If you feel like you’re spending too much time on manual tasks like reservation management and updating your listings on various distribution channels, you’re probably considering the automation of such operations.
That way, both you and your staff will be able to focus on more value-added tasks, which is definitely a win.
But successfully implementing automation at your hotel takes more than purchasing a few software solutions.
That is why, in this article, we are sharing our 6 key tips for mastering this important, but potentially tricky process.
Let’s dive right in!
Identify the Most Inefficient Operations
Hotel automation comes with a plethora of benefits:
It can improve the guest experience, enhance operational efficiency, and reduce labor costs, all of which has contributed to it becoming one of the biggest hospitality trends in recent years.
Namely, automation played a crucial role during and right after the COVID-19 pandemic.
It allowed hotels to quickly adapt to changing circumstances, and several years later, many hotel owners still choose to employ a high level of automation at their establishments.
Chris Green, President at Remington Hotels, explains that business being slow due to the pandemic pushed them to adopt automation:
But before you start looking into various software solutions, you need to clearly define which aspects of your business genuinely require automation.
Take a good look at the current state of your operations and determine which ones are currently the least efficient.
Below are examples of some questions you can ask yourself:
Taking the time to identify which operations at your hotel require automation, and which ones don’t can save you a lot of money, among other things.
Think about it:
If you skip automating tasks that realistically don’t require automation, you’ll avoid the high costs that come with implementing all of these systems, as well as maintenance and staff training costs.
But what about operations that can be made more efficient with the help of technology?
In that case, automation can be a game-changer.
Automating processes related to revenue management is one such example, says Patrick Wimble, the Managing Director of the hospitality consulting firm Lightbulb Consulting.
The bottom line is: automation can be your greatest ally, but only if you implement it correctly.
So take the time to determine which areas need a little bit of extra help, and slowly introduce automation solutions.
Always Keep the Guest in Mind
Given the vast variety of automation tools and technologies available on the market—and new ones emerging all the time—going overboard with automating your hotel operations is a trap that’s easy to fall into.
Yes, automating tedious, repetitive tasks that don’t require human touch is very likely to increase the efficiency of your staff.
However, the issue arises when hotels become so focused on enhancing efficiency that they forget about the most important factor—their guests.
To this end, Jane Pendlebury, CEO of the Hospitality Professionals Association (HOSPA) states:
In other words, when it comes to implementing automation at your hotel, make sure to consider how this is going to affect the guest experience.
Will the solution you want to introduce make the guest experience at your hotel better, or will it make it feel impersonal?
After all, the goal of hotel automation is to enhance operational efficiency while retaining a high level of guest satisfaction.
We’ll illustrate how you can strike this balance with an example.
Let’s say you’ve decided to invest in a web booking engine such as WebBookingPro to drive more direct bookings and make the room reservation process quick and easy for your guests.
Source: Hotel Mirari
Considering that, according to Statista, almost 90% of US travelers prefer to book their hotel rooms online rather than through offline channels, this is likely to be a smart move.
However, once they actually get to the hotel, guests still like to receive personalized service, explains Lucas Höfer, Group Director at Ruby Hotels.
Simply put, this means that automation should be treated as a tool that enriches your business, and not a tool for minimizing or even completely avoiding guest interactions.
By combining the automation of tasks that your guests prefer to be automated—such as the reservation process—and providing a personalized experience during their stay at your hotel, you can achieve a higher level of both efficiency and guest satisfaction.
Look for Compatible Automation Systems
If your hotel has been in business for any amount of time, you likely already have various software solutions in place.
From property management to energy management systems, such solutions help you manage your operations, save you time and resources, and enhance the guest experience.
But before you introduce new tools that will streamline your operations even further, the one question you need to ask yourself is:
Are these new tools going to integrate with my current infrastructure?
Namely, the goal is for all of your tools to be compatible with each other.
That way, you can achieve a seamless flow of information across systems, better efficiency, and higher cost savings.
Conversely, if you only focus on buying the best-rated solution from each category and disregard whether they even integrate with each other, you might find yourself in an unfavorable position.
So, to avoid finding yourself in a situation where automation creates additional complications, make sure to do plenty of research on each solution you’re thinking about introducing.
For instance, if you’re thinking about investing in a central reservations system (CRS), you want to make sure that it works with your PMS, various payment gateways, metasearch engines, and OTAs you use to sell your rooms.
WebBookingPro is a good example of a well-rounded solution that seamlessly integrates with a wide range of other tools commonly used by hotels.
So, not only does it synchronize your room pricing and availability across platforms, but it also ensures that any reservations made are immediately visible in your PMS, too.
That way, you always have a comprehensive view of your operations and don’t have to worry about manually updating reservation data across platforms because they’re not compatible.
Remember: the purpose of automation is to make day-to-day tasks easier for you and your staff, so before you invest in a new solution, make sure it fits like a puzzle piece with the rest of your tech stack.
