Pandemic drives self-check-in at hotels around the world

Contactless technology has played an important role in helping hotels streamline operations and provide a more personalized guest experience.

The Holiday Inn in Brussels, Belgium offers self-check-in kiosks. Photo courtesy of Ariane Systems.

Checking in and out of a hotel has long been one of the biggest sticking points for travelers.

It’s also one of many sticking points that hotels have been attacking aggressively since the pandemic, according to a survey of 525 hoteliers around the world by New York University’s Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality. , sponsored by Stayntouch, a global provider of hotel management systems. and contactless technology.

Self-service technology, including self-service kiosks, contactless check-in/out and mobile check-in, jumped collectively by 66% during the pandemic, the survey found, even though the Traditional front desk check-in was still the most common way to check in customers (60%), followed by assisted self-service (31.5%), self-service using a mobile phone (5.4%) and full self-service (2.7%).

Nearly 92% of hoteliers surveyed said guests were more accepting of technology and expected contactless options. Around three-quarters of respondents said contactless would be a long-term trend.

In addition to contactless check-in and check-out, hotels have also expanded to mobile keys, digital payments, in-room technology, chatbots, guest surveys and unattended convenience stores.

“Technology has played a pivotal role in helping hotels streamline operations and deliver a more personalized guest experience,” Michael Heflin, chief revenue officer at Stayntouch, said in a prepared statement.

Automated check-in and check-out exceeds hotel technology spend

Of all the technologies considered, self-service check-in/check-out, which includes self-service kiosks and mobile check-in, grew the most during the pandemic, according to the survey.

Of the 75% of hotels offering self-service check-in and check-out technology, nearly half (48.6% of all hotels surveyed) introduced the technology before the pandemic, 25.3% the have implemented during the pandemic and 11% said they plan to roll it out. in 2022.

In 2022, hotel technology is expected to grow by 19%.

While branded hotels were more proactive in introducing self-service check-in and check-out before the pandemic, according to the survey, independent hotels have caught up during the pandemic.

While 57.4% of branded hotels introduced self-service check-in before the pandemic, compared to 22.6% of independent hotels, 31.9% of independent hotels introduced it during the pandemic and 15.3 % plan to introduce it in 2022.

Labor saving

Laurent Cardot

A significant benefit of self-check-in/check-out is that it helps a hotel operate with a reduced workforce, said Laurent Cardot, founder and CEO of France-based Ariane Systems, which specializes in self-check-in for hotels. Working with fewer staff has become particularly critical since the pandemic.

“You kind of have to reduce operating costs, and the number one cost in hotels outside of real estate is people,” Cardot told Kiosk Marketplace in a phone interview. “Reducing the number of people is crucial for hotels to maintain a decent level of profitability.”

According to the survey, hotels consider reception to be the department that can work best with a reduced staff, as almost half (43.5%) of respondents said that the reception can function with a reduced staff. Other departments considered included sales and marketing, food and beverage, housekeeping and maintenance, human resources and information technology.

Mobile check-in or kiosks?

While more than a quarter of respondents have introduced mobile check-in during the pandemic, responses indicated that hotels are relying more on self-service check-in/check-out kiosks, given that 31.5 % of customers using assisted self-service and 2.7% using full self-service versus 5.4% using mobile check-in.

Ariane Systems’ Cardot said mobile self-check-in will not replace self-check-in kiosks.

“There are a lot of constraints, especially in the United States, where it’s not that easy,” Cardot said. “It is much safer and cheaper in the United States to complete a card transaction than to make an online payment.

“Secondly, many hotels still want to verify their identity, which you can’t really do just by doing a mobile check-in,” he said.

Third, according to Cardot, one of the main selling points for mobile check-in was to also provide a mobile room key, which requires an app download. Downloading an app for a large hotel chain provides convenience for the frequent traveler, he said, but an independent hotel has a harder time convincing a guest to download an app.

“Why would I spend five minutes to avoid just taking a key from them?” He asked. “So far, the mobile key has not been successful.”

The mobile/kiosk combination works best

“You get maximum results by combining them (mobile and kiosks),” Cardot said. “It’s a winning combination. You can start mobile check-in (on an app), end mobile check-in on a kiosk, or you can do the whole (task) on mobile or you can do it on a kiosk.

Sean Houchin

Sean Houchin, product manager for Elatec Inc., a provider of solutions related to short-range wireless readers and recorders, agreed that self-service kiosks can work in tandem with credentialed smartphones in a hotel environment.

“When guests check in at the front desk kiosk with their phone, their authenticator app can be updated with information about their room assignment,” Houchin said. “Now they can unlock their room with the phone.”

Impulsify reported a 235% increase in hotel “to-go” deployments.

Hotel convenience markets

Another area where self-service kiosks are growing rapidly in hotels is in on-site convenience markets. The “grab-and-go” avoids the customer having to bring their purchase to the reception to pay.

Impulsify, a software provider specializing in grab-and-go hotels, reported a 235% increase in deployments of its ShopPoP self-service kiosk in 2021.

“It’s a retail market that has cold drinks, ready meals, snacks, ice cream, just a way to get a packaged food on the spot,” company CEO Janine Williams said during the interview. ‘a telephone interview. “They are an open outlet in the lobby common area.”

Impulsify provides a Windows-based touchscreen kiosk that allows the customer to scan the UPC code at the kiosk and pay with their room key or credit card. Impulsify customized hardware from POS-X (now owned by Custom America) to include a card reader and barcode scanner.

Janine Williams

Over the past year, the company has also introduced a contactless transaction that allows the customer to scan an on-screen QR code and use a keyboard on their smartphone.

“A hotel is its own organizational ecosystem,” Houchin said at Elatec. “Self-service amenities can and should be able to extend to parking access, use of hotel EV chargers, shopping at the restaurant or bodega or vending machines, printing documents in the business office, bike sharing and more.”

For an update on how the coronavirus pandemic has affected kiosks, click here.

Photo courtesy of Impulsify.

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