For most hoteliers, surviving the crisis meant slashing operating expenses, most coming from furloughs and lay-offs. But when you've been operating the same way for decades, it's hard to picture full-scale operations with half the staff.
But there's something hoteliers can learn from smaller-scale short-term rental operators: operational efficiency, scalability, and automation. Where can hotels start automating, though, without chaotically overhauling their current system, which has worked for years?
In this article, we'll walk you through how hotels can automate most of their operations, bridging the gap between operational expenses and providing value to their guests. Then, we'll recommend some of the best tools on the market for hotel automation.
What is hotel automation?
Hotel automation systems give hoteliers full control over hotel operations while automating and optimizing processes to reduce costs and increase guest satisfaction. This includes things like:
Guest access automation for contactless check-ins/check-outs, which means operating without front desk staff.
Smart app control of lights, TV, fans, blinds, A/C, heating, and all in-stay technology, empowering guest personalization while keeping energy costs low.
Real-time digital service requests (housekeeping, do not disturb, laundry, and maintenance) with automated notifications so relevant staff are instantly notified.
Intuitive employee scheduling and task management which optimizes schedules to reduce staffing costs and distribute workloads evenly.
Ideally, hotel automation software should integrate with your PMS to connect all operations (owners, guests, maintenance, customer service, housekeepers, etc.) in one place.
Connect your operations
Operto helps hotels fully automate their operations.
Want to see how?
Benefits of using a hotel automation system
You’re looking to maximize operational efficiency with limited hotel staff while providing the same quality of service to guests. Hotel automation will allow you to achieve these goals, plus offer a range of other benefits.
1. Contactless, automated check-in/check-out
The pandemic has given a whole new meaning to contact-free. It’s not just a nice-to-have: guests have come to expect and prioritize a contactless experience.
With remote check-in, guests can show up at the hotel and go directly to their room. They don't need to go to the front desk and wait in a line.
Without a front desk, your customer service staff aren’t tied down to one location, while the line grows and phone rings, but are freed up to provide additional services and ensure a better quality of experience. This will also enable you to dramatically lower the number of staff (cutting costs) while increasing efficiency and improving guest experience.
2. Instant, personalized communication between guests and staff
By leveraging guest portals in hotel automation software, guests and staff can interact more effectively and directly via their mobile devices or in-room smart apps. Guests can communicate their needs through apps like Operto without the need to visit or call a busy front desk, for instance, if they need a housekeeper, maintenance, or laundry services.
Traditionally, guests would contact the front desk with problems and the front desk would hunt down the relevant person. Hotel automation cuts out the middleman, sending guest requests directly to relevant staff members - meaning you save time and money on staffing costs.
Your PMS or channel manager probably already has an automated messaging tool—some are even AI-powered, providing smart responses to guest questions. But they often fall short after check-in. The future of hotel automation goes beyond guest booking queries and connects them digitally to staff, devices, and their whole experience through powerful PMS integration.
3. Cut operational costs
Because of inefficient operations and outdated processes, you may be operating with many more staff than you require. Historically, many hotels operate with an employee ratio of one per 10 units. By leveraging hotel automation, hotels like Annex in Toronto are now able to operate with a ratio of 1.5 employees per 24 rooms. That's cutting staff costs by more than half.
It’s not just that front desk staff are operationally inefficient—guests expect to be able to manage and experience their whole booking in a digitally connected format. Front desk staff are an expensive relic of the hotel industry. Yesterday’s best practices aren’t fit for tomorrow.
On top of that, a considerable portion of operational costs goes to energy costs. By implementing guest room energy control, you can control and monitor energy consumption so that your hotel is more energy-efficient, thus cutting costs even further.
4. Future proof your operations
Hoteliers need to prepare for the future, crisis or not. While the current situation is far from ideal, it's an excellent opportunity for you to implement big changes that will benefit the business in the long-term. Putting automation in place now will ensure you’ll be able to continue operating at full potential, no matter what comes our way in the future.
