How technology is driving change for the holiday park industry
This article was originally published on news.com.au and created in partnership with Dell Technologies.
Dreaming of a calm blue ocean in some faraway place?
COVID might have wreaked havoc with the rhythm of our lives and left many of us yearning for an escape, but health and safety measures have put those holiday dreams on the backburner. For would-be travellers, it’s one of many small frustrations. For the leisure and hospitality industry, it’s devastating. Occupancy rates and revenues plummeted and left many accommodation providers in a precarious position. They’ll need some luck, some support and some fresh ideas to navigate their way out of crisis and into a ‘new normal’ world.
Australian technology provider RMS Cloud knows all too well how hoteliers and holiday park owners in Australia are struggling. The company has been developing property management software for the sector for more than 35 years and now boasts more than 6,000 clients around the world. Their cloud-based software helps small and medium-scale operators to manage every part of the customer relationship, from bookings and pre-arrival communication to check-in, and ongoing contact during and after a stay. When COVID hit, RMS Cloud looked to the future and asked, ‘How can we help?’
“Most of our clients have had single-digit occupancy for months and months and months, but their operating costs are largely fixed. So the first thing we did was launch a hardship program to forgive subscription fees for our software,” says Peter Ferris, global director of sales and marketing for the company. “The program has been taken up by about 800 businesses, predominantly in Australia, which equates to about a half a million in subscription fees.”
The company then turned its attention to how software could help the industry to get back on its feet. The most glaring problem in the short term was how accommodation providers would meet COVID safety requirements. For customers to feel safe, and for businesses to operate safely, hotels and holiday parks would need to offer robust, compliant contact tracing systems.
“Over a two-to-three week period, the RMS Cloud development team just shifted focus towards that contact tracing capability. We spec’d it out, sought client feedback, developed it, tested it, and then rolled it out for free to all of our clients. Not everyone is open yet, but we wanted to make sure that our clients had exactly what they needed to hit the ground running.”
The new RMS Cloud product automatically generates a pre-arrival SMS to guests that leads to a COVID health check and contact tracing portal. If the guests answer any questions indicating a health risk, for example, if they’re been overseas in the preceding 14 days, the system will automatically generate an alert for hotel staff. The staff can then contact the guest to get further information and identify what additional steps might be needed to accommodate them safely.
With the contact tracing tool rolled out, RMS Cloud has now turned its focus to other product innovations that will assist accommodation providers and guests in a socially-distanced world. Frictionless customer engagement is the main goal, where operators can care for guests with minimal face-to-face contact.
“If you’ve got a group of people standing around reception waiting to check-in, and a receptionist who is having face-to-face contact with many people every day, that obviously presents a risk. We’ve been focused on developing a check-in process that allows people to do everything remotely,” Peter says.
In the caravan park world, that means offering a completely contact-free service for guests, so that they can arrive at the park, use the guest portal to check-in, get their security code and drive straight down to their site. Using RMS Cloud technology, motel industry operators are now offering pantry starter kits, with basic kitchen needs pre-purchased and waiting in the room for guests, limiting their need to go out and stock up at the on-site store.
“We’re looking at systems that allow reception staff to alert guests that housekeeping is coming, for example, so that the guests have the option of leaving the room,” Peter says. “And we’ll continue to expand the software. Can customers use their mobile phones to order things to their rooms? Can they communicate with their hosts with no physical interaction? We’re looking at every touchpoint that might present a risk and thinking about how technology can work around it.”
Part of the RMS Cloud strategy involves keeping the guest connected to the host, through messaging, instant chat and other means. The company works with large hotel and motel groups, but also many small and independent operators who rely heavily on goodwill and a great interpersonal experience to keep guests coming back again and again.
“It’s a challenging environment, absolutely. The balance is about helping people to feel safe but also making them feel welcome. It’s called the hospitality industry, after all. You want people to leave the property having had a new experience, backed by robust technology, but still feeling great about the hospitality they have received.”
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