Have you heard about the rapid adoption of automation in hotel industry? Whether it is incorporated into new technology in hotel rooms, fully automated back-end systems or guest-facing solutions.
Hotel automation technology is the new buzz word, it is everywhere and it will stay. In fact, according to a research by Skift 73% of hotel executives said self-service technology will be important for their organizations post COVID-19.
But why is hotel automation popular and how are hotels using it today? And what are the advantages and disadvantages of deploying automation in hospitality industry?
We condensed all information (... and New Things) you need to know about hotel automation in this article. These are the topics:
What is Hotel Automation?
Before we go deep into the concept of automation in hotel industry, let us have a look at its meaning. Automation is defined as:
"The creation and application of technology to monitor and control the production and delivery of products and services".
In simplified terms, automation is a technique used to make systems operate automatically. Its goal is to: minimize human intervention while improving or without negatively influencing the output.
There are four types of automation, namely:
Basic Automation - Concentrated on digitizing work through streamlining and centralizing routine and simple tasks.
Process Automation - Primarily managing business processes for transparency and consistency using workflow automation and process mining.
Integration Automation - Machines that mimic human tasks (once a person has defined the rules for it).
Artificial Intelligence (AI) Automation - Machines that can learn and make decisions based on historical situations.
Is it a new thing?
Automation is these years’ “buzz word” and new hotel technology. While it may seem like it was recently invented, it is not a new phenomenon. These applications have been around for centuries.
The term automation originates from 1946, where automatic devices and controls were applied in the production lines by automobile companies. While it was first widely used in the manufacturing context, it has increasingly been applied outside it.
The hospitality industry has embraced automation technologies for a long time. With Westin at the forefront, creating the first hotel reservation system in 1947 which allowed the company to instantaneously confirm guest reservations. And Sheraton soon after launching the world’s first automated reservation system in 1957.
Aside from that, there is a significant deployment of both basic and process automation, ranging from real-time central reservation systems, online bookings, hotel automation for ordering and billings to automated reports
But one of the breakthroughs happened in 2015 when Henn na Hotel opened the world’s first robotic hotel in Nagasaki, Japan. The robotic hotel, which started with 10 robots, had the intention to perform over 90% of tasks by robots. But they quickly realized that the implementation of robotics is extremely challenging in hotels.
It turned out the robots created more work in the end, as it annoyed both employees and guests! In the end, we cannot get away from the notion that hotels are a “people’s business”. But in one way, this helped to pave the way to a new focus.
Image: Courtesy by Henn na Hotel
What is new about automation in hotels?
There is a shift towards integrated, AI and smart hotel automation. Amid of increased competition, hoteliers turn to hotel automation technology to deliver personalized guest experiences and streamline their operations.
Whether it is to send out automated marketing mailing, adopting smart kiosks, or automate the communication channels. Its usefulness has expanded and now cover a variety of touchpoints both back and front-house.
Aside from this, hoteliers are relying on AI hotel automation to become a digitally-driven operation. Using sophisticated data insights and algorithms, AI technologies help hotels in a range of areas. From providing data-driven pricing decisions in Revenue Management software, building accurate market segmentation in Customer Relationship Management systems to security validation in self-check-in at kiosks.
How is hotel automation being used in the hotel industry?
You can segment the areas where hotel automation solutions is being used into “Guest-facing solutions” and “Back-end related solutions”.
These type of hotel automation is incorporated into functionalities with direct contact with the guest. Generally speaking, these are centered in the touchpoints on the pre- and stay- experience. Some of the examples are:
Digitize the pre-registration form and shorten the queuing on the property through a pre-check-in solution.
Streamline the check-in experience and free-up time for employees by deploying automated hotel check-in kiosk.
Elevate the customer experience by allowing guests to use their personal gadgets, such as mobile devices to adjust the lighting and thermal control.
Minimize the human intervention between employee and guests by implementing contactless order solutions.
