger in the post-Covid world, hoteliers must rely on technology to fill in the gaps, using both new solutions and tools to handle tasks that were previously handled by their teams, and taking their interaction with guests to the next level. Customising a guest’s stay and communicating with them directly is key.

  • How are hotels in Israel adopting and using technology, and has there been any surprises?

Gil Einy, chief information officer, Brown Hotels

Even before Covid, we were searching for a system that would allow us to take guest communication to the next level and communicate alongside our brand. Of course Covid really accelerated the need for it.

The more we take charge of the communication the better results we see. Our online check-in rate is over 50 per cent and we were able to sell out on our local market tour through Duve. The system is simple to use and it’s a great opportunity to offer additional value to guests, which is especially important during these times.

We send guests updates regarding everything from parking updates to breakfast and it has opened a whole new way for them to experience the hotels. We are seeing results from sharing extra information and recommendations and travellers are feeling more comfortable engaging with us digitally before arriving.

  • What’s the next evolutionary step in hotel tech?

Gil Einy, chief information officer, Brown Hotels

I believe the next step in tech is relying less on manual tasks and having tech solutions operate more independently. This requires a very accurate level of automation and segmentation to make sure all the communication is personalised to the guest, but it’s where we are headed.

There will always be a place for personal face-to-face interaction with guests and nothing can ever change that, but there is so much that can happen to perfect the experience. I believe that hoteliers will realise that automation will allow them to reach a quality connection with their guests that will turn them into loyal customers.

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