Business

Hotels enhance guest experience and boost revenues with Oracle Hospitality

By Charindra Chandrasena

Sri Lanka’s hotels have been going through a tough time since the Easter attacks, with occupancy rates at historic lows. However, there are signs of a slow recovery with tourists slowly returning to the island with the relaxation of international travel advisories.

Even prior to the attacks, one could question whether the guest experience provided by Sri Lanka’s hotels could be compared to the experience provided by the country’s competitor tourism destinations such as Thailand, Bali, and Malaysia.

One way the levels could be enhanced and these international standards could be matched is through the use of sophisticated technology to enhance the guest experience.

A report on the hospitality industry by the US-based IT market research firm Starfleet Research highlights the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) in enhancing guest experience and thereby increasing hotel revenue.

The report notes that AI dramatically reduces the need for human assistance when it comes to answering questions and resolving problems that commonly arise during a guest stay, resulting in substantial cost savings.

The use of AI in hotel messaging shifts the conversation between hotels and guests from a request-based one to a two-way dialogue, which is far more valuable. AI also significantly enhances the in-room guest experience by seamlessly integrating technology-enabled amenities that translate into increased guest satisfaction and loyalty.

The report says that by automating “best next actions” based on guest data, AI gives hotels the opportunity to enable personalisation in ways not previously possible, driving increased revenue per available room (RevPAR) in the process. AI can identify and resolve issues that could potentially erode guest satisfaction without the need for human intervention and suggest new innovations to further improve guest satisfaction.

While it may be early in the game, AI is already changing the guest experience across the travel lifecycle, including the on-property experience. The report makes clear that this transformation will only accelerate over the next few years, ushering in the future of the hotel guest experience.

A technology company that has identified this opportunity to become an integral part of the hotel industry is Oracle Corporation. Through the solutions which fall under the banner of Oracle Hospitality, the company offers a range of software, hardware, and related services – including a portfolio of cloud solutions for hotel and food and beverage operations – designed for the hospitality industry. Oracle Hospitality brings 40 years of experience in providing technology solutions to help elevate the guest experience, streamline operations, and enhance profitability while reducing the cost and complexity of IT.

Oracle’s OPERA hotel management platform has long been preferred by thousands of hotels from the world’s most recognisable brands to independent properties. Now, OPERA Cloud brings the same comprehensive features to a cloud-based, mobile-enabled platform.
Oracle Hospitality Senior Vice President and General Manager Greg Webb spoke about the importance of guest experience and the innovations of OPERA Cloud.

“In a world where guest experience is ‘make or break’, today’s hoteliers need critical insights into their operations as well as into each guest’s needs, desires, and behaviours. With OPERA Cloud, our hotel customers can truly hear the ‘voice of the guest’, enabling employees to raise their game and deliver on guest experience like never before.”

OPERA Cloud’s innovations enhance the guest experience with a new “look to book” feature which provides the room type and rate inventory for single and multi-property reservations via a shopping cart view for faster booking, streamlining room reservations.

New features also allow hotel operators to make the check-in process seamless and consistent with a set of customisable steps. OPERA Cloud is mobile-enabled, allowing staff to check in guests on tablets, eliminating long lines and guest frustration while delivering a more personalised check-in experience.

It also simplifies the check-out by making it easy to settle bills, including preparing and routing bills with multiple folios. Drag and drop functionality makes it easy to transfer a posting to another folio or room. Integration with EMV credit card settlement eases payment processing from the desk or a mobile tablet, making it easier to serve the customer in the most convenient locations.

Opera Cloud can also improve corporate and property reporting. With three dashboards and sample reports, hotel personnel – from operations managers to revenue teams – can swiftly view and deliver insights such as average daily rates, room revenue by property, guest profiles, reservation blocks and sales, and catering information.

Furthermore, OPERA Cloud Services has open APIs which enable faster and easier integration with third party providers.
Oracle claims that currently, eight out of 10 of the world’s top hotel groups utilise Oracle solutions to deliver an outstanding experience to each and every guest, while maximising operational efficiency across key areas of their businesses. Oracle Hospitality OPERA Cloud Services provide comprehensive property management capabilities that can meet the needs of independent hotels and hotel chains that want to offer exceptional experiences to their guests.

OPERA Cloud’s guest profiling capability allows hotels to capture the guest preferences they need to personalise the guest experience. It ensures the preferences of guests are recorded, making it easy for hotel staff to quickly access profiles when needed to deliver personalised experiences that enhance guest loyalty and drive membership growth in loyalty programmes.

This kind of personalisation is a big part of Marriott International’s strategy to connect more intimately with customers by collecting and analysing guest data. Oracle Hospitality OPERA Cloud Services power property management and point-of-sale systems for about 1,200 hotels in the Marriot chain, with plans to expand to 4,300 properties soon. According to Marriott, it offers mobile check-in and check-out with an 86% satisfaction rate among guests using the service, and most guests said they now have a stronger impression of Marriott.

Oracle Hospitality OPERA Cloud Services also offer rate management functionality to hotels, allowing them to adapt rates to suit their business and market conditions. This simplifies rate management, ensuring that you can give your revenue teams the very best tools to meet business objectives. The application also makes it easy for reservation teams to identify appropriate rates for customers as well as cross-selling and upselling opportunities to maximise revenues.

In terms of food and beverage, ensuring restaurants and bars run efficiently to maximise guest satisfaction and profitability is essential. Oracle Hospitality offers industry-leading point-of-sale and kitchen management solutions that integrate with Oracle Hospitality OPERA Cloud Services, providing simplified reporting and billing.

Mobile technology allows hotels to untether the front desk and serve guests anywhere on the property with an internet connection. Oracle Hospitality OPERA Cloud Services are mobile-enabled and are browser, operating system and device agnostic, running on Oracle Hospitality tablets or any commercially available smart devices.

The application can run on mobile devices using a variety of bandwidth and connection options, including 3G, LTE, public and private WiFi networks – without the need for VPN or dedicated connections. Check-in and check-out times can be reduced and efficiencies in housekeeping and maintenance can be improved by providing workforces with real-time updates on room status and maintenance requests.

glh Hotels Management Ltd., a British-based global hotel company, employs Oracle Cloud and the company has seen instant results.

“We’ve had people literally crossing the room to thank us for improving the stability and performance of our systems. The move to the cloud and the upgrade to the latest version of Oracle Hospitality OPERA Property Cloud Service have significantly improved our operation here at glh Hotels – our operations teams are now able to plan for the future with high levels of confidence in our technology,” said glh Hotels Enterprise Architect Matthew Newton.

When it comes to utilising AI, the Sri Lankan hotel industry has been lagging behind international peers, despite the country’s focus and reliance on tourism. However, as we see from the above, many are the benefits that can be gained through AI, particularly with respect to the guest experience. Today, the global hotel industry is moving fast and furiously towards not only mirroring AI-enabled home and office experiences in guest rooms, but surpassing those experiences with a range of innovative capabilities designed to further elevate the overall guest experience. Sri Lanka should join this movement, sooner rather than later.