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Case Study – Fully Automated Smarthotel

Thanks to the HotelTime Solutions systems and a wide range of integration options that HotelTime offers, a fully automated smart hotel could have been built in Olomouc. 

Main benefits of using HotelTime

  • Enables fully automated operation
  • Enables hotel to run self-service restaurant
  • Significant reduction of costs for staff
  • Reduced costs for IT administration

“In 2018 we were choosing a system for our first completely self-service ART and design hotel. We decided for HotelTime and after 4 years I have to say that the choice was a right one. Not only that HotelTime systems function well, are intuitive and offer perfect reporting, you are also in contact with a friendly and nice team. We never felt like we bother them.”

Marek Novotny,
Owner, Nezvalova Archa

A unique concept of smart hotel

In the centre of Olomouc, you can stay in a fully automated smart hotel Nezvalova Archa, which corresponds with current trends in hotel accommodation. The whole concept of this smart hotel is based on HotelTime Solutions systems. It uses the potential of an open platform and the possibility of integration with many other systems, which in general enables automation of any hotel operation according to the specific preferences of its team.

As was said, in Olomouc they decided on full automation so guests of Nezvalova Archa do not need anyone from personnel from the beginning to the end of a stay, they can arrange everything themselves only with the help of a mobile phone.

HotelTime PMS

The operation of Nezvalova Archa is based on the HotelTime PMS and Vento ePOS system (more information below). PMS, together with other software that is connected to it, automates accommodation services. In the case of Nezvalova Archa, the integration of HotelTime PMS with Profitroom, MyStay and Salto is used.

The hotel works as follows. Guests book rooms online, then an automatic message instructs them about arrival and about (also online) check-in. Nezvalova Archa uses mobile keys, so guests do not need to pick up anything upon arrival. They just receive a message before arrival stating that they need to download an app from Salto. Afterward, they receive a mobile key through this app, thanks to which they can unlock every door – the main entrance, their room, or a self-service restaurant (which is described below). HotelTime and Salto built a special integration so that the mobile keys could work properly.

Also at the end of a stay guests benefit from the automatic operation of the hotel. Guests do not have to wait for check-out, do not have to hand in any key or card, or pay anything. They can simply leave. Payment for the stay is made in advance, whether you make the reservation through the hotel’s website or other portals like Booking.com.

Nezvalova Archa uses Profitroom as channel manager. Thanks to the integration between their software and HotelTime, it is possible to also buy gift vouchers through the hotel’s website.

Vento ePOS

Nezvalova Archa also offers a unique concept of restaurant services, which is possible thanks to Vento ePOS system from HotelTime Solutions.

As the hotel is fully automated, it does not have a typical restaurant. Instead, guests will find a kitchen with a variety of food and drinks to choose from. If they want or need anything, they simply enter the restaurant/kitchen, select the food and/or drinks, mark everything at the self-service cash registers and pay. In addition, it is also possible to cook there.

 

Overall, guests operate fully independently, and the smart hotel completely automatically. However, if anyone needs help, a manager is present in the hotel during the day and a member of the hotel staff can be also contacted by telephone at any time.

Improving Guests’ Journey: Automation in Hospitality

Reduction of manual errors, reduction of employee workload, an improvement of productivity and promotion of efficiency, processes acceleration, and costs reduction. These are some of the benefits that come with automation. A process that is not at all foreign to the hospitality industry, even though it is an area that is fundamentally based on people and their care.

Automation helps to significantly improve and speed up processes in hospitality. Its aim in this industry should be to identify activities that do not have to be performed manually, that are repetitive, or can be better performed by an automated system than by humans. Properly implemented, automation minimizes the time staff spends on activities that do not require their attention. As a result, all personnel can engage in tasks that have real added value for both hotel and guests.

There are several processes that can be automated in hotels. It depends of course on the specific property, which possibilities of automation can be implemented there. Here is a list of all the options hotels have:

1. Automation and Rates and availability distribution

Benefits for hotels

  • Staff spend less time manually entering reservations into the system and/or updating them
  • Greater visibility of a hotel (it distributes rates and availability through many channels)
  • With the help of RMSs rooms are offered for the correct prices at all time
  • Possibility of payment automation which saves a lot of time for personnel

Benefits for guests

  • Information about rates and availability are updated and easy to find
  • Faster and more pleasant check-in – personal data and payment information are automatically saved into the PMS

At the very beginning, before (potential) guests choose a specific hotel, they need to find an available room in the right hotel for the right rate. At this stage, hotels can automate the distribution of this information (availability and rates) to various channels, typically their own website and online platforms such as Booking.com, Expedia, etc.

The distribution of data about availability and rates can be automated thanks to channel managers. These systems connect the hotel’s PMS with various channels, and if the hotel uses a 2-way interface, information is transmitted in both directions – from PMS to an online platform and vice versa. Data about rooms availability and rates are automatically sent from PMS and updated on all platforms hotel is using, and reservations automatically come from these platforms to the PMS. Staff does not have to enter or update any data manually.

In addition, pricing as such can be also automated thanks to Revenue Management Systems (RMSs) which can set prices for hotels very effectively based on a lot of different data. RMSs help Revenue Managers with day-to-day decisions, save them a lot of time they would need to evaluate data manually thus helping them make sure pricing decisions are as effective as possible to achieve planned revenue (you can find more information about RMSs and their benefits here).

