From Sarah Calvert, JustPark’s Hospitality Expert
The hotel industry has, on the whole, recognised the need to use digital solutions to improve guest experiences. According to Intelity, hotel technologies, including apps that customers can access through their smartphones to access services, influence the decisions of 70% of travellers. You will now be hard-pressed to find a hotel that hasn’t implemented digital into customer care and to counter service pain points such as staff communication.
However, many are still not thinking outside the box about using tech to create great guest experiences outside the hotel walls. After all, 76% of travellers report that their smartphone is their most important travel companion. Customers rely on their phones to tell them about local sites, hidden gems, and to find their hotel and retrieve their booking information. Why would they not expect to be able to book their parking space with their phone as well?
This may seem like an afterthought but our sector is about attention to detail. With growth slowing year-on-year in 2018 according to Knight Frank, ours is a cutthroat industry where seemingly innocuous things can be the difference between earning a loyal customer for life and never seeing them again. Crucially, as hospitality professionals we recognise that the guest experience starts before the guest walks in the front door, and that means creating a seamless, digital car parking solution.
Why the car park?
I recently drove down to a hotel on the South Coast and – unsurprisingly – was caught in bad traffic on a Friday afternoon. I arrived much later than expected and found the hotel’s car park completely full, with the nearest street parking a 15-minute walk away. Before I’d even reached the front door, I was tired, irritated and had already formed an opinion on the hotel’s ‘guest care’.
Being able to reserve a parking space in advance would have turned this experience on its head, taking the stress out of the final hurdle in a very frustrating journey so that my only bad feelings would be towards the M3. The Copthorne in Birmingham saw this play out directly, with their customer ratings increasing to 4 out of 5 stars once they offered digital to drivers.
Upping our margins
In 2019, a HotStats study showed that revenue per room increased by 0.5%, whilst non-room revenue dropped by 0.4%. In our industry of fine margins, hotel leaders know that small increases in revenue and reductions in overheads can be the difference between growth and contraction.
So how can hoteliers reverse this trend? Visibility is key. Occupancy is a priority for every hotel and shouldn’t be applied only to rooms when technology allows you to monitor unused space across so many elements of the business, from restaurant tables to parking spaces. Automated systems – much like front desk booking – can track empty parking spaces, gather more information about patterns of use and popular times, and help to fill them.
Knowledge really is power, as car parks already perceived as ‘at capacity’ see an average revenue uplift of 20% when a digital booking system is introduced. Speaking recently with Renaissance Manchester’s general manager, Claire Moule, she told me that implementing these systems is surprisingly easy and has clearly driven their revenue up. With a better understanding of how the car park is used, you can maximise revenue and create a reliable, positive guest experience at the same time.
The cherry on top? It can also reduce front desk workload. General managers know that recruiting and retaining staff is a real industry issue, so removing unnecessary admin makes for a happier team. Not only do digital systems avoid the need to book parking through reception, but parking charges can be integrated with the final hotel bill.
With such enormous competition in the hospitality sector, hoteliers should be making use of any technology available to help them increase non-room revenue and improve the guest experience. Success is defined by small margins, but perfect guest experience shouldn’t be for the most discerning hotels. Technology that creates a unique guest experience can help hotels gain an edge.