The advent of low cost flight carriers has broadened the international travel market, allowing more people the opportunity to travel further. Following the financial downturn in 2008 consumers are now being more discerning on how they spend their disposable income, resulting in a far greater emphasis on people wanting to spend on ‘experiences’ over material goods. This can include concerts, restaurants, cinema,travel and hospitality.
The hospitality industry has long been at the forefront of creating memorable client experiences. For two centuries the perception of the ultimate travel experience was firmly placed with the top end of the industry – think brass and velvet and VIP concierge services. This segment certainly continues to attract its customers and services them with bespoke unobtrusiveness, and is parent to the two-decade-old trend of the boutique hotels, catering for the tourists indulging in individuality at bourgeois prices.
With the “always-on” mentality of internet era however,the result is the emergence of a new generation of hotels which meet the changing habits of consumers, be it digital natives or business travellers. The philosophy of today’s hotels is to make things more dynamic and easier for clients. For some hotels, this means offering smart phone apps which can help with checking in, showing local maps and services and letting customers use their phone as the ‘key’ to the door to their room, using near field communication (NFC) technology.
Hotel chains are tapping into this changing demand by offering a range of facilities aimed at delivering customers an integrated experience. The Student Hotel, aimed principally at the Dutch youth and young adults market, is a good example of this. They offer facilities for students, either staying long term during their courses or for shorter stays, and also caters for other, non-student, guests. Facilities include bike loan, full on-site wifi, and for long stay students, options such as a cleaner and launderette. The Student Hotel aims to promote its internationalism and safety and leisure aspects through its games rooms as well as study areas.
In addition to providing the physical rooms and amenities, hotels in particular have many touch points where they interact with clients, and therefore have the opportunity to enhance the experience the offer. Checking in and checking out are key touchpoints for both guests and hotels and in many instances it is their very first interaction. Modern hotels are often moving towards check-in systems where the customer has as little human interaction on arrival or departure as possible. This trend is the complete opposite of ‘old fashioned’ hotels where the service on arrival aims to make the best impression. Modern hotels aim to let clients move in and out of the facilities more freely, avoid potential queues and deal with any additional requirements or requests in advance. The Student Hotel offers booking and payment systems provided by the hotel service enhancement firm,Hetras, in co-operation with SIX Payment Services.
Hotels seeking to offer customers the smooth experience across all channels require fully integrated processes and systems behind the scenes. That’s where providers such as Hetras and SIX come into play, providing the technology to enable the processes for a seamless and enjoyable stay.
Hetras offers hotels multiple cloud based services, including advanced payment systems, in conjunction with SIX Payment Services. This technology can enhance the client’s hospitality experience, for instance ‘recognising’ frequent visitors and knowing their typical requests in advance, so that they are able to offer a more bespoke visit. How clients pay can also be part of this process, be this through contactless point of sale applications or with banking / card details being pre-registered with the hotel so that they can bill electronically in advance or after the stay. For many modern hotels, a payment terminal at a traditional check-in could be seen as an ‘ugly’or ‘old-fashioned’ disruptor in a high-tech environment, just as it would be inappropriate in the immaculately designed ambiance of a luxury resort.
Yvo Moonen, Director of Finance of Student Hotels said: “Ease of use is a key priority for all our customers. We aim to support and enhance the self-service experience of their stay across all channels, and rely on fully integrated technology in the back office processes. Hetras and SIX Payment Services are perfectly aligned and allow us to offer a modern customer experience in a very price-sensitive segment.”
Astrid Neumann, Head of Marketing, hetras said: “Hetras is not a technology firm, however our use of technology allows us to offer a wide range of systems that can help enhance hospitality offerings. Secure online payment systems and contactless points of sale are clear benefits which our customers appreciate. By working in collaboration with SIX Payment Services we know that we are able to offer straightforward, efficient and secure payment solutions across all channels. ”
Roger Niederer, Head Merchant Services of SIX Payment Services said. “Omnichannel – the buzzword of the year in retail – has long arrived in hospitality. The seamless integration of internet booking, online down-payment, on-site payment and post-checkout payments has long been business as usual. SIX is supporting these trends across all segments and markets, and we are pleased to be servicing a wide range of hotels and their customers with our payment services.”
As the hospitality industry evolves to reflect the changing demands of consumers, it is likely that consumers will start to seek these benefits elsewhere, across other industries. The use of online services, apps and easy-to-use, unobtrusive payment systems is only likely to increase both in hospitality and beyond.