Bringing enhanced comfort and efficiency to hotels
Although every hotel operation is unique, one aspect shared by all hotels - if they are to operate profitably - is the wish to retain the loyalty of existing and satisfied customers and the constant need to attract new ones. In order to do those things, they simply have to be attractive to the growing numbers of hotel-users, to provide a great guest experience and to operate ever more efficiently.
Efficient infrastructure, increased comfort
To do so, most hotel owners, operators and managers will already be aware of the many advantages that building management solutions (BMS) can offer any building that makes use of today’s electronic systems. There are comprehensive solutions for the control of heating, ventilation, air conditioning, lighting and blinds as well as the integration of power distribution to selected building services. The networking of these systems, along with those for fire safety, security, energy efficiency and evacuation, can ensure the smooth uninterrupted, day-to-day operation of hotels.
However, perhaps not all are aware that the very latest developments in building automation can help maximize any hotel’s performance and increase revenue via both the bookings they take and the greater use of the internal facilities by residents and non-residents alike. When integrating the various areas of the hotel infrastructure, customized hotel solutions can also enable hotel owners and operators to achieve significant savings on installation, operating and maintenance costs throughout the whole life cycle of the hotel building.
Creating an appealing site
With so many bookings now being made on online, those making the booking will often base their final selection on the appearance of the hotel and its facilities. Naturally, location, architecture and interior decor will all play decisive roles within the final decision, but one aspect often overlooked is the part that lighting plays in a hotel’s online appeal. Building management systems can implement dynamic lighting for both the external architecture and the interior to give a hotel a range of lighting moods that look effective on the booking site as well as in reality.
Once guests have booked and arrived, lighting is critical throughout the whole hotel in determining their perception of it. In the lobby, restaurant and bars, the ambience is vital in persuading them to dine and drink there - rather than using the hotel as simply a place to stay. The recent advent of LED lighting technology has opened a world of opportunity for hotel operators. Offering the benefits of great efficiency and long life, they require less energy and maintenance than traditional lighting, making them much more cost-effective. Through the use of innovative and flexible controls, LED systems offer far more customization options, facilitating unique and dynamic lighting designs suitable for any hotel. Custom-designed systems can be integrated into the BMS in order to give hotel staff real control of this differentiated mood lighting while reducing the consumption of energy and saving costs. When basic lighting requires only a subset of the lamps to be used, the BMS will typically operate a system of rotation switching. This ensures that all lamps are utilized equally, preventing uneven usage and eliminating continual lamp replacement.
Delivering a good guest experience
Of the many areas of a hotel, the lobby probably creates the most lasting impression for guests and visitors, and therefore needs to be both pleasant and appealing for guests whilst being practical and efficient for employees. The right lighting and building automation technologies will ensure that guests experience a welcoming and comfortable environment as soon as they step into the hotel. The climate in bars and restaurants, of course, is also vital. By providing an experience that is always comfortable with good humidity and fresh air, the enjoyment of the guests will only be enhanced and increase the time they spend eating and drinking within the hotel - and the likelihood that they will return.
Controlling the ventilation within the kitchen, along with the positive and negative pressures within different areas, will not only make life more pleasant and efficient for hard-working staff there, but also prevent unwanted odors spreading into the restaurant and bars, adversely affecting the guest experience. Restaurant and bar managers can easily control both the climate and the different lighting moods - including the brighter lighting needed by cleaners - via a simple, user-friendly interface in the form of either a fixed control panel or one based on mobile technology using a tablet or smart phone.
Similar control is also, of course, needed in spas, conference rooms and leisure facilities: designer lighting integrated in the BMS and controlled efficiently by hotel staff can greatly improve the guest experience and fresh air ventilation will help to both relax and energize. Another important factor in those hotels offering conference and seminar facilities, is the control of the build-up of carbon dioxide (CO2). Recent scientific studies have shown that the ability to stay alert, to concentrate and to retain information is adversely affected by higher levels of CO2. Careful control of ventilation and the delivery of fresh air will have a positive effect on attendees and consequently improve the possibility of repeat bookings.
Guest room experience
While global brands need to deliver a reliable and consistent guest experience, boutique hotels need to build loyalty and generate the unrivalled word of mouth support of satisfied customers. Giving guests a truly memorable in-room experience is about providing the practicalities they expect, while enabling them to create their own environment according to their preferences, from the control of lighting and temperature adjustments to the latest in-room entertainment facilities or “do not disturb” signal. In addition to controlling the room’s temperature and ventilation, a modern BMS can be programmed to deliver fresh air as soon as the guest checks in, in order to eradicate any lingering smells and odors. Solutions that contribute to a consistently high customer experience are available for all hotel types - from small, family-run operations to large, luxury resorts. These intelligent solutions integrate all areas of room automation to provide guests with total control of their own environment.
