As hotel automation technology develops, hospitality professionals at all levels, from owners and operators to general managers and sales directors, are automating more and more of their standard operating procedures.
In this guide, we take an in-depth look at the latest trends in hotel automation and analyze why the demand for automated services is growing in the hospitality industry. We review the latest developments in automated technology, discuss how industry experts are using hotel automation to streamline operations, and identify strategies for using hotel automation to boost productivity.
To understand why hotel automation is having such a massive impact on hospitality and tourism, we need to first dig into what hotel automation is and how it works.
What is hotel automation?
Hotel automation is the process of turning manual, time-consuming tasks and procedures into automated processes. Automation services use digital systems to complete hotel processes formerly completed by hotel employees. They operate based on settings, rules, and parameters established by the implementing user, and continue to perform necessary hotel processes on behalf of the business, even when no managers are on-property to actively manage the systems.
Hotel owners, operators, and managers utilize hotel automation systems to optimize operations while maintaining control of the hotel. Automated systems may be used to manage hotel inventory, optimize room rates, track market changes, and improve the guest experience.
The industry-driving hotel automation trend
Duetto, a hospitality application supplier, conducted a market survey of hospitality professionals in their 2022 Revenue Outlook & Trends report. Respondents were asked a myriad of questions regarding their recent experiences in the travel industry, their response to the latest hospitality trends, and how they are preparing their hotels for success in the future.
Of the 210 industry professionals surveyed, 77.6% of respondents said they plan to increase their spending on hotel technology in the next three years. The report further concluded that hotel automation and system integration are fast becoming viewed as critical tools for success, especially for hotels located in competitive markets. 56.2% of respondents also anticipate that automation will be extremely important to hotel revenue management in 2022, even more than in past years.
So, why is hotel automation expanding so rapidly?
The rapid growth of hotel automation, as well as traveler demand for automated services, is directly related to the benefits that automated services are providing to hotels and their guests.
What are the benefits of hotel automation?
By automating a variety of hotel operations, hoteliers are able to minimize operational expenses while maximizing the value offered to guests. Automating time-consuming hotel operating processes can benefit the business by:
- Reducing labor costs
- Supporting short-staffed teams
- Streamlining operational services
- Powering up hotel sales management
- Improving the guest experience
- Enticing tech-savvy travelers
- Forecasting demand more accurately
- Optimizing rate level utilization
- Driving additional hotel revenue
- Increasing occupancy percentages
- Enhancing hotel communications
- Cutting hotel expenses
While some hotels opt to completely overhaul their systems, automating the majority of their operational processes all at once, others may choose to automate gradually, slowly implementing new automated processes as their budget and training capacity allows.
Which processes can hotels automate?
Hotel automation needs vary by property, but the vast majority of hotels can benefit from some form of operational automation. Here are 10 common processes and services that hotel professionals are automating to increase efficiency, productivity, and drive revenue.
1. System integration services
Many hotel revenue managers are moving towards automated revenue management systems that have the ability to integrate RFP management, pricing tools, and hotel inventory systems.
As rooms are booked at the hotel, automated hotel systems communicate and update to ensure that accurate availability is shown to guests booking directly, through the hotel’s website, on third-party sites, or on RFP management platforms. Instead of manually tracking and inputting data from one system to another, revenue managers are using hotel automation to ensure that real-time changes are reflected accurately in the property’s CRM, revenue, inventory, and sales systems.
2. Business intelligence reporting
Track how the competition is performing and stay up-to-date on changes in your market with automated business intelligence reporting. Identify which hotels are in your comp set and keep an eye on how well your hotel is performing against the competition. Regularly review automated reporting to catch occupancy, RevPAR, and rate changes in the market early.
3. Optimized pricing and rate utilization
Use an automated revenue management system to optimize your hotel’s pricing and rate level utilization strategies. When strong demand levels are detected (as occupancy or pickup patterns increase), set your RMS to automatically adjust which hotel rate levels are available to promote optimal pricing patterns and maximize revenue potential. In opposition, when demand is low, the RMS may optimize to offer additional discounted rates, extended stay promotions, or other limited-time offers intended to drive business to your property.
4. Empower your sales department
Hotels that book large amounts of group business are automating room block management, giving themselves more time to focus on finding new business. Offer group contacts or travel planners tools to manage their group reservations, update rooming lists, and take on other group management tasks, freeing up your sales team.
With new automated event technology available, such as instant-book meetings, hotel sales teams are maximizing their revenue potential by offering event planners the ability to book meeting and event space in just a few clicks. Invest in automated event diagramming software to showcase meeting layouts to potential bookers, manage event contracts, and automatically distribute BEOs to your team.
5. Automated marketing
Use automated ad retargeting tools to capture individuals who visited the hotel’s website and showed interest in the property, perhaps by viewing a guest room or touring the meeting space, but didn’t follow through and confirm a booking. Retargeted ads reach out to intrigued travelers, agents, and planners to further entice them to book.
6. Automated guest messaging
Automated procedures can help prevent overbooking, failing to complete guest requests, and unnecessarily disturbing guests. Through hotel automation, things like service requests, preference notes, and guest messages are automatically assigned to a team member with a trackable task attached. Set task status updates and employee questions to be shared automatically with applicable departments, improving staff communication, task completion rates, and overall productivity.
