The future of hotels is sleek... but oh-so impersonal

Hospitality hasn't stalled during the pandemic, but it has shifted to a new operations model.
Written by Greg Nichols, Contributing Writer

As the hotel and hospitality sectors are suffering under pandemic-related travel and recreation restrictions, an outlier may point the way to a new paradigm for hotel guests. It's efficient, sanitary, and oh so impersonal.

The company, Jurny, Inc., creates SaaS-based management solutions for short-term rentals. Its triple-digit growth during the pandemic is an early clue of what kind of reality awaits travelers when restrictions finally ease.

One of the most fascinating exercises during the pandemic is to compare various companies' sales pitches prior to the outbreak with their current marketing language. Robotics, which I cover, is a prime example. While most automation firms prior to the pandemic went out of their way to avoid suggesting their technology would replace humans, the latest wave of pitches boasts that various products can reduce health-related down time and increase sanitation. 

Likewise, Jurny, based in Los Angeles, made its splash leaning its value add for boutique hotels and multi-family building owners, whom the company's platform could help convert rooms and units into furnished, automated, suites quickly and efficiently. That's still the core ambition, but the company is now rightly hyping its contactless services, which guests are more likely to trust under threat from infectious disease.

The company's timing was exquisite. It officially launched its technology earlier this year and has reported 200% growth with occupancy rates double the industry standard during peak hotel closures due to the pandemic. 

"Profit margins in the hospitality industry have always been vulnerable to market fluctuations, including seasonal downturns, staff turnover and price competition, making the impact of the global pandemic catastrophic across the industry," said David Phillips, co-founder and president of Jurny. "Our platform and services streamline operations, reduce redundancies by an average of 70% and automate services to offer a contactless solution, which is crucial for many hotel operators." 

Jurny recently entered agreements to integrate its reservation and unit management systems to operate three new Miami locations, a city that's been heavily hit during the pandemic. In Nashville, the company finalized an agreement to operate the high-end boutique 121 Hotel.  

When a property owner contracts with Jurny, the company analyzes the property and upgrades it with smart home technology that can be operated entirely remotely or autonomously. Naturally, guests can book units and manage their entire stay through the Jurny app, with access to single-touch check-in and check-out, 24/7 virtual customer support, keyless entry, temperature control, WiFi connection and on-demand cleaning services that follow a 150-point CDC-compliant checklist. 

That automated, contact-free experience is a huge selling point, and while larger hotel chains are coming around, startups like Jurny are pointing the way to the new face of hospitality. And make no mistake, that face will be digital.

"Larger hotel brands have more resources and easier access to technologies and infrastructure to help them overcome this pandemic, leaving boutique hotels at risk for closure without an affordable option to upgrade," said Tim Burrow, owner of the 121 Hotel. "We selected Jurny based on its ability to drive bookings and its advanced, unique technology that seemed ahead of its time. In the first two weeks of opening, it outperformed my most optimistic expectations in net operating income, guest satisfaction and taking care of every detail of the business and building management. My worry of the effect of COVID-19 on the hotel vanished virtually overnight."

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