• David Ganly

Hotel Pre-Arrival Digital Transformation

What is Pre-Arrival digital transformation?

Let's define the different elements. Pre-Arrival is the period of time between the guest receiving their booking confirmation and entering the hotel bedroom. Digital Transformation is the transition of all manual tasks to fully automated tasks applicable to that booking.

Fully automated means all tasks do not require human intervention. The Pre-Arrival

operations team are then managing edge cases and handling exceptions caught by the automated process.

Hasn’t the industry digitised all this already?

No is the simple answer. There is certainly a lot of great solutions automating some of the

Pre-Arrival processes on the market today.

What is it we must digitise?

If the goal is to digitise Pre-Arrival then this means we must fully automate every task that occurs after confirmation and guest walking into the hotel bedroom. So if you are unsure, go through the list and ask yourself, how many of these tasks are fully automated i.e. no human intervention / the tasks are completed automatically by a system without a human kicking off a process.

In no particular order here is a list of these common Pre-Arrival tasks.

1. Assign Room

Put the guest into the correct available room that meets the guests’ expectations, requirements, and requests. Rooms typically cannot be automatically assigned until day of arrival and only when room is vacant clean/inspected.

2. Assigning Sharers

More complex than standard room assignment, hotels that have large tour or allocation business may have to handle complex sharing arrangements while only receiving rooming lists as the bus pulls up to the hotel door. Some hotels are dealing with this room assignment jigsaw from 2 weeks before arrival.

3. Payment / Preauthorisation

In most cases payment is validated at the point of sale, payments may be authorised for an amount at check-in to allow the guest to use all services and amenities with charge to room functionality. Check-out handles full settlement of payment method. Sales Leger/Direct Bill needs to be managed Pre-Arrival with valid correspondence.

4. Housekeeping Requirements

From changing bed configuration to room cleaning scheduling. Allowing the guest to define the room cleaning schedule has become a thing since covid.

5. ID/Passport Capture

Mandatory in some countries for the guest to physically present their identification at check in. Some countries legislation needs to catchup too! See guest security checks.

6. Upsell

If your hotel does not have a system offering some type of upsell facility, you are probably doing it at the front desk during the check in process. If you are not doing it, the guest is probably asking for it.

7. Tax: Tourist Tax/City Tax

In Europe alone this differs from country to country. Some you cannot validate/configure until the guest arrives. Some are based on age, purpose of travel etc. Tax exemption codes/numbers are collected at check-in for some countries.

8. Registration: / Privacy validation / GDPR etc

Register all guests, some countries require specific information. Register all guests staying in the room not just lead guest, this may not be known until the guest walks into the hotel. Another example, until recently Germany required physical signature for each adult in the room on government provided forms. Some countries need verification that the guest details equals the provided identity details and the verification detail must be kept for 10 years!

9. Loyalty: Members

Managing members benefits / points fulfilment expectations are a challenge in a digital world. A risk of digital adoption failing because members doing receive their perceived benefits could damage a Pre-Arrival digital transformation strategy.

10. Special Requests

Would you like a newspaper and or a wakeup call. Could you provide an Iron and Ironing board to my room please? and the list is endless, but if the guest does not provide the data in advance its more difficult to fulfil the request.

11. Facility Booking

Would you like to book a table in the restaurant for this evening or a round of golf for tomorrow? How about a treatment in the spa? Capturing dietary/allergy/special occasion information.

12. Voice Assistant in my room

Request to have or remove a voice assistant in the room.

13. Cut Key

Today the cutting and sharing of keys happens at the front desk during check-in. Ensuing the guest has access to entitled areas such as conference facilities, leisure centre, exec lounge etc.

14. Billing Instructions

For leisure guests the understanding of who is paying the bill. For business travellers the processing of a credit authorisation by their company needs to be validated Pre-Arrival. This is still being done mostly by Fax or Scan of document with signature.

Or the business traveller who is paying their own bill. Perhaps they wish to split the bill and have some charges on a different bill.

15. Method for further communication

Capturing a preferred method of communication pre arrival allows the hotel to communicate all the available services that can be made smother before the guest checks in. Maybe the guest prefers, phone, WhatsApp, or email.

