Hotel groups and chains

little BIG hotels automates more than 40% of payments & check-ins

Juliana Hahn

Juliana Hahn

About little BIG hotels

As of summer 2022, little BIG hotels operates five distinct properties with a total of 248 rooms across Germany. 

Guests wanting to explore Berlin—the lively capital of Germany—can choose from the group’s four hotels in the city. Each one reflects its neighborhood’s style and offers access to a wide variety of shopping, lifestyle, and entertainment venues. Travellers looking to relax by the North Sea can go off-grid at the brand’s charming Bude54 in the popular beach town of St. Peter-Ording. Regardless of location, guests will find a modern property with its own style, charm, and sense of place. 

We recently spoke with two staff members of little BIG hotels: Jennifer Seeckt, the Revenue Manager, and Martin Kochanski, the Online Marketing Manager. They shared the reasons for leaving their legacy PMS and how implementing Apaleo’s API-first property management platform allowed them to upgrade their guest journey and processes.


The right to move on from cumbersome legacy systems

Challenge: Limited integration options and a lack of flexibility

Jennifer ran into a challenge while trying to create more efficient processes and improving the digital guest experience. This was because little BIG hotels’ previous PMS provider did not have existing integrations with some of the new apps she wanted to implement. Among others, these apps were Hotellistat’s revenue management system and Bookboost’s guest messaging solution. Building the connection would be time-consuming, expensive, or impossible due to the lack of open API. This difficulty was making it harder for the brand to innovate. 

Jennifer knew there had to be another way. She began looking at other PMS providers and quickly realized that a rigid legacy system would no longer cut it in the modern environment.  

Solution: Apaleo’s cloud-based and easy-to-use UI and free data access allow for streamlined front office operations and unlimited customization at no extra cost 

During her search for a new PMS provider, Jennifer came across Apaleo’s open hospitality platform. It sparked her interest for two main reasons. First, the platform is easy to implement, even across an entire brand with multiple properties—thanks to Apaleo’s self-service go-live capabilities as well as the property templates functionality. 

Second, the platform offers the freedom to easily try and implement new tech solutions. Apaleo’s API-first design and the Apaleo Plug & Play Store gives every hotelier the chance to test and build the ideal tech stack that fulfills their unique requirements. 

This created the opportunity for little BIG hotels to easily set up and trial new solutions, such as customice for MICE management or GiftUp for gift vouchers. All this took just a couple of hours or days because it was no longer necessary to wait weeks for a new integration.

Result: 2.5 days per property to roll out Apaleo and to implement 11 integrations ranging from guest journey and distribution to back-office applications at no extra cost

In summer 2021, Jennifer and her team signed on with Apaleo. They took advantage of the pandemic-induced demand slump to implement the platform for all properties, one by one. This process proved even easier than expected. 

After setting up Apaleo at one hotel, the team was able to apply the same configurations to all other properties. Minor adjustments to room types, pricing, and available services only took a few clicks. In total, roll-out took just 2.5 days per property. 

“A system change was easy with Apaleo, even during ongoing operations,” emphasizes Jennifer. “We set up the PMS as our foundation so that we could directly access the current sales and the reservations from the channel manager. At the same time, we converted the guest messaging and installed a new digital door-locking system, which we are now firmly integrating into the guest journey.”

By now, little BIG hotels has connected 11 different applications for a wide variety of purposes ranging from guest journey management and distribution to back-office and revenue management.

The support from Apaleo’s many integration partners has also been a plus, Martin explains: “We highly appreciate Apaleo’s partners. All providers have had an open ear for our concerns, and they use our feedback to improve their applications.”

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Designing a connected guest journey from booking to check-out while automating processes to increase efficiency

Challenge: A lack of automation losing time and jeopardizing the guest experience

In the past, manual administrative tasks, such as checking in guests, handing over key cards, and taking payments, made up a large part of the receptionists’ working hours. All this left little time for the quality personal interactions little BIG hotels wanted to offer travellers.

“We used to lack the possibility to automate our workflows,” Martin says to sum up this challenge. Not being able to leverage innovative technology to automate manual processes meant that the team lost a lot of time on repetitive manual tasks—staff shortages only aggravated the issue. Of course, this also negatively impacted the guests who had to wait in line while receptionists prepared room keys or processed payments.

