As the next generation of tech-savvy travelers continue to expect more self-service opportunities and easier transactions, hoteliers are finding ways to upgrade tech in parking lots.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Today’s travelers expect that new tech trends will continue to filter through guestrooms and other public spaces, but there’s also an expectation for upgrades in hotel parking lots.
Michael El Guizawi, director of operations at DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Houston – Greenway Plaza, said with technology constantly changing, it’s key to always be in tune with what’s going on.
What properties are doing
Recently El Guizawi’s property began installing a new parking gate system that does license plate recognition. The purpose is to streamline operations with the front desk, he said, as well as make things easier for guests.
The gate will take an image of the guest’s license plate as they enter and exit, and it will track how long the guest has been there, he said.
The decision to do this was simple, because the parking gate company it partnered with is based in Houston and is fairly new, he said. As it’s a newer company, he said his property is acting as a “test property” and is one of the first to implement it.
He said the cost model was also a plus because it didn’t require much upfront investment and the capital necessary was minimal.
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Houston – Greenway Plaza is also working to install a parking guidance system in tandem with license plate recognition that allows guests to locate their car if they can’t remember where they parked it by going to one of the pay-on-foot or pay-on-lane stations, which is very similar to what many major airports use.
Once the parking gate installment is complete, he said there is a brand standard to also install a digital key system. This will allow guests to use their mobile phone to enter the parking gate and add parking charges to their phone on the Hilton app, he said.
El Guizawi said his property’s gate system use to be managed by a third-party company, but now the hotel manages the entire operations directly. He said the new system won’t require much upkeep, because it’s just about maintaining the software and ensuring the equipment is in good working condition.
Mike Marshall, president and CEO of Marshall Hotels & Resorts, said it’s becoming a brand standard for “upper end” Hilton and Marriott International hotels to have digital keys for parking, which is “quite expensive” for owners, he said.
He said he has one DoubleTree property in Ohio where ownership doesn’t have the capital to implement the digital key system in the parking lot yet. He said the digital key brand standard didn’t come into effect until the property was getting ready to open.
Although not having the digital key is hurting guest services somewhat, he said ownership is aware. Eventually there will be a hard deadline where the hotel will have to install it, he added.
Older trends that are still going strong
Five years ago, Marriott’s Element brand made the decision to require electric charging vehicle stations as a brand standard, said Marlon Whyte, global brand leader, Element Hotels and AC Hotels.
“Each Element hotel is required to have a minimum of two stations,” he said in an email interview. “Given our eco-conscious brand identity, as well as our company’s sustainability goals, we felt this was a natural way to acknowledge and provide for our guests who were trying to reduce their carbon footprint.”
As the number of smart/electric vehicles continues to increase, he said the demand for charging stations continues to grow, too. The two stations that Element recommends each property install are a universal one and a Tesla one.
Whyte said the upkeep remains minimal and maintenance is generally covered by the service provider. As far as expenses go, the annual fees for usage typically run about a couple hundred dollars, he said.
There is some revenue stream attached to the service, he said. Twenty-one of Element’s EV charging stations offer complimentary charging, while seven of the properties have fees connected to the service. For the AC brand, 16 hotels offer complimentary charging and eight charge a fee, he said.
“EV charging stations are another way we help to reaffirm Element’s commitment to sustainability and commitment to helping our guests reduce their carbon footprint,” he said. “As Element is always looking for ways in which to help our guests reduce their environmental footprint, it made sense to make EVs a brand standard requirement.”
Whyte said based on research, the next generation of tech-savvy travelers have a higher demand for self-service. He anticipates that more tech advances will be made in the near future to facilitate these types of self-service transactions that travelers expect.