Smart system eliminates the need for hotel reception

Imagine a future where hotels don’t have a front desk. In this era, guests check in and out without interacting with staff. To order room service, travellers simply use an app.

Here’s the thing: This isn’t a dreamt-up scenario from the mind of a visionary sci-fi author. It’s happening today in places like South Korea and Japan.

Because vacation spots like hotels and resorts were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, the tourism industry had to find ways to reduce expenses and continue operating, while eliminating contact between staff and guests to keep everyone safe.

One company seeking to make a splash in this sector is H2O Hospitality, which aims to help hotels with their digital transformation efforts by automating customer-facing and back-end processes.

H2O Hospitality’s CEO John Lee shared that “H2O” does not stand for water. “It actually means hospitality 2.0 or second-generation hospitality. How we define it is a tech-based operating system that manages spreaded out buildings at once,” he explained.

Recently, H2O Hospitality’s automated hotel operation system was implemented by High1, one of the largest ski resorts in South Korea.

Before teaming up with H2O, High1 used another channel manager system (CMS) to oversee their available rooms which are being promoted at online travel agencies, said High1 CEO Lee Sam-Geol.

“High1 Resort uses its own PMS (property management system). Our PMS was not completely linked to the previous CMS; it could only be linked in one direction. We could get input from the CMS, but no output to the PMS. So, despite using a CMS, our staff still needed to manage room availability, rate, and reservation manually through our PMS,” Lee Sam-Geol clarified.

As for the overall impact of H2O’s system on High1 Resort’s operations and staff productivity, the jury is still out.

“I think it would help to answer better by explaining the process further,” said Lee Sam-Geol. “First, room availability and room rate conditions are set using a third-party CMS. When a reservation is received, it is a process of checking the reservations received by CMS, and then manually entering the reservation into the RMS (resort management system, High1 Resort’s self-developed PMS).”

According to Lee Sam-Geol, High1 avoids such manual processes because it slows them down. “We look forward to making our work more efficient through the automation of previously manual tasks and the interactive linkage of our RMS and H2O hospitality system,” he added.

However, the ski resort is still in the early stages of using H2O’s system to definitively state how much it has helped them.

“Due to COVID-19, the reservation rate is currently not that high, so we will analyse the use of the automatic reservation system after the peak summer season,” said Lee Sam-Geol.

Automating workflows and processes

Lee Sam-Geol, Chief Executive Officer at High1 Resort. Image courtesy of High1 Resort.

In addition to smart check-in and door lock systems, H2O Hospitality also provides an integrated digital transformation (DT) consignment operation service, said John Lee.

“Many companies provide only proportional tools like the smart door lock. We offer a one-stop solution to automate hotel operations from the front end to the back end,” he continued.

Their smart door lock works in conjunction with a hotel’s integrated operation system. H2O’s integrated DT service is designed to automate reservations from dozens of online and offline sales channels. John Lee claims it’s the only hotel integrated operation service in Korea that collects real-time information of room distribution, room cleaning, and facility management personnel on one platform.

“It automates hotel operations by converting manual workflows into digital. As a result, hotels can expect up to 50% more efficiency and up to 20% more sales through the introduction of H2O systems, and expect to increase the proportion of direct booking by up to three times,” he said.

Furthermore, H2O Hospitality’s integrated DT service automates the check-in and checkout process, eliminating the need for face-to-face contact.

“With our smart door lock and mobile app, guests can check in and out of a room without having to wait at the front desk or kiosk,” John Lee said.

Interestingly, deploying H2O’s system in High1 Resort wasn’t entirely a cinch.

“When we link our system to the customer’s system, we provide customisation services for each system to make it work,” said John Lee. “The process of linking High1 Resort’s self-developed PMS (which was already in place) and the High 1 Resort app to work without any problems was a challenging process.”

“However, thanks to the active cooperation of High1 Resort officials, the whole process of integrating our system proceeded smoothly,” he added.

The vacation spot of the future

John Lee, Chief Executive Officer at H2O Hospitality. Image courtesy of H2O Hospitality.

Being on the cutting edge of hotel technology means looking ahead, and H2O Hospitality assuredly has its eye on the emerging.

“In terms of automation technology development in the future, we are striving to link more diverse and non-face-to-face services related to the use of accommodation facilities, such as in-room services,” revealed John Lee.

“Furthermore, we are focusing on securing direct-to-consumer (D2C) channels to increase the proportion of direct booking of facilities. In addition to the facility’s website, we are expanding by country to use D2C channels – such as messaging apps, email, and SMS – used by existing guests to carry out customer relationship management in the facility,” he continued.

High1 Resort isn’t resting on its laurels either.

“H2O’s smart check-in/checkout system has been deployed at High1 Resort. Our smart check-in/checkout customer usage rate increased from 19.3% in 2021 to 26.3% in 2022, which is a 7% increase. Our goal is to increase the utilisation of the smart check-in/checkout system to 50% in the future,” shared Lee Sam-Geol.

“In addition, we are developing a ‘smart order taker’ service that allows you to request the items you need in the room through the High1 Resort app, and we will introduce it shortly. A facial recognition system for identification is also in the pipeline,” he High1 CEO added.

For better or for worse, COVID-19 has certainly changed how hotels work, and its future has arrived.