Long gone are the days of pulling up to quaint lodgings and checking in via pen and paper in a registry book. With a lot more to keep track of than just when someone arrived and when they checked out, the hospitality industry today employs more sophisticated tools and software to keep everything running smoothly.
While hand-written registry books and accounting ledgers, when done right, can successfully monitor activity in hotels, doing financial reporting and inventory tracking by hand leaves room for error, as Sequoia Group expounds upon HERE. It also lacks efficiency, something hotels have to focus on if they want to eliminate overhead and turn bigger profits.
From Keys to Key Cards
Do you know when and why hotels switched from using traditional keys to electronic key cards? In the late 1700s, inventor Robert Barron created a lock and key technology implementing a double-acting lever tumbler lock. A few years later, a cylindrical key system using wafers was created to allow a deadbolt to be retracted in a door.
By the late 1800s, Linus Yale Jr patented the Yale pin tumbler cylinder lock. With the advent of this locking mechanism, hotels started offering guests keys for their rooms. The keys, however, usually had to be retrieved and returned to the front desk after each use, and could not leave the property with the guests.
In the 1970s, key cards were issued in some hotels. While they offered increased security and convenience, each card had to be thrown out after a guest left; since the cards contained a series of punches that had to match the lock on the door, they couldn’t be reused for the next guests and still offer security.
Downsides to Punch Cards
- The pattern is easy to copy
In the 1980s, instead of using punch cards, hotels moved on to using electronic keys with magstripes on the back. In addition to being more secure than punch cards, they were also reusable. Magstripes can be recoded with new data so the keycard can be issued to a new guest without compromising security.
Downsides to Magstripes
- They can be (intentionally or accidentally) demagnetized
- They can be hacked
By the 2000s, hotels began implementing radio frequency ID keycards. Instead of a magstripe, the keys contain a tiny chip that communicates with the door lock. These chipped cards can be coded for entry to various parts of a hotel in addition to the room
Downsides to RFIDs
- They can be hacked when in close proximity
Keyless entry to rooms was offered as recently as 2014 to hotel guests. Instead of being issued a keycard of any kind, guests are instead granted room access with their mobile phones, or even a wristband like at Disney World. In addition to being a keycard, the MagicBands at Disney World allow guests to charge items to their rooms and enter the theme parks. Mobile keys can also allow gets to check-in without having to stop at the front desk, which is convenient if arrival is at an odd time.
What Kind of Software Do Hotels Need?
You may be wondering what type of software hotels need just to keep up with the security demands of room access. Some hotels want software that allows a room key to grant access to the elevator, the fitness center, or the pool if it’s included with the rate. If not, the key cards need to be programmed for just allowing access to the assigned suite. At a hotel like Virgin in Las Vegas, your keycard may also grant access to VIP experiences or live events at the property.
Besides supporting keycards, hotel management software should eliminate human error, and streamline tasks carried out by employees. It should also enhance the guest experience and increase profit margins. Software should help manage the following aspects of the hospitality industry:
- Banquet management
- Central Reservation Systems (CRS)
- Front desk
- Inventory management
- Loyalty program
- Point of Sale transactions (POS)
- Task management
Ideally, a hotel can find software that offers most, if not all, of these operations. It may mean paying for software based on a per-room basis, a tiered model, or a one-time license fee.
Because this model is based on the number of rooms at a property, it’s extremely popular in the hotel industry. A hotel with fewer rooms will only pay for what they need, while a hotel with more rooms may get cost breaks for having larger inventory.
Different tiers of service are available with the software depending on the needs of the property. Often subscription-based, tiered models can be cheaper when relying on cloud storage vs physical hard drives.
One-Time License Model
Instead of renewing a subscription-based software, you pay more upfront to have use of the software for as long as you need. The price will also be affected by room number, and how many functions the software will be automating.
Popular Software Used in Hospitality
- EZee Front Desk
- Hotelogix (offers pay-per-room pricing)
- Maestro PMS
- Hoteliga (offers tiered model pricing)
- FCS CosmoPMS
- Skytouch Hotel OS
- Smart Hotel Software
How Does Software Help a Hotel?
Think of each hotel guest as a domino. Every interaction they have with a hotel employee is like the interaction between dominoes lined up on a table. A guest checks in, and they set off a chain of events that includes ensuring the room key is properly coded, housekeeping knows the room may need daily attention, the restaurant should be prepared for the number of guests on-site, parking attendants, bellhops, and others all need to carry out their duties.
With a few keystrokes, hotel management software can ensure that each department of the hotel knows what’s expected of them. Notifications can be created to tell housekeeping when to clean a room after checkout. Alerts can be created to remind staff to reorder supplies if inventory gets low, ensuring no room is left without clean towels or complimentary toiletries. Point of sale software can track guest food preferences so repeat guests receive customized recommendations on their next visit.
Hospitality software also helps with the following:
- Pricing the cost of food and bar stock
- Managing events (in conference rooms or banquet hall) as well as guests in one system
- Automating task assignments for all staff
- Monitoring room bookings for hotels with multiple locations (so staff always knows a guest is a repeat visitor even if they usually stay at a sister property)
- Booking engine (so guests can book directly with the hotel rather than via a third party)
Although you may miss how charming it was to receive a metal key from a key cubby and sign your name in a ledger, the hotel software of today is meant to make your stay more secure and more enjoyable.