In addition to aiding in-house communications, hoteliers also implement automated messaging systems to stay in touch with guests, promote repeat travel, and reduce no-show rates. Automatically send guests hotel booking confirmations, reservation reminders, deposit details, cut-off reminders, and more. Send guests a summary of their receipt after checkout with any applicable hotel loyalty program rewards or points updates.
7. Automated billing
Automated billing tools can help hoteliers reduce chargebacks by automatically authorizing credit cards upon arrival for room rates, taxes, additional fees, and a hold for potential incidental charges. Hoteliers can also use hotel automation tools to streamline guest billing. By automating the billing procedure for hotel amenities, in-room services, and similar guest expenses, and setting all charges to post directly on a guest’s bill, hoteliers can reduce the chance of fees for services falling through the cracks.
Additional advances in hotel automation technology have given hoteliers the power to track and charge for billable guest activities. Automated hotel mini bars, for example, use sensors to sense changes in inventory and communicate that information to the hotel’s property management system, updating room charges appropriately.
8. RFP management
Use automated RFP tools to manage your RFPs more efficiently. Revenue managers and sales managers at hotels of varying sizes can use hotel automation to rank incoming leads, send proposals, or automatically turn down RFPs that are not a good fit for your hotel. Don’t waste time responding to leads that your hotel cannot accommodate; whether due to group size, event requirements, or other pre-set stipulations, hotel automation can be used to turn down the wrong pieces of business quickly.
9. Upsell services
Automated upsell services provide guests the opportunity to upgrade their booking prior to confirmation by enticing them with automated upselling campaigns. Automated upsell tools may showcase upgraded room types, offer additional dining services, highlight high-end amenities, or display other optional hotel services available for purchase.
10. Mobile check-in services
With the popularity of mobile hotel booking on the rise, 40% of 2021 hotel bookings were completed on a mobile device, double the number of mobile bookings completed in 2019. Showing no signs of slowing down, KPMG and Facebook forecast that 9 in 10 hotel bookings will be completed on mobile devices in 2022.
To keep up with the growing guest demand for mobile booking technology, properties all over the world are implementing hotel mobile check-in services. By adopting mobile-friendly guest services, hotels are able to use automated check-in tools to lighten the workload on short-staffed front desk teams, save on labor costs, and improve the guest experience.
Hotel automation tools for guests
In addition to revolutionizing hotel operations, hoteliers are implementing automated hotel technology to improve the guest experience. In an increasingly digital age, where many guests want to get where they’re going now, hotels are investing in more automated resources for guests, such as:
- Digital room keys: Improve guest satisfaction and optimize guest check-in services by allowing travelers to bypass the front desk altogether. Through digital check-in services and contactless hotel apps, guests are able to use their cell phone as a digital key. Upon arrival, they can head straight to their room and open the door with a quick swipe of their mobile key.
- Check-in kiosks: An exciting hotel automation tool, many travelers have never interacted with a digital kiosk before. Offer guests a new, immersive experience by providing a digital kiosk that performs check-in services. Installing a digital check-in kiosk in the lobby can also help prevent crowded lines at the front desk by speeding up the arrival process for hotel guests.
- Interactive/Informational kiosk: Program an interactive kiosk to act as a digital concierge for guests. In the hotel lobby, hotel guests can visit the concierge kiosk for a weather update, local traffic reports, to check airline arrivals and departures, locate nearby events, and so much more.
- Digital menu boards: Hotels that offer on-site dining services and room services can benefit from automated F&B technology. Touchscreen restaurant menus allow hotel guests to quickly order to-go meals. The digital menu sends guest orders directly to the kitchen staff, allowing the restaurant staff to focus more of their attention on seated diners. In-room digital menus send room service orders and automatically track charges on the guest’s bill, minimizing the hotel’s risk of failing to recoup charges for services provided.
- Automated request messaging: Through the use of in-room digital hotel technology, guests can request housekeeping services, select “do not disturb” preferences, or even order a spa package, and their request will automatically be routed to the correct department.
Getting the hotel automation process started
Automating operations at your hotel doesn’t have to be a stressful or overwhelming process. It can be difficult to pinpoint where to get started, so we’ve compiled a few tips to help.
1. Don’t over-automate operating processes or try to revolutionize procedures too quickly, as this can easily lead to user error and incorrectly setting up new operations. Undergoing a complete hotel digital transformation takes time, money, staff training, and a carefully allocated hotel budget.
2. Identify the most inefficient operations at your hotel to determine where hotel automation will have the most benefit first. For example:
- Which areas of the hotel need the most improvement?
- Which department has the highest labor costs?
- Which staff positions are you having the most difficulty filling?
- Which expenses have you been struggling to minimize?
3. Determine how much automation is right for your property. Automation potential can vary greatly from hotel to hotel, and hotel automation works much differently for a small boutique hotel than it does for a large chain hotel. System integration and hotel automation can be an expensive undertaking; only pay for the automation services that make sense for your hotel.
4. As you automate new hotel procedures, test them for accuracy before making the changes live. An incorrectly automated procedure, such as a room type inventory or rate loading error, can easily go unnoticed, and an incorrectly programmed system may not catch the error before compromising the hotel’s performance.
5. Look for compatible automation systems that will work with hotel systems you already have in place for the most affordable and seamless integration.
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Next up, we review the ins and outs of targeted hotel marketing in our comprehensive advertising guide for hotel professionals. Explore a variety of hotel marketing styles, strategies, and tips for expanding your audience reach while driving more business to your hotel.