Hotels want to offer technical and economic comfort

– There is an inn with a telephone and reservation management on paper – there is a carefully digitized hotel. The trend of digitization has long occupied the industry, but there are many construction sites.

Business travelers in particular are becoming more and more impersonal: when checking into a hotel, many do not want to queue up at reception and fill out forms.

This should be quick, ideally with just a few clicks on your smartphone. “There is a strong desire for digitization in the business sector and few contact points with the reception,” says Tobias Warnecke, Managing Director of the German Hoteliers Association.

Different requirements for hotels

Quite different at the five-star Der Öschberghof: here guests are personally greeted at the door and a concierge accompanies them to their room. The family would like to rent bikes from reception. Others use the golf course in Donaueschingen – between Freiburg and Lake Constance. Hotel manager Michael Artner says that the demands placed on hotels vary greatly.

But at the Öschberghof, a lot is also done digitally: from customer acquisition to survey to stay. From the overtime schedule to the second – which is a good argument when looking for specialists. Up to a smartphone app where employees can share information: if the room service detects a loose towel rail, for example, they can inform the technology department in this way. About 50 tickets were collected in this way every day. In event rooms, ventilation is adjusted to the oxygen content.

Digitization has been playing an important role in the industry for years – and according to Warnecke, it’s becoming increasingly important: “In five to ten years, we’ll be a long way off.” It’s true that hotels were the first to deal with customer feedback on the Internet. “But we still have a lot to do.” The motto of the German Hotel Congress on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Europa-Park in Rust near Freiburg is: “Hotel of the future – digital. innovative. various”.

Writing instead of speaking

Warnecke gives an example with the help of computer programs. Chatbots answer questions about the trip. More and more customers prefer to type in their requests rather than ask over the phone. Other houses have tried to use service robots such as waiters. On the other hand, devices with voice services like Alexa usually give rise to the suspicion that people are eavesdropping. “Many hotels are very careful about this.”

It all starts with the preparations for the trip: Many customers search for offers on the Internet. After two years of Corona’s existence, the number of hotel searches in Germany has increased again – and even exceeds pre-pandemic levels, says Lutz Behrendt, who is responsible for the tourism sector at Google Germany. In the case of searching for “last minute holidays”, the plus is up to 1075 percent.

Pandemic trends are also evident in the inquiries, says Behrendt: For example, they are looking for accommodation that allows dogs or where they can stay for more than 30 days – the keyword stay. “There are a lot of new niche inquiries,” says the expert, who is also expected to speak at the hotel congress.

Hoteliers can counteract this on Google thanks to company profiles in which they present their offer in great detail. During the pandemic, new hygiene attributes were introduced here, and filter options for ecological standards are expected during the year.

Association: you need to catch up in internet marketing

Warnecke recognizes that many people in the industry need to become better at marketing and selling online. Basically all houses have a home page, but not all can be booked online.

Artner vom Öschberghof believes that this is by no means contemporary. Five people work there in the marketing and digital office. “It costs money to be visible,” says the hotel manager. Sometimes a five-digit sum for a good website, appearing on social media or acquiring customers in new countries. It’s also a good idea to hire an e-commerce manager. “We have to move away from the idea that someone could do it on the side.”

Artner explains that spending on digitization is a sustainable investment, and the effects are not necessarily immediately noticeable. After all, they help, for example, to save energy, avoid paperwork and improve customer service.

In addition, hotels want to reduce their dependence on booking websites. 30, sometimes up to 60 percent of bookings are done this way, says Warnecke. Last year alone, hotels successfully fought in the Federal Court of Justice to be able to offer their rooms on their own website at lower prices than on, for example, Booking.com, HRS and Expedia, where commissions are due. The cartel’s senate decided that platforms should not prevent this by so-called best price clauses in their contracts.

But Warnecke sees construction sites here: “The portals are trying to squeeze between the hotel and the visitor.” Sometimes direct communication is not possible because e-mail addresses are not provided.

Technical problems

The manager of the Artner hotel sees a serious lack of technical interfaces of various applications with the hotel administration management system. It costs several thousand euros to make it compatible and is very vendor dependent.

It is also important from an expert’s point of view that the registration form is finally digitized. A handwritten signature is still required by law. And even though the WLAN in every room should now be self-evident, there is still a problem with internet delivery in many parts of Germany. This is a clear localization flaw, says Warnecke. “The hotel can’t just produce elsewhere.”

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