Provide instant 24/7 communication to guests via a Chatbot.
Housekeeping robots deliver orders to the guest’s room.
The back-end functionalities are “behind the scenes”. Although the guest may not see it with their own eyes, they have a significant impact on the guest experience. Examples of these are:
Implement automated and triggered-based marketing campaigns and emails in CRM to create more effective campaigns.
Improve operational efficiency by automating task management and distribution for internal communication.
Reduce costs by streamlining procurement systems through automating procurement processes.
Improve rate accuracy by automating pricing in revenue management.
Why is automation in hotels gaining popularity?
Although the technology has been around for a long time, the adoption of hotel automation in the hotel industry has been relatively slow. Oftentimes, executives have been reluctant to implement it as they believe it will negatively influence the guest experience. But that has certainly changed, and it is primarily because of the effect of COVID-19 in the industry.
Like nature, the hotel industry has a high-touch operation, but in the presence of a pandemic where physical distancing is important, it is not the best selling point.
Hoteliers across the world began to utilize automation and contactless solutions to mitigate this. Including, utilizing contactless solutions such as self-service check-in and guest ordering for room service to eliminate human intervention and adopt cleaning robots to disinfect rooms.
But aside from this, the pandemic had a significant economic hit in the industry. Wherein hotels had to lay off millions of employees to stay afloat. In a scaled-down operation with limited financial capabilities, there is pressure to improve the bottom line and invest in solutions which generate a positive return on investment.
And many hotel chains are finding the answer to boosting operational efficiency by using these technologies.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Automation in Hotels
The advantages and disadvantages of hotel automation can vary depending on which outlook you have towards the technology. But these are the most common:
Creates an efficient organization by streamlining the operation.
Improve employee satisfaction through eliminating boring, repetitive tasks and helping them perform their job better.
Save guests’ time with the help of immediate and responsive service and offerings at any time, anywhere.
Enhance the guest’s experience by increasing the predictability, quality and consistency of the service and offerings.
High return on investment solutions as they have a direct impact on the bottom line.
Negatively influence the guest experience if the guest desires a high-touch service or if the technology is overused in the operations.
Create motional stress for employees if the technology is displacing workers.
Costly for the hotel to implement, particularly within automation technologies such as robotics.
Implementation can be challenging deriving from employees’ or guests’ willingness to use the automation technology and to adopt it into the hotel’s organisation.
What is the next step for automation in the hotel sector?
As McKinsey calls it, the next wave of automation will disrupt operations through better analytics and increased human-machine collaboration. Particularly in the hotel industry context, there will be a focus on integration automation (automation technologies that mimic human tasks) and artificial intelligence automation (machines that learn and make decisions based on past situations).
The hospitality industry is undergoing a rapid digital transformation and the adoption of automation will be present across the whole operations, both backhouse and front house. The technology will be used to support employees in the day-to-day operations and leveraged to deliver hyper-personalized and high-quality services to guests.
But it will also reshape the traditional occupations with new job categories and the need for hospitality professionals to have so-called “hybrid” skills. Such as a solid knowledge of AI and quantitative skills.
Image: Courtesy by McKinsey
Those that succeed will be agile and use it in harmony with their existing operations, and those reluctant to digitally transform their operations are likely to be left behind. We have years’ of experience automating operations in hotels across the world. Are you interested to learn how you can digitally transform your hotel operation through automation? Act today and contact us directly for a free consultation.
About Metasphere Technologies Inc.,
Metasphere Technologies Inc. has helped hotels to stay globally competitive for over 15 years through its market-leading product portfolio of solutions built on I.T. technologies in process management, business intelligence and service-oriented architecture. Click here to learn more about Metasphere's products. Metasphere Technologies Inc’ has a team of talented professionals based across the world, including USA, China, United Arab Emirates and the Philippines. The company’s solutions are installed in leading hotel chains and multinational enterprises worldwide.