Wednesday, May 22, 2024

The Receptionist is Dead – Why Hotels Need to Embrace Automation

The world is becoming more and more automated in all aspects, and this trend will continue. Automation has two main functions. The first is that it makes life easier for everyone. And secondly, and the most important for businesses, is that it helps increase revenue. With this in mind it raises the question: Why are hotels so awfully slow at adapting new technologies?

Let’s look towards airlines as an example, they are very good at embracing new technology. There are very few airlines that don’t have either online check in or self service kiosks, everything that can make travel as smooth and efficient as possible. Today it is unthinkable in most places to go to a check in counter and waste 45 minutes to get your boarding pass, when you can get it directly on your phone. So why are hotels so slow to adapt? You could argue that there are fewer airlines, so you have to stick to their ways. Fair point, but all airlines still have the option to choose check in via their counter. Check in via counter at airlines is expected to drop from 49% in 2017 to 26% in 2020. This is illustrative of how people would choose to check in given the options in a hotel environment as well. It’s difficult for consumers to use a technology when it’s not readily available to them to use.

Another aspect is the feeling of difference and superiority among hotel managers. If you ask 1,000 random hotel managers if they feel their hotel is unique and different from other hotels, chances are you will get 1,000 positive answers. But the hard fact is that almost none of them are. Truth of the matter is, most hotels are just another tool for guests to get a night’s sleep, and the cheaper they can get this the better. Of course, you have hotels that offer 5 star services, where they even make your bed ready at night, but that’s not what the average guest is looking for, and these guests don’t care about price at all. Time and time again studies find that price is the decisive factor for why guests choose price over any other factor. Except for location though, because location is actually the determinant factor for guests when deciding hotel. But let’s not bring that into the equation because you wouldn’t book a hotel in Paris when you are going to London. Let’s get back to reality.

When elevators first came they needed an operator, but automation made this redundant. Of course this person had to be paid, and in the end who ended up with the bill? Yes, the guest! Today if you ask guests if they would like to pay more money for their stay if you have an elevator operator, what do you think the answer would be? The same applies to a receptionist. What do you actually need the receptionist for? To give information to the guests you say. Sorry, but a receptionist will never be able to obtain Google’s up to date knowledge or have the varied opinions of TripAdvisor. Most are insistent on having a receptionist though. Maybe to tell the guests about the facilities in the hotel? This is something that the guest can read about on the website or even in a leaflet in the room. The receptionist has outplayed his/her role in the hotel world. Almost everybody has a smartphone these days, and they can use them to find any information they want, as long as the information is readily available.

Hotels can also be excused for being hesitant to take on technology because they have seen the drawbacks of automation. A lot of hotels jumped on the hotel automation train when it first came. But unfortunately for them they were on the wrong platform, the Bluetooth platform. It has become evident that Bluetooth as a technology for hotel automation systems has been a failure. It’s a great technology, but not for this specific use. This requires guests to actually use Bluetooth, and how do you solve the fact that people run out of batteries? No battery = no Bluetooth. Then usually with the Bluetooth technology comes an application you have to download. Automation is supposed to make life easier for everybody involved, not harder. So maybe it’s not so much lack of willingness among hotels to try automation as it is scepticism to the tested and failed technologies.

Then there is the argument that having a reception free hotel will make it feel cold and empty when checking in and there is nobody there. That is a fair point, but as long as price is the determinant factor for why a guest is choosing a hotel over another one, then automation is the only way to go. There is a reason why airlines such as Ryanair EasyJet and Norwegian have become so popular. Price!

GetShop has worked many years on perfecting hotel automation. GetShop delivers the most advanced, yet simplest hotel PMS on the market, that is fully integrated with APAC (automated property access control). Our experience tells us that guests want automation more than the hotels themselves. This is an interesting observation, but not a surprising one. At the end of the day people want to be able to check in as conveniently as possible and at the lowest price, and that is done easiest with no human interaction, no downloads and no Bluetooth.

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