2. Automation and Communication with guests before their arrival

Benefits for hotels

  • Possibility of personalized communication with guests before their arrival
  • Improvement of hotel’s services
  • Better preparation for guests thanks to the possibility for them to book additional services in advance (e.g. SPA)

Benefits for guests

  • Better hotels services and improved communication between hotel and guests
  • Possibility to order or book additional services before arrival

From the hotel’s point of view, it is very important to communicate with guests before their arrival. As part of this communication, a hotel can provide guests with basic information (e.g. how to get to the hotel), perform upselling, or even remind those who have ordered package services of the need to make a reservation to secure a time and date of specific service. This communication can be automated using specialized systems (GuestJoy, MyStay, Revinate) so hotel staff does not have to contact every single person manually.

The level of automation of communication with guests may vary. For example, HotelTime Solutions software allows hotels to include a link into the messages for guests that leads directly to the reservation system (typically for SPA). That means guests obtain all necessary information and are able to create a reservation themselves right away without having to contact anyone from a hotel.

3. Automation and Guests’ arrival

Benefits for hotels

  • Improvement of hotel’s services – reduced check-in waiting time
  • More time for guests – minimalization of the amount of information that is entered into PMS manually
  • Possibility to optimize the number of reception personnel, e.g. during night

Benefits for guests 

  • Speeding up the check-in
  • Possibility to check in to the hotel at any time, even if there is no reception
  • Higher level of privacy due to faster or online check-in

From the guests’ point of view, check-in has long been perceived as an unpleasant issue – it is very likely that there will be a queue before the reception desk and that unpopular tasks such as filling out various forms or paying will have to be done. Many hotels are trying to improve the experience for example by providing welcome drinks. However, it is possible to have an even better approach. A significant number of tasks (actually the whole check-in process) can be automated and thus speeded up.

Modern systems (like AeroGuest) allow guests to provide a hotel with necessary personal data and payment information in advance (online check-in). After that, a hotel must only give guests access to the room (keys/card) after they arrive. But the handover of the “keys” does not have to be done by a person either. Hotels can use key boxes (for example Keyguru can help with that) or mobile keys (Salto). In that case, it is only necessary to send guests (QR)code they will need to open a key box or room.

Another way how to automate check-in is by using kiosks. A kiosk does the same operations as a person at the reception – it reads the necessary data from submitted documents, enters it into PMS, and then gives guests everything they need to access the room.

However, if a hotel does not want to or cannot implement the above-mentioned check-in automation, smaller steps can be taken. Typically receptionists can use ID or passport readers which automatically, very quickly, and easily collect all data from documents submitted by guests and enters them to PMS. No manual work has to be done.

As a step toward automation, automatic payments are also an option that significantly eliminates manual work. It works like this – PMS saves card information provided by guests when creating the reservation (card tokenization) and then automatically charges (or pre-authorizes) the card according to the rules set in the PMS. This way automatic payment is used for payments for the accommodation itself, but since a hotel has the card information saved it can use it for other payments, as well – for example, when a guest needs to pay for the goods from a minibar. This type of automation saves a lot of time for hotel staff and guarantees zero error rate (you can find out more about payment automation here).

4. Automation and The end of a stay

Benefits for hotels

  • Less reception workload
  • Ability to manage feedback and control rating on OTAs
  • ECO-friendly approach

Benefits for guests

  • Faster check-out
  • Electronic invoices

Once guests leave, hotels should be interested in how satisfied they were during the stay or at least in receiving a good review, for example on Booking.com, as the average OTA rating directly affects the number of bookings a hotel can receive.

And so hotels collect feedback from their guests. That can be done either manually (hotel staff contact guests one by one) or automatically using software that is set to contact guests after their stay and ask them for feedback/review. Especially in case of large hotels, automated contact is a wise step, as manual, personal contact with guests after they leave is very burdensome, if not practically impossible, for the staff.

In addition, payment automation is also relevant when it comes to check-out and guests’ leaving. In some hotels, guests pay for the stay at its end. In case this kind of hotels have automatized payments, staff does not have to bother guests with that. The payment data provided by guests when booking a room is saved in the PMS and the system automatically charges the card (for the stay itself and also for goods from a minibar if they were consumed).

Apart from that HotelTime Solutions PMS can also help with invoicing. One of the functions of HotelTime PMS is the automatic sending of an invoice to the guests’ e-mail, which again reduces unnecessary manual work the staff has to do and provides guests with a document in a useful electronic form.

5. Automation and Accounting and reporting

Benefits for hotels

  • Possibility of saving a significant amount of costs spent on manual document processing
  • Possibility to connect a third-party analytic tool

Hotels, and their accounting departments, typically have to deal with a large number of tax documents and invoices. Entering them into accounting systems can be very time-consuming and expensive, which is why automation can be again very helpful. If a process of information transfer between PMS and accounting software is automatized, all financial information is shared between these systems and the accountant does not have to enter it manually.

At the same time, regular (daily) transfer of financial information from PMS brings the possibility of analysing this data using third-party analytical tools such as ERP or BI systems.