reinventing the hotel reservation wheel.

I am not an efficiency expert. I am not a graduate of a university hotel management program. Quite simply, I am a traveler. I am a customer. After my most recent visit to Las Vegas—a major travel and tourism destination—I remain convinced there has GOT to be a better way to manage the check-in/check-out process!

Last week’s visit to Vegas is a microcosm of what I consider to a problem in dire need of a solution: the dreaded check-in queue. I’ve stayed at several Vegas resorts. While some lobbies have ornate fixtures and fine, marble floors and others are more basic, each one shares the same problem: long lines of anxious travelers who would rather be anywhere but standing in that queue.

And I’m certain this can be fixed.

I would love to reinvent the way hotels manage their guests. I sincerely believe this is an opportunity to reinvent a very wobbly and sometimes broken wheel. This reinvention requires a bit of Steve Jobs-esque thinking. In other words: think different.

The biggest problem, as I see it, is the current model forces hotel guests to fit to the hotel’s mold. That wouldn’t be so bad if the current mold weren’t so crappy. Perhaps the solution is to flip the model on its head and fit the hotel to the traveler.

Eliminate Reservation Redundancy.
Let’s start with an easy one: making reservations. Whether you make reservations via telephone, travel agent or online, that should be a closed loop. Meaning: when you check into the hotel, you should not have to stand in a line and wait for even five minutes to answer the same exact questions you were asked at the moment you made the reservation.

Yes, I understand there’s a reason behind it: people’s needs sometimes change from reservation to check-in. But this is the exception, not the rule. So why do we force all traffic into the detour?

A simple automation solution might be for self service kiosks that can handle check-in. Rather than force 20 people to talk to three front desk attendants, why not have them taking turns at a set of kiosks?

Bring the Front Desk to You.
Another idea is concierge level service. This may sound like an expensive idea, but imagine if your reservation were managed personally by an agent whom you knew by name? Think about this for a moment. You used a third-party website to make your reservations. Within 48 hours, you receive a phone call from Lynn, a hotel representative who confirms your reservation is all set and she will personally handle your needs during your stay. When you arrive at the hotel, you are greeted personally by Lynn, who walks you to your room.

Is that too pricey an idea? If Lynn’s handling just one intake, yes, it is. But if a hotel is checking in 100 parties in one day of operation, Lynn and the front-desk staff of 5 – 10 associates could easily manage it. All we’re doing here is taking the agents from behind the desk and putting them in a client-server relationship. Instead of being passive, waiting for the guest to come to them, the associates would be proactive in managing when a guest checks in and out.

That’s just a couple ruminations on the subject that require further study, but I seriously believe this is a problem worth fixing. I want to reinvent this wheel…is there any money in it? Let’s hope. 🙂

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