The latest perk hotels are offering guests: flexible check-in and checkout. Some charge a fee. But some are granting it for free. It's an interesting play to attract more loyal customers who will book directly with the hotels and not with online travel agencies.
Hotels want guests to overstay their welcome.
The Hoxton hotel chain is the latest to offer flexible check-in and checkout times, but unlike many of its competitors, it will grant the perk for free to those guests who book directly.
“We’ve all flown on holiday or at work when you’ve landed at 7 a.m. at a city. All you want to do is have a shower and get to your meeting and lo and behold, you can’t,” said Sharan Pasricha, founder of Ennismore, the developer of The Hoxton hotels. The policy will apply to all Hoxton hotels, located in London, Amsterdam, Paris, Los Angeles, Brooklyn, and Portland, Oregon.
With Flexy Time, the hotels will let guests check in from 12 a.m. on the day of their booking to 12 a.m. on checkout day. Guests will have to book direct on the hotel website and give 72 hours’ notice of their arrival and departure times.
Typically, hotels will set check-in times at 3 p.m. and checkout the next day at 11 a.m. or 12 p.m.
Some hotels and hotel chains will allow those times to be adjusted for their top-tier loyalty club members. For instance, Marriott Bonvoy rewards club members who have Platinum status or above have a guaranteed 4 p.m. late checkout. Gold elite members have a 2 p.m. late checkout.
Other hotel companies will offer flexible check-in and checkout times for a fee. Netherlands-based citizenM has late checkout at all of its hotels based on availability and at varying rates per hotel. It also offers early check-in at its airport hotels.
The Standard hotels has Standard Time available at all five of its hotels in the United States. It will be introduced at The Standard London and The Standard Huruvalhi Maldives early next year. Typically, guests have to pay 5 percent of the room rate to get the flexible times. It is subject to availability, and the hotels do sometimes sell out.
“Unfortunately, if we are sold out it may not be available, but guests will always know in advance,” said The Standard CEO Amar Lalvani. “If promised on booking, then we will deliver.”
Offering such flexibility, either free or for a fee, makes business sense. It could be an extra revenue stream for hotels. It could also build customer loyalty to a brand.
“With the continued rise of long-haul international travel, more and more hotel guests are arriving on flights at awkward hours of the day and night,” said Max Shepherd-Cross, CEO of HotelFlex, a startup that helps hotels do flexible check-ins and checkouts. “Check-in/checkout flexibility is becoming the next big battleground to personalize the guest’s stay, increase loyalty, and generate incremental revenue.”
HotelFlex analyzes the occupancy of a member hotel and will send customers with reservations an email or text message letting them know if a room is available for early check-in. Up to 15 percent of guests choose to pay extra for the service and will even pay up to 50 percent of the room rate, Shepherd-Cross said.
“This doesn’t have to have any operational impact,” he said. “All hotels have spare capacity whether that’s particular days of the week or seasons of the year that they experience lower occupancies. All the hotel has to do is use these empty rooms to offer early check-ins and late checkouts to their other guests. The hotel receives money from a room that would have just sat empty, and the guest receives much-needed flexibility.”
Pasricha doesn’t see it as a financial boon to his hotels. But he does see it as a way to guarantee return customers who are willing to book directly with the hotels rather than go through an online travel agency.
“Trends are changing where 20 years ago, hotels could get away with charging $5 for a Kit Kat bar out of the minibar,” he said. “Today consumers are getting a lot more savvy. They are looking for value.”
The luxury Peninsula Beverly Hills has Peninsula Time for free, allowing guests to check in and check out at any time as long as they notify the hotel in advance.
“Theoretically, you can stay 27 hours at the hotel,” said Peninsula Managing Director Offer Nissenbaum. “We felt that taking away the stress from the guest is a true luxury. It has created loyalty. There’s no question that this has helped us create repeat clients.”
“It creates a competitive advantage that none of the other hotels have,” he added.
Giving guests that luxury does take some work for the hotel, which is why they request advance notice. Traditionally, hotels have a morning and afternoon housekeeping crew. That model has to be tweaked to accommodate people arriving and leaving at various times.
“We have housekeeping come in every hour on the hour on a revolving shift,” Nissenbaum said.
For guests staying in a particular room type, such as a presidential suite, it can take some juggling if a new guest is arriving to take over that room. In that case, someone on Peninsula Time would be allowed to stay at the hotel but would move to a different room.
The Hoxton started a trial run of Flexy Time in multiple markets in January. It was successful enough to convince Pasricha to make it a permanent perk at all properties. Technology has helped with that. The hotels use a hotel management software by KnowCross that specializes in housekeeping, hotel maintenance, and service management.
“You can design algorithms to assign tasks based on real-time availability,” Pasricha said. “We have good technology on the back end.”
Photo credit: The Hoxton hotels, including this one in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, will now offer guests flexible check-in and check-out times. It will be available at all its properties for free. The Hoxton hotels