Solution: Moving to an accessible cloud-based hotel management platform

Apaleo’s integrated app partners Straiv and Bookboost make online check-in and check-out easy. Once the automated messages are set up, they automatically inform guests about the option to check in via their phones. At the same time, a connected payment system cuts check-in times both online and on-site. To complete the arrival process, Straiv and Salto’s digital door lock system gives guests immediate keyless access to their room via a simple web app.  

Jennifer and Martin also wanted to create a fully customized experience and give every traveller the chance to interact with the hotel via a straightforward digital channel. Bookboost was the optimal tool for this. It uses big data analytics, KPI tracking, and guest data to power chatbots, email marketing, and personalized upsell promotions. It creates a smooth, digital customer journey and enhances the guest experience before, during, and after their stay.

“Before the guest arrives, we want to introduce ourselves, awaken our guests’ anticipation, and help them prepare for their trip,” summarizes Jennifer. “Once they arrive, all the formalities should already be taken care of. That way our guests and staff can focus on creating an enjoyable stay.”

Result: 60% of check-ins moved online and personalized guest communication via all channels made available

little BIG hotels now saves a total of 120 hours per month on average because Straiv takes care of all manual tasks. Invoicing works completely online via Straiv, which has eliminated the time-consuming step of printing and verifying the bill at reception. Instead, guests can do this comfortably on their devices and independently complete their digital, paperless check-out. All this reduces the impact of the current staff shortage on little BIG hotels and allows their team to accomplish more with less. 

“We don’t want our employees sitting behind a screen all day typing in registration forms or completing checklists. With our new streamlined processes, we have more time for the guest again. If you have a choice in our business, you always want to be a good host first,” Martin highlights. 

Bookboost helps little BIG hotels take interactions online for the guests who prefer this. That has created new opportunities to connect with travellers and reach out with targeted offers or recommendations even before they check in.


Creating an efficient, guest, and staff-friendly payment process

Challenge: Cumbersome payment processes can hinder the guest and staff experience

In the past, little BIG hotels manually processed every aspect of payments. This began with asking guests to provide their credit cards on arrival, so the receptionist could enter the card data into the system. At check-out, the guests had to present their cards once again for the payment to be processed. 

Even cancellations, no-shows, and the reconciliation of payments captured via third-party apps were processed manually. Unsurprisingly, this consumed a significant amount of the staff’s time every day.

Solution: Apaleo’s payment automation features and payment API for 3rd party apps

little BIG hotels automated payment transactions with Apaleo Pay, which includes automation functionalities like no-shows, cancellations, and pre-payment collection. This allows the staff to focus on high-impact tasks instead of manually processing each transaction. 

With Apaleo Pay, transactions can be processed automatically or with a single click at any point of the guest journey. This saves time and reduces manual errors. The system’s compliance with the 3DS standard increases payment security and makes a guest’s next stay more seamless as they don’t need to re-authorize their payment method.

Furthermore, the integration of Apaleo Pay with third-party applications like a booking engine or self-check-in app allows different payment methods to be captured directly in Apaleo while making reconciliation easier than ever.

Result: 42% of payments are processed automatically, and automated cancellation processing saves over seven hours per month. 

The little BIG hotels team has drastically reduced manual work related to payments since implementing Apaleo Pay. Furthermore, the brand has benefited from reduced chargebacks thanks to Apaleo Pay’s secure payment link, 3D Secure credit card verification, and integrated payment terminals.

“We hardly ever touch incoming reservations anymore. Even a cancellation in the case of a no-show is done automatically. Due to the one-to-one assignment of rates with cancellation conditions, the correct amount is directly deducted from the stored payment account when canceling. Here, we saved on average about two minutes per cancellation for 213 cancellations (in June 2022) compared to the old PMS. That results in more than seven hours saved in a single month. Finally, it leaves little room for error in the reservation and brings us far ahead overall,” Jennifer outlines. 

little BIG hotels is a great example of how you can completely overhaul your processes and digitalize your guest journey—all while boosting revenue and guest satisfaction. 

In times when good staff are hard to come by and travellers’ expectations are high, leveraging the power of integrated hotel tech is the only way forward.

A dive into little BIG hotels' tech stack

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