As modern travellers express increasingly diverse demands, the accommodation industry is constantly driven to reinvent itself and offer unique experiences. It is with this realisation and a night spent on the water during lockdown that two brothers, Augustin and Jean-Chrysostome Dumont, launched L'Escale Royale, a concept of floating houses. Their initiative aimed to break away from mass tourism models and promote sustainable and high-quality tourism that highlights territories, landscapes, as well as natural and historical heritage. In 2023, over 75% of French waterways remained unutilised.
After three years of research and development, L'Escale Royale now boasts 13 suites, or "House Boats," moored at four different sites along the French coastline, in the Parisian region, and on the French Riviera. They aspire to expand their fleet to a hundred boats across French territory by the end of 2024. We had the pleasure of discussing the project and the central role played by the Apaleo platform in operations, improving the guest experience, and brand growth with Aurélien Grapinet, Director of Operations of L'Escale Royale.
Challenge: Remote management of multiple sites with the flexibility needed for a start-up
Aurélien and his teams faced the primary challenge and goal of managing their sites remotely without permanent staff on-site while offering a 4-star level guest experience: "We prioritise preserving privacy across all our sites. Since we don't have 100 rooms per site, it would be costly to have full-time staff on-site. One of our main challenges is, therefore, how to manage our business remotely and without a physical reception, while ensuring a seamless experience for our guests. This obviously involves constant attention to all phases, whether it's preparation before, during, or post-stay."
Aurélien also emphasises the importance of technological choices in the perspective of growing the business: "With the growth ambitions of our company, we also place great importance on the scalability of our technological infrastructure. Our idea is to prepare for the future as soon as we make a decision, placing the scalability of our business at the heart of our considerations. Before making a decision, we always ask if it will be applicable to 200 House Boats or 50 sites. If not, we don't adopt it. In this perspective, we are also considering opening our business to franchising and collaborating with third-party service providers. It is essential that L'Escale Royale can effectively manage user access rights on our property management platform."
Finally, Aurélien insists on the need for teams to be flexible in implementing new processes and tools.
Solution: A self-service, connected, multi-property platform to manage remote House Boats
Aurélien and his team's decision to choose Apaleo is based on several decisive factors. Firstly, Apaleo's ability to offer a centralised view and management of all House Boats is a major asset. Additionally, the ease of connecting to many third-party applications also played a crucial role in their choice. Given L'Escale Royale's ambitious growth plans and the need for quick execution, the functionality to clone a template property is crucial. This feature allows L'Escale Royale to launch a new site semi-automatically in a few hours with all desired parameters, such as rate plans, cancellation policies, automations, inventory types, and much more.
Regarding reporting needs across all sites, the ability for Aurélien to easily connect his chosen reporting tool, Microsoft Power BI, represents a significant advantage.
Result: Migration from the old hotel PMS in less than a month and simplified training
"Of all the solutions we've known, Apaleo and Topsys are one of the providers who listen most to their clients," shares Aurélien. Thanks to this collaborative approach and easy implementation, L'Escale Royale successfully migrated from its old system in less than a month.
"Thanks to Apaleo's intuitive solution and the support of Topsys teams, each staff member could be trained independently. A simple hour of training was enough, while our old solution required an intensive 20-hour training."
Challenge: Reduce manual tasks to focus on high-value initiatives
As a still relatively small team, L'Escale Royale felt the need to focus on high-value tasks to foster business growth and optimise profitability. It was in this context that Aurélien was looking for an alternative to his old PMS, a solution that could act as a facilitator by minimising administrative tasks, especially in terms of reservation and accounting management.
Solution: Automations serving the team of L’Escale Royale
Designed to automate many processes that were once manual in the hotel industry, the Apaleo platform and some of its features addressed significant issues for Aurélien and his team. Concerning accounting, increased visibility into payment operations allowed the relevant department to be faster and more accurate in account reconciliation. The automation of the daily night audit is also a considerable advantage, saving precious minutes.
The digitalisation of the guest journey and related payment processes also had a significant impact on their customer service. Whether it's sending pre-stay and post-stay emails, collecting and securing credit card information, or the check-in/check-out processes, all these steps are now automated. This automation allows their staff to focus on the business aspects of their work.
"It may sound surprising, but it is entirely conceivable to let the system run autonomously for a week, with almost negligible deviations. This possibility gives us peace of mind to focus on other priorities," shares Aurélien.
Finally, the ability for their staff to send an integrated payment link to the reservation in Apaleo represents a considerable time saver for their staff. This is particularly useful in various scenarios, such as when the card used has insufficient funds at the time of payment or for phone reservations. Moreover, this feature avoids sharing sensitive data, thus reinforcing transaction security.
Result: 40 hours of manual tasks saved per month
With the staffing shortages faced by the hotel industry, offering more rewarding jobs with less redundancy in daily tasks makes companies more attractive. In this regard, the goal of L'Escale Royale was not to reduce human involvement but to provide a better experience for its staff.
"All these automations, when combined, allow us to save more than 40 hours per month. This increased efficiency not only allows us to take a more strategic approach in our daily operations, but also to dedicate more time to marketing and improving the guest experience."
Challenge: Provide a modern and self-service guest journey
One of the strategic challenges the L'Escale Royale's team faced was to offer a smooth, unified, and personalised experience to its guests, from booking on the website to post-stay communication, while minimising manual intervention from its staff. To meet this challenge, Aurélien explored guest experience platforms, which were deeply integrated with Apaleo. These applications automate data transfer to Apaleo and collect legal information such as identity documents. Additionally, there was a need to offer additional services automatically to increase sales and collect guest reviews to improve satisfaction.
Solution: A personalised guest journey with Apaleo's partner, Duve
After a thorough analysis, Aurélien and his team opted for Duve, a versatile platform that offers unified guest management, self-service check-in and check-out, instant communication, upselling proposals, the use of mobile keys, as well as guest review collection, among other features.
To ensure quality service and remain true to their commitment to providing service beyond usual standards, L'Escale Royale established another fundamental principle. As Aurélien explains, "Our staff contacts all guests 48 hours before their stay and 48 hours after their departure to ensure they have everything they need and to gather their feedback, with the constant aim of improving their experience." Aurélien emphasises.
Result: 100% automated check-in, check-out, and payments
Thanks to the fully digital guest journey driven by Duve, L’Escale Royale has succeeded in automating all interactions throughout the stay. Thus, 100% of guests perform their check-in online, retrieve the access code to their House Boat, and settle their stay without needing assistance from operational teams. Additionally, Duve has had a significant impact on upselling after reservations, as guests now have the option to subscribe to these services independently. Aurélien shares: "We have observed an increase of nearly 50% in our sales of additional services, transitioning from phone to digital support."
Finally, Duve has achieved a response rate of over 80% to its satisfaction survey, giving the L’Escale Royale team the opportunity to continuously improve their guest experience.
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