When the SingapoRediscovers vouchers* were launched, Singaporeans made a beeline to utilise their credits by booking staycations at participating hotels. The opening month for voucher redemption happened in conjunction with the December school holidays and demand for hotels skyrocketed overnight.
The economic impact of Covid-19 has seen hotels undergo retrenchment exercises, reducing manpower resources. With the many safety measures introduced, hotel staff now also have a lot more tasks to handle. This, together with the sudden influx of guests, most who are unsympathetic to the pain the travel industry is going through and who expect pre-Covid levels of service, has culminated in a perfect storm for hotels.
In the first 2 weeks of December, numerous publications picked up on the many complaints from staycationers about poor crowd management at hotels resulting in the need to queue for hours before arriving at the front of the check-in counter. With mounting pressure from unhappy guests, hotels were forced to go in search of a solution to their “Check-in Crisis”.
Understanding the Real Issues
What many guests don’t realise is that hotels specify check-in and check-out times due to the work needed to turnover rooms, especially during this crunch time. Hotels, operating at reduced manpower, need time to clean and sanitise the rooms, and many underestimated how long it would take.
Though it was clearly communicated prior to guests that check-in time was to be after 3pm, many staycationers chose to arrive earlier. Some turned up as early as 10am, hoping to get a few hours head start to their staycation; these guests would unfortunately, end up having to wait in line at the lobby.
Change in guest profile
Another factor contributing to the Check-in Crisis, is the dramatic change in guest profiles from inbound foreigners to local guests – a result of global travel restrictions currently in place. Pre-Covid, check-in and check-out traffic was generally staggered as it was based on guests’ flight timings. Now, local guests, intent on maximising their stay, are arriving on time or earlier, and asking for late check-outs!
Once news of the Check-in Crisis broke, our product team came together for an emergency meeting to see how we could alleviate this unforeseen pain point for our clients. The team sat down with our hotel partners to engineer a solution that could integrate easily with their existing operations flow, and ultimately, solve their check-in problems.
The Creative Solution
Observing the current trend of early guest arrivals coming in from noon, we decided the best approach to controlling check-in crowd size was to stagger guest check-ins across 3 hours in the morning, starting from 9am to 12pm. By setting aside a predetermined number of rooms and taking into account the time needed for room turnover, we worked out a plan to check-in select groups of guests ahead of the afternoon peak hour, thereby alleviating peak hour waiting times.
To that end, Vouch developed an online platform that our hotel clients could use to invite guests for early check-in. Our platform allows hotels to control room inventory by specifying the number and types of rooms available for check-in on an hourly basis. Selected guests are then granted access to the booking link for them to choose their preferred check-in time. Confirmation is then communicated immediately, with the entire process requiring little involvement on the part of the reservations team.
One of our hotel clients, for example, was able to achieve a turnover rate of 15 rooms an hour, allowing the hotel to complete 45 check-ins between 9am to 12pm, substantially easing guest congestion during peak check-in timings.
One additional advantage of this solution is that these staggered check-ins can be marketed to guests as an extended stay, giving them 3 hours more stay time compared to a standard check-in. Hotels may even take this a step further and use this as a reward for their loyalty programme or to delight VIP guests.
With this solution in place, we were able to help our partner hotels cope with the changing situation. More importantly, we were able to do this in just a week! The Vouch Hotels team is aware of how fast hotels need to move today, and our platform and teams are structured to enable quick iterations and the development of new features quickly.
No one can tell when the world’s borders will reopen and how long these staycation issues faced by hotels will last. But one thing the Vouch team is confident of is that there is always an answer to your operational problems. Find out more about Vouch and our full suite of digital solutions at vouch.sg.
*To support local businesses, the Singapore government gave out S$100 worth of digital vouchers to Singaporeans 18 years and above, to be redeemed for tourism-related activities.
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