It is important that rooms have very simple user-interfaces on thermostats to make it a simple matter to adjust settings and, when even this proves difficult for the guest, it should be possible for reception personnel to make any wanted adjustments to temperature or fan speed remotely from the front desk.
A similar, intuitive user-interface on the front desk can give an instant overview of all guest rooms and show whether each room is made up and ready, if it is operating efficiently, if there is a technical fault (such as a water leak), if the Wi-Fi is working or even if a window has been left open. Customized interfaces can also be created for individual members of staff in housekeeping or catering for things as simple as showing, for instance, which mini-bars have been opened and which need re-stocking.
Besides offering guests real control, these intelligent automation systems can save energy and costs at the same time. When guest rooms or conference facilities etc. are unoccupied, the amount of heating or cooling can be reduced without sacrificing comfort, resulting in a reduction in overall operating costs of 20-30 percent.
Keeping guests happy and safe
Of course, hotel operators have a duty to keep their guests safe. No hotel stay will be successful without guests feeling safe and secure. So safety and security technologies need to adapt seamlessly to the dynamic hotel environment.
Electronic security can help compensate for the reduction in physical barriers in open lobbies by making it more difficult to gain access to restricted areas. Sophisticated access control solutions can allow for the dynamic control of all areas of a hotel as well as guest identification, customer loyalty and electronic payment all on one card. An interoperable system of video surveillance, access control and intrusion detection, will help hotel personnel to view any area whenever a door is opened or an alarm is triggered.
The guests themselves naturally demand to be protected from fire, but they do not want the unnecessary inconvenience of false alarms. Nothing upsets hotel guests more than an unwanted alarm from an incorrectly responding fire system, especially if it happens in the middle of the night or on several occasions during their stay. Fire detection in locations such as hotel lobbies with wide open areas and high ceilings can be challenging in responding quickly and accurately, whereas mixed-use areas have the greater potential for generating false alarms. The right choice of automated fire technology, however, combining intelligent early warning systems with a range of detectors that can adapt to any space, can virtually eliminate the risk of unwanted alarms, as well as avoiding an unnecessary call-out of the emergency services.
In the event of a genuine fire outbreak however, it may well be necessary to undertake a full-scale evacuation of the hotel. The integration of fire safety and building automation systems better supports evacuation, communication and intervention efforts.
An integrated building management system can automatically open blinds so that rescue through the windows is made easier. Multilingual evacuation messages can be issued instructing guests to leave their rooms in a rapid but orderly manner in as many languages as appropriate. TV screens in each room can be used to display the appropriate evacuation route. Electrical consumers can be immediately shut down and escape route lighting switched on. In addition, air dampers are shut and fans are turned off. If smoke builds up, air dampers are opened and fans turned on to ensure that escape routes are free from smoke and evacuation is easy. Revolving doors are completely opened and corridor lighting, outdoor and pathway lighting are all switched on, depending on brightness, motion or time of day. In the event of a power failure, safety is, of course, assisted by emergency lighting systems.
Constant communication with the emergency services can be established to ensure rapid and appropriate response and video monitoring systems assist security personnel to establish the situation in any part of the hotel. This networking makes it possible to ascertain if any guests are in difficulty, so that help can be swiftly arranged and ensures an orderly, complete and timely evacuation.
Today, energy efficiency in hotels not only delivers substantial savings in cost, but also demonstrates corporate responsibility, subsequently enhancing a hotel’s image with its guests and the world at large. The dynamic control of heating, lighting and air conditioning based on fluctuating room occupancy can make substantial reductions in the amount of energy used by the hotel. Intelligent room solutions can also monitor the individual rooms and meter the amount of water and energy used. Some hotels have even started rewarding energy-conscious guests with loyalty points to be used for discounts or premium services, in order to encourage guests to behave in a more ‘green’ way and to return to the hotel in future.
Satisfying both: guests and operators
To sum up, providing guests with a welcoming and comfortable environment through the control of lighting and temperature conditions, requires systems that are not only easy to set up, reliable and flexible, but also ensure optimum conditions throughout the hotel at all times. Dedicated solutions of intelligent hotel technology can now deliver an improved visitor experience of greater comfort, convenience and pleasure in using all the hotel’s facilities, making it all the more likely that guests will return to relive their stay over and over again - whether they are commercial guests or friends and families enjoying a break.
However, just as importantly, the same automation systems that deliver this increased comfort, safety and security for all hotel’s guests, can now deliver greater operating and energy efficiency along with the subsequent reduced costs throughout the whole life cycle of the building. By implementing BMS from the right supplier, any hotel, large or small, can benefit from: reliable overall protection thanks to comprehensive fire safety; lower operating costs thanks to energy-efficient solutions and services; high operating efficiency due to intelligent resort-wide systems integration - and comprehensive support with one point of contact for service and maintenance.
Picture credits: Siemens Schweiz AG, Building Technologies Division, International Headquarters
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