In this post, we’ll take a brief look at why, during and after the pandemic, many hoteliers are seeking ways to find efficiencies and cost savings in their operations, and how new connected hotel technology can help. Read our blog series to learn how new hotel technology helps owners and operators improve the hotel guest experience and meet their business and sustainability goals.
The pandemic has taken a huge toll on hotel operations globally, with most suffering no to low occupancy for an extended period. But as travel restrictions ease, the travel industry will continue to face a massive workforce shortage, exceeding all other industries. The American Hotel & Lodging Association estimated there are over a million unfilled positions in the U.S. hospitality industry. This shortage extends globally. Industry analyst Skift quotes Paul Pruangkarn, a spokesman for the Pacific Asia Travel Association, who notes that, “human capital development is one of the industry’s greatest challenges, especially in a region experiencing an incredible rate of growth.”
Faced with these challenges, what should hotel brands and management do? Global Lodging Conference 2019 presenters offered some advice on preparing for 2020 and beyond. Julie Eisenhauer of Clark Nuber reports that two of the priorities should be cost control and improving efficiencies to “do more with less … in order to improve profitability.” One way to achieve this is to “identify where technology advancements can be incorporated to improve productivity.”
Integrated information and control systems enable automation at every level of a hotel, helping staff save time while cutting operational costs in several ways. These tools support a safer, healthier environment for hotel staff and guests.
Hotel Technology: Connecting Guest to Front Desk to Room
The newest guest room management systems (GRMS) can be seamlessly integrated with hotel property management systems (PMS). This enables online, mobile booking for guests and automated room preparation for a more personalized guest experience. When the guest arrives, front desk personnel can remotely take the room from energy saving mode to the guest’s preferred temperature.
Staff can also see do-not-disturb (DND) and make-up-room (MUR) status automatically, helping schedule housekeeping more efficiently across the hotel. Housekeeping staff will be alerted via tablet showing MUR priority. They then use their card to enter the room and lights automatically come on so they can do their work efficiently. When the housekeeper leaves, the lighting goes back into energy-saving mode. These features boost operational efficiency and improve the guest experience by simplifying requests for service.
Radio frequency identification (RFID) has been the predominant hotel technology used for guest room keys. However, guests often forget to return cards, causing a significant replacement cost for the hotel. In addition, the magnetic cards often fail to work, frustrating guests. Reprogramming cards, retrieving them from rooms, and processing lost cards are time consuming for staff.
New digital key technology (delivered through integration with door lock, guest room, and property management systems, together with guest apps), allows guests to use their Bluetooth-enabled mobile devices to control their door lock and security locks on lifts (elevators) if required. It is more convenient for guests, time saving for staff, and a cost savings for the hotel.
Digital key functionality allows guests to bypass the front desk to check in and get a key card. This saves time for staff but, more importantly, gives the guest an autonomous experience they increasingly seek. In support of safety, it avoids the need for guests and staff to be in close proximity and minimizes direct contact with surfaces.
Once in the room, the newest antibacterial switches and touchless technologies – including voice control over heating, cooling, and window shades – let guests control their environment with greater peace of mind.
Managing Common Areas in Uncommonly Efficient Ways
Seamless integration can be achieved among building management systems (BMS), hotel power management systems (PMS), and security systems. For hotel common areas this lets lighting, elevators, HVAC, fire systems, video surveillance, and sound management be integrated into a single hotel technology platform.
Every hotel public space – from the façade to the lobby, meeting rooms, restaurants, corridors, and parking – can be centrally managed and automated. HVAC sensors and controls can accurately manage temperature and ventilation in every area, while emergency lighting can be enabled during an evacuation.
Sensors and controls can ensure optimal indoor air quality by keeping humidity and air circulation at prescribed levels, while monitoring CO2 and VoC levels. VoC monitoring can help indirectly ensure adequate surface cleaning is done. And if social distancing protocols are still in place, occupancy sensors for space management can limit the number of guests in common areas, cafeterias, or gyms.
Hotel lighting often needs customization for multifunction common areas, such as conference rooms. With lighting fully integrated with the BMS, scenes can be automated and put on schedule to save time for staff. Renaissance Suzhou Wujiang Hotel in China uses integrated lighting control for common areas and ballrooms, and tailors lighting to guest needs through an extensive range of pre-programmed and automated lighting effects.
Hotels can automate lighting and blinds to take advantage of daylight harvesting, making the best use of natural light during the day to reduce hotel energy consumption.
Extending the Reach of the Maintenance Team
With the integration of GRMS with BMS and PMS, engineering and maintenance teams have a continuous, enterprise-wide view of operational status, including reports of guest room defects or failures. For example, maintenance staff can immediately see if a door lock battery is low, a lighting ballast has failed, or a temperature actuator has malfunctioned. They can quickly gather the required parts and repair the issue before it affects the guest experience.
Engineers can remotely detect any unusual situation, such as a Do Not Disturb engaged for more than 48 hours, or a door ajar alarm. In such cases, hotel security is alerted to perform a welfare check to ensure that the guest is healthy and safe. Front desk staff will be automatically notified to conduct a follow up. Alerts can be easily escalated, if required, with status displayed on the GRMS dashboard.
With BMS and PMS integration, anything from a water leak to a tripped breaker in the hotel’s infrastructure generates notifications to the maintenance team. Alerts can indicate the source and reason for the fault, enabling a quick response to minimize any disruptions.
Maintenance staff can be informed automatically of guest check-in and check-out schedules, to help coordinate any required sanitizing procedures, such as UV sterilization to kill any airborne or surface pathogens in rooms. UV irradiation of HVAC coils can help to kill algae, mold, pathogens, and biofilm.
The Hilton Garden Inn Mall of the Emirates Dubai uses an integrated BMS and GRMS for troubleshooting and proactive maintenance. Notifications alert staff of any issues. Room occupancy, DND/MUR, door, and window status can be viewed by laptop or mobile device, while temperature and humidity can be managed remotely.
More Information about Innovative Hotel Solutions
Schneider Electric offers a complete range of innovative hotel solutions. These include connected products, integrated GRMS, PMS, and BMS applications, and expert advisory services that improve guest satisfaction and operational efficiency, while reducing energy consumption. Discover EcoStruxure™ for Hotels.