16. Correspondence collation

Typical front desk operations will have a correspondence box or a central filing system where the guest’s correspondence will be held. While most bookings today are created through digital channels, depending on the hotel and its sales mix there will be a portion of guests who still require this process. A system that handles drag and drop of emails, digital auth forms, scanned IDs / documents etc into one digital screen.

17. Luggage Management / Porterage

Sometimes luggage comes to the hotel without the guest attached to it! It needs to be managed correctly and sent to the correct guest room. Allowing the guest to know the luggage has safely arrived goes a long way to a making a happy guest.

18. Messages & Deliveries Management

People leaving phone messages at the hotel, sending packages for the guest pre arrival. Notifying the guest without having to pick up a phone or write an email is all part of the digital transformation.

19. VIP process

Notifying a duty manager or general hotel manager of an arrival is a daily task for many VIP check-ins. Ensuring an expected time of arrival from a guest will help to orchestrate all the events that need to occur to make the vip feel extra welcome.

20. Inclusives/Package verification

Breakfast will be in the bla bla lounge, you only have the blue menu but you cannot eat from the yellow menu, your assigned breakfast time is between 7 and 7:30am, your bedroom is on the bla bla floor and the elevators are bla bla.

21. Room Floor maps / Directions to room

Most hotels the guest finds their own way. In a world where the guest goes “straight to room” this is complex when it’s the guests first visit. Anybody for Augmented Reality directions using my smartphone in my language?

22. Pre-Arrival surveys

If the guest journey is properly digitised, then Pre-Arrival surveys are not essential, it should be embedded into the digital Pre-Arrival process. I do understand that for the purposes of covid-19 these have been necessary to assess the guest’s current medial status.

23. Guest Security Check

Allowing the guest to go “straight to room” with the provisioning of a digital key and online check-in is insufficient to validate who is entering the hotel. This risk must be managed and working with companies like (no relationship) may reduce the risk.

24. Check In

The physical acceptance of the guest into the hotel. The changing of the status in all related systems to acknowledge that the guest is in the building and is now deemed an INHOUSE guest. There are specific legal requirements around this.

25. Enabling Interfaced Property Systems

The bit that has been automated for years. The property interfaces are those that are guest facing and are typically activated as a physical check in occurs. If a guest remotely checks-in at midday but doesn’t arrive until 9pm and the check-in has activated the heating, electricity, water, air con etc. Online check in – does what it says on the tin but it has to become far more intelligent.

26. Room Moves

What is meant here is room moves prior to arrival at the hotel. A key has been assigned but for some operational reason the guest should not be given that room. The guest cannot be allowed to go to the original room. It’s further communication with the guest to ensure the new room transition is smooth.

27. Queue / Rush Rooms

PMS functionality to handle scenarios where hotels have large volumes of arrivals standing in the lobby, but rooms are not ready yet. Walking around with a clipboard calling out people’s names…. Sending an SMS to say your room is now ready, go to reception.

28. Guest Communication

Telephone calls, emails and even the odd letter. This is manual effort to communicate something important to the guest. Yes there are great new systems to improve on this but these systems are by no means ubiquitous.

29. Remove Alcohol from bedroom if guest is underage.

In some countries there is a legal obligation on the hotel to ensure that alcohol is removed or unavailable in the room when the occupant is under the legal age.

30. Early Arrivals

This is not the upsell capability. It is the people who appear at 10am looking for their room. Nice for some software to communicate with the guest as they were on an early arrival waiting list!

31. Visa Details

Some countries check-in process must capture a visitor visa travel detail.

32. Tour Operator Voucher

Collection and validation of the tour operator voucher at the time of check-in

For true digital transformation, all contact with the guest should be through one single hotel controlled communications channel, should be on brand, on message and on tone. All guest data should come from one single record of truth.

Engagement should be bi-directional i.e. the hotel can notify the guest when any of the above tasks needs to be completed, but primarily the guest engages with the hotel via a portal to carry out any guest actionable task at their leisure.

The more of these tasks considered outside the scope of Pre-Arrival digital transformation, the more people will have to line up at the reception desk to check in, creating longer queues.