Teleport Hotels, a Netherlands-based hospitality group, embraces the philosophy of "Our home is your home," turning each guest's stay into a remarkable and unforgettable experience. Skillfully blending the finest elements of a hotel and a hostel, the group offers an array of accommodations, ranging from private studios to vibrant dormitories.
At the helm of the daily hotel operations is David van Erkelens, a true champion of change in the hospitality landscape. Over the past five years, he has gained deep expertise in hotel technology, becoming a pivotal figure as they decided to make the shift from their traditional all-in-one hotel PMS to a cloud-native open property management platform. Even with the weight of change management efforts squarely on his shoulders, David takes it all in stride, confident in his moves and ready to share the fascinating story of their journey.
Challenge: Managing city taxes from different OTAs is cumbersome
David and his team struggled with efficiently handling a high volume of reservations from diverse OTAs such as Booking.com, Airbnb, etc., each with unique city tax conditions. While conventional practices involve charging city tax upon arrival, some OTAs pre-charge the fixed part of the city tax, leaving the supplemental fee for the hotel to manage. It's crucial for Teleport Hotels to navigate these differences carefully, preventing overcharges and transactional issues, eliminating manual workarounds. Their ultimate goal is to ensure accurate billing for guests, thereby maintaining high levels of satisfaction.
“Even with all the advanced technology, we were still dealing with manual workarounds on collecting payments from each channel, which just didn't make sense. We were really having a tough time with it. So, we realised that to fully automate our payment processes, we needed a super flexible system. This system had to allow us to handle all limitations of each channel, because there's no generic approach to this that an all-in-one hotel PMS can fix.”
In summary, the management of city taxes posed distinct challenges in payment processing, making a one-size-fits-all PMS impractical for collecting reservations and payments.
Solution: Unlimited property management data access with an open platform
Teleport Hotels emphasised the necessity for full payment automation to eliminate the potential for human error and the need for manual interventions. David opted to switch from their previous hotel PMS to Apaleo, an API-first, open hospitality platform. In contrast to the previous all-in-one system, Apaleo provided accessible data through API connections, unlike the hard-coded information of the former provider.
They also integrated Apaleo with the no-code visual automation builder, Make.com, which enabled dynamic parameter adjustments to each incoming reservation.
“Apaleo's flexibility and unlimited API access empowered our solution architect to effortlessly develop a script capable of handling the diverse scenarios required for payment automation.”
Their bespoke system not only manages the timely processing of reservations but also offers the flexibility to automatically remove charges. For instance, when an Airbnb reservation is received, it should omit the city tax charge and make corrections for additional services. Additionally, Teleport Hotels needed a solution that instilled confidence in the accuracy of this payout system. The objective was to guarantee a seamless and 100% accurate payout process.
Result: An average of 3 hours saved per day with fully automated payments
Thanks to the integration of Apaleo and Make.com, the team at Teleport Hotels no longer needs to manually process incoming reservations or handle city tax. Their payment process is now 100% automated, saving the staff on average 3 hours per day. This efficiency allows the team to dedicate more time to guest communication and other guest-facing activities.
“Our commitment to automation goes beyond saving costs; it's about freeing up time to rethink the guest experience. Through the adoption of technology, our goal is to genuinely transform the responsibilities of our staff, transitioning from administrative roles to becoming real hosts.”
Challenge: Hurdles in the digital check-in process due to inaccurate billing
A notable challenge for Teleport Hotels, following the initial payment-related hurdle, was the ambition to implement a seamless open self-check-in area for guests. The obstacle at hand was the need for accurate billing to ensure a smooth process. Previous attempts at creating a self-check-in area in the past seven years had failed due to billing complications. The team recognised that presenting guests with tablets for self-check-in without a clear understanding of billing would lead to a nightmare scenario, causing frustration for both guests and staff.
“Guests would often approach with questions, puzzled about additional charges on their portfolios and unable to complete their check-in smoothly.”
Solution: Accurate billing and a successfully implemented self-check-in area
To overcome challenges in creating a self-check-in area due to persistent billing issues, David and his team spent six to seven months testing the workflows of Make.com across all their properties. With the automations in place, guests can now seamlessly look up their reservations, ensuring that the accurate payment amount is always displayed. They complete their payments and effortlessly check into their rooms.
“Establishing a self-check-in area was a key part of our digital transformation. Our aim was to ease the administrative burden from the reception, allowing our team to be joyful and approachable to our guests."
This achievement stands out as a significant improvement in the guest experience, fulfilling the team's goal of streamlining check-in processes and allowing reception to focus more on guests rather than administrative tasks.
Result: Digital check-ins at 40% and continuously climbing with streamlined automations
As we progress towards a more interactive check-in process, there's notable technical advancement in place for 100% digital check-ins. However, motivating staff to embrace this change is essential. Previous errors in their old hotel PMS reduced employee morale, impacting trust in hotel automation. Change management remains a work in progress, with some staff embracing the transition, while others resist due to a preference for traditional setups - a desk providing a sense of distance and focus, where attention can be dedicated to the hotel PMS.
Despite challenges, the team, guided by David, recognises the potential for a positive transformation in guest experience through opening up the front desk area for interaction.
Challenge: Lack of visual dashboards on key hotel KPIs
In the ongoing process of change, Teleport Hotels faced the challenge of unifying and visualising housekeeping insights, check-in/out data, and self-check-in performance monitoring. Previously, lacking a two-way integration, the accounting and property data were siloed, requiring manual efforts to generate, combine, and format reports for proper accounting. The challenge lies in merging these disparate data sources into a single dashboard.
Solution: Real-time data flow between Power BI and Apaleo
Apaleo makes it much easier for Teleport Hotels to access, extract and analyse their data. In a few clicks, the team can now swiftly generate reports for any given period throughout the year. Thanks to Apaleo’s open API, these insights can flow directly into PowerBI by Microsoft, Teleport Hotels’ business and market intelligence tool. This streamlined process eliminates the need for manual report combination, enabling a comprehensive overview that can be directly integrated into the accounting system.
David and his team also expand their dashboard to visualise and gain insights into check-in and cleaning data. Their goal is to enhance the efficiency of their housekeeping efforts by prioritising room cleaning based on arrivals and availability.
Result: Several days of manual work saved for accounting and housekeeping
This solution proves especially valuable for handling yearly reports on city tax and administration for three different hotels, each situated in cities with unique approaches and calculations. The centralised overview saves several days at the end of the year, as the required report is readily available, having been adapted and incorporated into Power BI.
"The real-time data flow fundamentally simplifies our decision-making process. The dashboards provide actionable insights that enable quick decision-making. With a comprehensive array of classic KPIs, we can swiftly identify underperforming rooms and make necessary changes. For instance, if room performance is lagging, we have the information to consider room changes. Similarly, on days with low pickup, we can promptly adjust our pricing strategy. The convenience of having all this information in one place eliminates the need to log into separate revenue management systems for insights, making our decision-making process more efficient and informed."
The streamlined data visualisation has proven to be an invaluable asset not only for the accounting team, but for the housekeeping staff, as well. Now, the team ensured that all in-house guests receive thorough stay-over cleaning and that special theme rooms are equipped with the necessary amenities, ready for check-in.
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