Kiosk platforms are a mainstream, Hotel Monville Kiosks
Hotel Monville Kiosks

By Denise Deveau

When check-in kiosks were first introduced in the early 2000s, uptake in the hotel sector was underwhelming. With the advancements of technology, time, and a more receptive demographic, the platform has moved well beyond a novelty experiment, to a mainstream must-have for many hotel operators.

Whether the motivation is staff shortages, customer demand, or simply cost and labour savings, hotels in all sectors are finding plenty of reasons to offer self-check-in capabilities. 

“The technology for the sector was not quite right at first and the market was not ready,” says Fabricio Titiro, director of Product Management – Partnership, Oracle Hospitality. “Kiosks were clunky and too big. Cost and implementation were also troubling.” Early sweet spots tended to be high-traffic venues, such as theme parks and casinos, as well as budget properties looking to reduce labour costs. 

Today, kiosks are much more streamlined and can support multi-function integration, including mobility and web-based services. “Most properties are looking to offer omni-channel as well as speed and convenience to the people that want it,” says Titiro. “People on both sides are also far more comfortable using the technology.” 

A strong business proposition

Hôtel Monville began planning self-check-in services two years prior to its official opening in March 2018. The initial idea, says Jean-Cédric Callies, director of Operations, was to capitalize on the location in downtown Montreal and its proximity to the convention centre. “Because the average length of stay is very short — two nights on average — we wanted to make sure we offered an efficient experience for guests.” 

Their calculations showed that a regular check-in typically took two to five minutes, while the kiosk was one minute. “The technology allowed us to gain time for the front-desk agents to take care of guests with other queries. It wasn’t about removing people to save costs, but rather to enhance the guest experience.”

There were lessons learned along the way, he admits. “At first people thought the kiosks were a business centre rather than a check-in area, so we switched the displays from horizontal to vertical to make them more visible. We also had to train visitors and staff, which took about six months.”

The most important lesson learned is that every technology innovation being brought to the table is that it’s a step-by-step process, says Callies. “You don’t do everything at the same time. There are so many different layers on the learning curve. You have to build it one brick at a time to do it right.”

For example, eight months after opening, they implemented web check-in 48 hours prior to the guest’s visit, reducing the time spent on the kiosks to pick up their room keys to a mere 30 seconds. Eighteen months later, they added upselling capabilities during the check-in process, such as breakfast options, parking, and loyalty membership enrolment, among others.

Check-in at their leisure 

Basecamp Resorts introduced self check-in with its first property in Canmore in 2017. “As our model was based on the Airbnb concept where check-in is common, freedom for the guests was a top priority,” says Danielle Spooner, vice-president of Operations, Basecamp Resorts. “We were just doing it on a larger scale.” The company has since expanded self check-in to 13 properties and counting. 

Not only has self check-in made it easier for arriving guests and front-desk personnel, but it has always helped drive operational efficiencies. 

Advanced web check-in functionality is one example. Guests making reservations online are asked to complete the contactless check-in process five days prior to arrival. “If we discover any fraud or an invalid card, we’re able to notify the guest or cancel the reservation ahead of time,” explains Spooner. “We have zero no-shows, which means we’re bringing in revenues with every reservation.” On arrival, guests are given an entry code key they can use to go directly to their room if they choose. 

The system is fully integrated with the PMS software, allowing the operator to offer upgrades or discounted rates, or present special food-and-beverage offers. “Everything is so seamless, we never need to have physical kiosks on site,” says Spooner.

Changing the game  

Callies says that self check-in has evolved into a new luxury perk for many. “Being able to go to their room and their meetings without lineups all add to the luxury experience for corporate travellers. Sometimes the best technology is the one you don’t see.”  

Human interaction is still integral to the process, he adds. “We still have the front desk, and we still have people helping guests at the kiosk. We believe in using technology as a tool, not as a replacement.” 

An unanticipated plus is that self check-in services are proving extremely helpful in a time of drastic labour shortages, says Callies. “It enables us to have better elasticity in terms of variation of occupancy. If it drops a lot, kiosks can help to keep you afloat. This is where it has become a game changer.” 


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