Implementing new automation solutions at your hotel can be exciting: there are so many different kinds of tools to choose from, each with features and benefits that feel like must-haves for your hotel.
So, naturally, you want to introduce them all as soon as possible.
But even though staying current is important for the success of your hotel, suddenly introducing automation to all areas of your operations can actually cause more harm than good.
For starters, going from 0 to 100 with automation is likely to be met with some resistance among your staff members.
The sudden introduction of extensive automation is likely to make your valued employees feel concerned about their job security.
That is why it’s extremely important to not only introduce automation gradually, but also assure your staff that automation is there to complement and enhance their skills, rather than replace them.
Our advice is to start by introducing smaller, less disruptive changes.
This will give your staff time to adjust to the new technology, allow them to experience first-hand how it makes their jobs easier, and ensure they avoid the shock that would come with a sudden overhaul of operations.
That way, they’ll be more open to automation going forward and understand that your goal with introducing technology is to give them more time to focus on value-added tasks requiring human skills.
For example, thanks to introducing virtual check-ins at her establishment, a hotel owner in Barcelona actually managed to give her former receptionist a promotion: she became a “guest experience manager”, curating local experiences for the hotel guests.
When it comes to implementing automation, the “go big or go home” rule doesn’t apply.
So, try not to get caught up in the desire to automate everything at once.
Incremental automation is going to help your staff to adapt without being overwhelmed and, by extension, allow them to use these tools to maximize their skills and efficiency.
Train Your Hotel Staff
Even though gradually implementing automation and clearly communicating its benefits can empower your employees, that is not where your efforts should stop.
If you want them to make the most of the automation tools you choose to invest in, you need to provide your staff with comprehensive training on the usage of said tools.
Namely, according to the 2022 Hotel Technology Survey, over 90% of hoteliers wish their properties made better use of technology, and almost 40% state that their staff uses the existing technology less than expected.
These staggering figures show that investing in employee training is key for turning automation tools from a waste of money to a valuable asset.
Imagine spending thousands of dollars on software solutions that are supposed to streamline your hotel operations, only to discover that your staff is still sticking to old workflows and not using these expensive systems.
This is definitely not the kind of situation you want to find yourself in, but it is one that can be completely avoided.
Sashi Rajan, Executive Vice President of the JLL Hotels & Hospitality Group explains:
If you make an effort to equip your staff with the skills needed to effectively use automation tools, they will start feeling more comfortable relying on these new technologies.
On top of that, being confident in their knowledge will empower them to be more efficient, better at identifying and resolving issues, and able to provide the highest level of service to your guests.
While training your employees on technology use is an investment in and of itself, it is one that carries numerous benefits for your broader business objectives, so make sure not to neglect it.
Be Mindful of Privacy
Even though automation tools can provide you with a plethora of valuable insights about your guests, you need to keep their data privacy and security in mind.
According to the Trustwave 2023 Hospitality Sector Threat Landscape report, “31% of hospitality organizations have reported a data breach in their company’s history, of which 89% have been affected more than once in a year.”
These serious numbers indicate that data security is still a big issue for many hoteliers.
But why is this the case?
Oleksii Glib, Founder of the software development company Acropolium, explains that data breaches often happen when hotels don’t pay attention to the security of their software solutions.
To avoid compromising the data that your guests trust you with, there are several steps you can take.
First and foremost, you need to familiarize yourself with the data protection laws in your region.
That way, you can make sure that both you and the automation solutions you’re using comply with those laws.
Secondly, be mindful of the trustworthiness of the software solutions you choose to implement at your hotel.
Any reputable software solution should have a page on their website dedicated to explaining exactly how they safeguard the sensitive data your guests provide you with.
Below, you can see an excerpt from WebBookingPro’s Security page, where we break down how we protect guest data.
On top of that, make sure to conduct regular security audits and remain transparent about your data practices.
Your guests should at all times be aware of the types of data you collect, what purpose you’ll use it for, and how you plan to safeguard it.
What might make this task easier is the adoption of the data minimization measures.
Simply put, aim to collect only the guest information that is absolutely necessary and serves a specific purpose, as this is going to minimize the risks that come with handling sensitive data.
Following these practices protects your hotel’s reputation by demonstrating that you are committed to safeguarding your guests’ data.
This, in turn, builds trust and guest loyalty.
After all, knowing that their data is protected and handled with responsibility helps create a positive experience for your guests, allowing them to fully relax and enjoy their stay with you.
Automating your hotel operations is a process that is bound to bring your establishment numerous benefits.
It can streamline your processes and reduce manual efforts, create a better guest experience, and save you both time and money.
However, to make the most of it, make sure to follow the practices we outlined in this article:
Introduce automation only where it’s necessary, and do so gradually while keeping the other software solutions you use in mind.
Make sure to provide ample employee training to maximize the efficiency of automation, but don’t sacrifice the guest experience in the process by over-automating.
Automation is here to stay, so embrace it—but don’t let it take over completely.