High fives for Radisson Blu’s zero queue system
COVID-19 dumped chaos on our laps and also a few subtle changes to how we live. Booking a room at a luxury hotel is easy enough, but what happens when you visit the spa? Does anyone expect or want to queue in public in a bathrobe?
That was the situation facing at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Andermatt, located in the ski resort high up in the Swiss Alps, when the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the globe.
The flow of people to Radisson Blu’s spa and restaurant suddenly had to be moderated and hotel staff needed a system that let guests enjoy its facilities safely. Without safety protocols, the hotel could have been shut during the peak ski season.
Back in mid-2020 Andreas Meier, general manager of the Radisson Blu Hotel in Andermatt, saw the problems that lay ahead for the hotel, which relies on winter tourism for the vast majority of its annual revenue. Andermatt ski resort takes the majority of its revenue from the ski season.
Meier had watched the roll out of a new queue management system from digital experience outfit Ombori for the lifts at Andermatt’s ski resort. The system tapped smartphones to manage queues at the lifts. Meier wondered whether a similar system could work for Radisson Blu’s restaurant and spa and it turned out to be a life saver.
“If we didn’t have Ombori’s solution, we would have gone through a harsh winter,” says Meier.
Meier was worried that customers might not come back if the spa and restaurant weren’t safe to visit and wondered whether those who stay would be willing to stand next to one other in a queue.
“From my point of view, it was a must have,” he recalls.
Who wants to wait in the corridor in a bathrobe?
As all skiers know, a hot breakfast and the after-ski spa are just as important as carving up fresh powder on the slopes. But while skiers are willing to wait for ski lifts, they aren’t so patient when gearing up for a day in the Alps or capping it off with a hot spa.
“Customers don’t expect to queue in hotels. Before Corona it would be difficult to implement this system in our industry. Now that Corona has changed our lives, it has also changed our perceptions. I want to keep the system running for the spa after COVID,” Meier explains.
“At breakfast everyone wants to be on the slopes at 9am so this gives us an opportunity to inform the guests in advance and make the plan better,” he says.
Radisson Blu printed a flyer for guests at check-in, which included a QR code as well as guidance on how to use the queuing system and how to change a reservation from a smartphone.
Now, when guests have booked a time for the spa, they get a message on the smartphone alerting them it’s time to visit the spa. There’s no waiting and no more awkward queues in bathrobes.
Meier leaned towards the smartphone solution from Ombori partly because of his experience in Switzerland’s high-end hotels, where experimentation is the norm. He spoke with Thomas Landis, chief digital officer of Andermatt ski resort, who was rolling out a smartphone-based ski lift system to prevent crowds at the ski lift waiting area.
“My career was in restaurants. In this business, we develop through trial and error. I think it was a fortunate connection with Thomas,” he says.
Andermatt’s youth as a luxury ski resort village in the historic Swiss Alps played to its advantage in the pandemic. The village dropped off the map after Switzerland shut a military base there in the 1990s. It reemerged in the 2010s after a multi-million dollar investment in facilities and ski infrastructure, which brought a Michelin star sushi restaurant, the Radisson Blu, and the 169-room five-star Chedi hotel.
“Most hotels are empty nowadays. We were lucky to have a domestic market that can afford the rates, and we are in a young destination. I was surprised when I saw that with other more mature destinations, people thought there would be a lot more people there,” says Meier.
“We believe that due to COVID, people wanted to avoid crowds and they came to us instead,” he adds.
High fives for Radisson Blu’s zero queue system
The system has dramatically improved online reviews for the Radisson Blu Hotel in Andermatt, according to Meier. A key metric he and industry peers look at is the Global Review Index, an aggregated score that reflects customer reviews across major online travel agencies and review sites. In the hotel business, online reviews can make or break the business.
Meier set up the system in December, 2020 and ran a sentiment analysis comparison on 80 comments that reflected how customers rated the hotel’s facilities.
“Before I had a lot of negative feedback,” he says. “I had a negative impact before the solution of 1.3 on the Global Review Index. This went away after we implemented the Ombori solution.”
According to Meier, the industry acknowledges that rising just one point on this index in a high-frequency hotel can translate to an extra €2 million on top line revenue.
Meier researched other solutions for the spa area, but saw obvious problems with the queuing logic.
“They sit down and wait,” he says of other queuing systems he vetted. “It’s a bit embarrassing sitting in your robe, waiting. The same with breakfast.”
It’s a relatively simple system that Radisson Blu rolled out and operationally it just works. Customers are happier and it doesn’t impose extra duties on staff.
“What I can say is that the Ombori system improved the appearance,” says Meier.
“If you pass the spa and a lot of people are sitting there with their robes, can I enter to book? It’s not a good experience. For a shop you don’t want to have a lot of queues outside.”
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