Other hotels are already transitioning to this model, and to stay competitive, hoteliers need to move to more automated operational systems as well.
5. Total control over all aspects of the hotel
A hotel automation system gives you full control over your hotel operations without increasing your workload. Hotel automation tools can integrate directly into your current PMS system, providing a centralized hub to manage everything. Hotel automation systems enable you to control:
- All devices in your building from one interface
- Energy usage
- Employee scheduling and task management
- Staff and guest access
On top of that—you empower the guests to control and personalize their stays, while retaining ultimate control to ensure security, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness.
Hotel access automation
When it comes to saving time and guest satisfaction, hotel access automation is the key. Traditional keys and keycards are risky as they’re easy to lose. Not only are lost keys an inconvenience for staff and guests, but they can also fall into the wrong hands, posing a risk to hotel security—a security risk that hotels no longer need to take.
Hotel automation solutions like Operto use coded access to get into each room. This generates unique codes for each guest, enabling them to check-in and out themselves, contact-free. It automatically notifies the relevant staff when the guest leaves.
Hotel guest room automation systems
Just as smart home systems allow people to automate their appliances, lighting, and HVAC systems, you can implement the same systems in hotel rooms. Using hotel guest room automation, you can automate:
- Blinds/window coverings
- Set-top boxes
But hotel guest room automation doesn’t only benefit the guest. Leveraging these features can also help you hugely reduce your energy bill. Guests like to control the temperature in their room, and it’s nice to be able to give that to them, but we know that they often forget to turn off the AC when they go out to their conference, or that they leave the heating on while on the slopes.
The costs add up quickly. Let them stay in control, but automate energy to turn off while they’re away so that you don’t have to rely on the guest to keep your energy bills low.
Best hotel automation companies
Here are the top companies we recommend for hotels that want to automation operations.
Operto is a comprehensive hotel automation system that gives guest control to personalize their stay while allowing hotels to leverage and lower operational costs.
Our operating system seamlessly integrates with your PMS to connect the booking to all in-stay technology.
Operto also contains a portal for everyone, not just the guests. For instance, housekeepers can get detailed scheduling and real-time updates based on guest check-ins/check-outs. Each staff member receives a unique access code and management can customize permissions based on the level of access each staff member is allowed.
Best of all, Operto automates everything direct integration with your PMS.
Mews is a PMS that helps hotels and hostels automate their operations. Regardless of the size of your hotel or hostel, Mews can handle it. It's based in the cloud and helps hotel management to optimize their processes using their six-product interface.
Mews includes a booking engine, concierge application, payment automation, housekeeping management, payment automation, and more. Plus, they have more integrations than any other PMS, including integration with Operto.
Cloudbeds is an entirely cloud-based PMS for small to medium-sized hotels that combines six tools in one system. It features a booking engine, a channel manager that syncs with hundreds of online marketplaces, and a reservation calendar. Its price intelligence index gathers real-time market data to help you optimize your pricing based on industry benchmarks.
The interface is very user-friendly and makes it easy for staff to manage bookings, check-ins, and check-outs. It even integrates with other tools like Operto which allows you to support contactless check-ins/check-outs.
4. Open Key
Open Key is a digital key software tool that provides contactless guest room access via a mobile app. The app is available for iOS and Android and enables guests to check-in and out of their rooms without having to do so in-person. The app also promotes local amenities directly through the platform.
Want to see how OpenKey compares to Operto? Read our analysis here.
Investing in hotel room automation
Providing value to your guests doesn't mean investing in more staff. Automation is the key to optimizing your hotel to provide a more efficient experience for your guest while minimizing operational expenses.
Leveraging the hotel automation systems available, your hotel can adapt to the industry's current changes and continue to operate successfully.
Connect your operations
Operto helps hotels automate their operations.
Want to see how?