Despite the tourism and hospitality industries taking a billion-dollar hit due to the coronavirus pandemic, a new hotel is coming to the East Market Street corridor — with upgraded tech features that make contactless visits possible. It’s a sign of a shift to a new reality for travelers in Philly and beyond.
Canopy by Hilton will be opening at 1180 Ludlow St. on Aug. 3, with a suite of tools in its Hilton Honors app that will allow guests to book reservations, check in, open doors and control the temperature without physical keys or in-person contact.
The building — originally constructed in 1896 — was torn down to the studs and rebuilt, said Ryan Todd, Canopy’s director of sales and marketing, allowing developers to introduce many high-tech hospitality features.
While these contactless and app-based tech upgrades have been in the works since before the pandemic (and the Hilton app has existed since 2015), the team sees how they might allow for travelers to feel safer, Todd said. It was initially designed for a frequent or business traveler in mind — someone who knows the routine of staying in a hotel and wants to the convenience factor of being in control of the logistics.
The app allows for a visitor to choose and check in to their room, to have a digital room key, and to control the temperature and the television once inside without contact. And the 236-room hotel is LEED certified, meaning it meets eco-friendly measures, and new upgrades to the technology, like digital thermostat control, can conserve energy until a guest is about to return to their room.
“You don’t have to say anything to anybody, or touch anything except for the elevator and the door handle,” Todd said.
The app can also control the TV like a remote, and give access to streaming services and bluetooth sound systems. There’s technology in the works to get the lighting in the room app-controlled as well, Todd said.
The pandemic has certainly changed the hospitality industry, Todd said, as it’s usually about bringing people physically together. The hotel won’t be having a large opening party like it usually would, he said, and the opening was delayed about four months because of the pandemic. But it’s given the hotel’s team time to prepare for the new realities of hospitality in the COVID-19 era.
“Usually hospitality is about seeing people, bringing people together,” Todd said. “But it’s really about being a good host, and if tech makes us more able to make [guests] comfortable while they’re traveling, that’s what we want.”
The question now is, will people come?
Earlier this month, tourism agency Visit Philadelphia launched a database for hospitality jobs in the city, as CEO Jeff Guaracino, noted that 44,000 leisure and hospitality jobs had been lost between February and April. As of Thursday morning, few open positions were available on the listed platforms.