VirtualHotel: App’s the way to do it

November 11, 2014

From Hotel Management International

While a multitude of customer experience apps and websites have flooded the hospitality sector, very few have been designed to cater as effectively to operators as they do for guests, and vice versa. Managing director Preston Benson discusses how Cardola’s fully integrated software platform was created in tandem with managers and honed by customers to overcome the limitations of static alternatives.

With the hotel industry’s digital revolution in full swing, there is no shortage of applications designed to streamline everything from booking to room service. Though operators are steadfastly upholding traditional aspects of the guest experience, more and more are now seeking innovative ways to incorporate state-of-the-art technology into their hotels, and are hunting for the partners able to implement it.

While many room-service apps already exist, few have integrated themselves into the hotel environment quite as effectively as the Cardola platform. Designed in collaboration with hotel managers and comprehensively refined through guest feedback, not only does it offer an enhanced experience to visitors, but it also offers tangible benefits to operators.

“Our app was primarily designed as an internal project, but after a year or two we saw how successful it was in our own hotels, and how it produced a 30 to 40% increase in room service revenue,” says Preston Benson, Cardola’s managing director and president.

“We realised there was a huge untapped market for this type of technology across the hotel industry, so we started to engage with people on the market and now around 95% of our customers are external.”

Increased revpar and reduced costs are obvious factors that have contributed to Cardola’s ongoing success. With the app downloadable prior to check-in, guests can take advantage of room service requests before they’ve got anywhere near the reception desk: just one demonstration of how managers can benefit from revenue increases through upselling services.

Goodbye to middlemen

“We’re not middlemen; we’re a direct extension of hotels. Ideally, we want to cut the middlemen out,” says Benson. “It offers a direct portal for operators to promote offers and other resorts in their group and with the option for guests to book directly it could reduce the commission paid to online travel agencies.”

By providing information through the app, some operators have gone as far as removing all printed materials from bedrooms and, with terminals located in every section of the hotel, disseminating information, such as last-minute menu changes or travel updates, can be done instantly.

Though a growing market, the majority of hotel applications still have a long way to go before they realise the full potential of available technology. “At the moment most are static and information only,” says Benson.

“They don’t provide high-quality images or really convey exactly what a hotel can offer. If you wanted to order room service, it would just list a menu, if you wanted to speak to someone it would just give you a number to call. You can’t go further than this on most apps out there.”

Integration innovation

With Cardola, everything is integrated and presented through a slick, ergonomic user interface, with no need to exit the app. Guest queries can be dealt with in a multilingual format and information is presented in real time and relevant to the local context. It’s a combination that has so far proved a hit among users. “Nine tenths of those who engage in our app are returning customers and they spend three minutes on average in each session, viewing ten different pages,” says Benson.

He believes that this level of integration and real-time information is encouraging Cardola users to return, helping the platform to flourish in what is traditionally a slow market for engaging with new software developments.

“I would say the hotel sector is generally reticent when it comes to trying new technology. Most hoteliers like to see others using things before adopting them, but we’re now at a point where guests will expect and demand this type of platform in the hotel,” he says.

“We have apps for almost everything in our daily lives, from keeping in touch with family and friends, to hailing taxis or ordering food, so we’re encouraging the industry to move with the times and engage with us.”

VirtualHotel™ by Cardola is a guest-focused solution that brings together all hotel services and local information into a simple, easy-to-use interface. Through guests’ own mobile devices or an in-room tablet, VirtualHotel™ informs and serves guests from the moment a reservation is confirmed, enabling hotels to extend and enrich a whole host of services from beyond the doors of the hotel.

Your virtual concierge in the palm of your guests’ hands

VirtualHotel is the first and only hotel application developed in a hotel environment, built in collaboration with hotel managers for over two years. It provides guests with instant access to everything a hotel has to offer through an intuitive and easy-to-use interface. It delivers that unique and personal touch, keeping hotel’s guests informed of all the services available and accepting requests in real-time, thus enhancing the service and the guest experience.

Available 24/7, in any language, all via the guest’s own device

With this innovative mobile solution, hotels are able to boost their awareness through a fully-customisable interface. Available in multiple languages to remove communication barriers – including RTL languages such as Arabic – and accessible 24 hours a day, guests can place orders and requests at a time that suits them, allowing them to make the most of their time away.

Significant cost savings and comprehensive methods of reporting

VirtualHotel has the proven ability to create new revenue streams for hotels through affiliate programmes as well as upselling existing hotel services. Hotel managers can finally save on operational costs such as staffing and printing, and reduce the dependence on OTAs by driving direct bookings to hotel websites. It also offers comprehensive methods of reporting, from a detailed analysis of guests’ sales and requests to statistics of usage and trends.

Integrations and key service performance indicators

Our native app integrates easily with existing hotel PMS systems, POS, room controls, voice communications, room access and other service-enhancing technologies. The majority of data displayed in VirtualHotel, including images, products, descriptions and prices is pulled in real-time from a dedicated server in the cloud. All content is managed by the Cardola Content Management System; guest requests and responses are managed by the Cardola Service Manager Application.

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