Technology is key to the short- and long-term success of the independent hotelier
If you’ve been paying even the slightest bit of attention to this column during the past year, you’ve heard one consistent message from the contributors: Brands have deep pockets and vast resources, and independent properties often must make do with less and get creative when staying competitive.
However – and perhaps this hasn’t been mentioned enough – independent hoteliers have a massive resource filling their sails with constant wind. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. It’s a little organization called AAHOA.
By way of the many events AAHOA puts on year in and year out, along with the educational materials the association pushes out into the marketplace (you’re reading one right now!), there are plenty of resources to help independent hoteliers make informed decisions to guide their businesses. When it comes to technology, the independent hotelier needs every resource possible to chart the best path forward. With that in mind, here are three key areas of technology every independent hotelier should fully understand. The rabbit hole goes much deeper than these items, however, so treat this as a jumping-off point into deeper research on the topic.
1. GET SMART
Moving forward, smart appliances will be critical for independent operators for several reasons. First, these devices can help monitor changes in occupancy – not only in rooms but in common spaces, as well. If hoteliers have the capability to accurately and instantly know when a room or space has been vacated, they adequately can deploy resources to those spaces. If an event is concluded and the meeting room is now empty, there’s no need to send a staffer to check on the status of the space. Housekeeping can move in right away and being cleaning and resetting the space for the next occupant.
Secondly, and working in tandem with activity-monitoring systems, there are devices that can instantly and automatically adjust the temperature of a vacant space. A guest checked out sooner than expected? Your system can change the temperature of the room on its own, saving you time and money.
When we think of smart devices, there’s a tendency to think of only the ones used by consumers, but your maintenance staff would be well-served by a technology upgrade. There are devices that can automatically alert staff when it’s time to replace an air filter or attend to airflow problems – or to drastically improve efficiency and reduce downtime. For example, are you planning to replace a terribly inefficient water heater? In its place, install a newer hybrid model that can monitor peak usage times and adjust its settings on the fly to reduce energy consumption and save money on your gas bill.
If there’s an electronic item in your hotel, chances are good there’s a version of it that will connect to a smart system, and these can be phased in as old equipment breaks or becomes obsolete. As AAHOA Chairman Neal Patel has frequently stated, researching and adopting new technology should a major priority for hoteliers. For every innovation already making its way into properties across the world – room-service apps, check-in-kiosks, Bluetooth locks, voice-controlled thermostats, and much more – there are countless more on the horizon.
2. CHARACTER COUNTS
In a constantly changing landscape of guest expectations, customer interactions often are your best bet for understanding what the public wants when staying at your property. They can give you real-time feedback on how your property is performing. No longer relegated to a dusty comment-card box hung on the wall of the lobby, guests can provide feedback via a hotel’s designated app or via SMS text messaging services. This input – especially the unsolicited variety – should play a critical role in your future plans and daily operations.
However, this feedback isn’t restricted solely to internal channels. Your hotel’s reputation can take a beating in the online world if you don’t stay on top of it. Even if your property excels at customer service and routinely delights guests, resulting in numerous positive internally sourced reviews, all it takes is one or two negative online reviews for sentiment to swing. After all, an ounce of criticism often outweighs a pound of praise, and potential guests can be quick to dismiss your property if they see one negative review, whether it’s baseless or not.
Fortunately, managing a hotel’s online reputation can be fairly straightforward and, by taking a proactive approach to your day-to-day operations and actively managing your online reputation, your ADR will increase – and that should be the goal for every hotelier. Simply waiting for happy customers to walk through the doors won’t help your hotel. However, prompt and professional responses to customer comments and concerns are non-negotiable in today’s hospitality industry. Responding to every customer interaction – across every review website and social network – is important to enhance the overall hospitality experience to build a long-lasting and loyal relationship with your guests.
3. CONTROL YOUR COSTS
Without exception or overstatement of importance, accurately managing revenue is a must in our industry today. As competition continues to increase, it’s vital that independent hoteliers have the tools necessary to adequately manage revenue in the form of a robust and reliable revenue-management system (RMS).
A stout RMS enables the optimization of your inventories and maximization of revenues, yields, and overall profits using smart tech and data. It also allows you to sell the right room to the right customer at the right time for the right price through the right distribution channel with the optimum cost efficiency.
An RMS also allows you to optimize and handle price modifications in real-time, ensuring you always sell at the best price and maximize hotel revenue. The other benefit of revenue management is that it provides data from your property that can be utilized to assist you in making better decisions. Done right, an AI-based RMS can free up the hotelier to think more strategically and tactically about their hotel’s market positioning, helping to achieve long-term success by creating specific strategies tailored to the needs of your hotel and its customers.
[email protected] or (704) 281-2356.is the AAHOA North Carolina Regional Director, a member of the AAHOA Independent Hoteliers Committee, NCRLA Board of Directors, and he’s the president and CEO of Queen City Hotels and Management. He can be reached at