Checking into a hotel can be a tedious process involving hotel staff manually examining documents, but a new automated system under way here promises to get guests their room keys much faster.
The system - called E-Visitor Authentication (EVA) - will help do away with those manual processes and reduce hotel check-in time by up to 70 per cent.
The EVA system launched yesterday involves guests using a mobile app or a standalone kiosk to scan their passports using facial recognition technology similar to that used at airports. A guest's data will also be sent to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority to verify the validity of his stay. Once this is done, the guest gets the room key.
Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat announced the initiative at the Hotel Industry Conference 2019. He said: "Today, hotels have to deploy staff at check-in counters to... confirm that the individual's face matches the passport photo, and to verify that they are in the country legally.
"Some hotels have self-check-in kiosks with facial recognition technologies to automate the first task, but not the second. With EVA, both tasks can now be automated."
He said the reduction in check-in time will translate to over 11,000 hours saved annually for a large hotel, and allow front-office staff to spend more time engaging guests.
The new system is already being piloted at three hotels: Ascott Orchard, Swissotel The Stamford and Grand Park City Hall.
Mr Marcus Hanna, general manager of Fairmont Singapore and Swissotel The Stamford, said the system has helped to cut large amounts of paperwork and boost efficiency.
"There used to be long queues, with colleagues manually helping to process check-ins. Now, technology has made possible the completion of check-in in about three minutes and check-out in less than 30 seconds for each guest," he said.
Hotels can contact the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) to find out how they can introduce the system.
Singapore has more than 400 hotels with 67,000 rooms. Total gazetted room revenue rose by 1.7 per cent to $1.9 billion in the first half of this year, said STB.
Visitor arrivals increased 1.3 per cent to 9.3 million in the same period, though tourist spending fell 3 per cent to $13.1 billion compared with the same six months last year.
Mr Chee said that while concerns over the global economy and geo-political tensions have affected Singapore's overall growth, the hospitality industry must continue to transform. "We must press on with the tripartite efforts to strengthen our industry capabilities and upskill our workforce.
Reduction in hotel check-in time using the new E-Visitor Authentication system.
"These will also put us in a better position to tide over challenging times and seize new opportunities when the economy recovers."
The Infocomm Media Development Authority, in partnership with STB and SkillsFuture Singapore, launched the Hotel Industry Digital Plan yesterday. The free resource provides hotels with an easy-to-use guide on what digital solutions to adopt at each stage of growth, and includes a training road map to ensure staff are adequately prepared.
Mr Chee noted that technology is not meant to replace employees, but to help them increase efficiency. "The aim is to enhance the capabilities of our workers so that they can take on higher-value roles which are more productive and earn better wages over time."