No contact. No keys. No drama.

13 May 2024
Words John Miller Informer

No contact. No keys. No drama.

Contactless motel management is a growing trend — and smart locks are making it increasingly viable.

Hi-Way Motel Grafton is a 31-room budget motel whose manager is onsite about once a month. The rest of the time, he’s managing the motel remotely from his Brisbane home, over three hours’ drive away.

“We were looking at going contactless pre-Covid, but Covid really put it into focus for us,” says Hi-Way’s manager Cameron Mackay.

“Guests would just walk off with keys or not respond when we asked for them back. With inflation, costs have gone out of control. It’s now about $200 to replace a traditional lock. So, we needed a solution.”

Enter Salto KS, a cloud-based smart lock system that gives motel managers control over room access from anywhere at any time. The Spanish-based company’s locks are now used by over 20 million guests in 90 countries.

Mackay was introduced to Salto at a NoVacancy Expo in 2022. By January 2023, Hi-Way Motel Grafton had Salto installed. At $60,000, including internet upgrades, the cost was steep, but worth every bit of the owner’s investment, says Mackay.

Salto locks are activated by a six-digit access code the guest will receive by text and email about 10 minutes before check-in commences. The guest simply enters the code into the lock’s keypad to get room access. Mackay has set up a profile for each room within the Salto KS system that will generate a fresh code for each new reservation. Housekeepers and supervisors are issued their own separate codes.

“The efficiencies are terrific,” says Mackay. “It really does the job perfectly for what we need. For guests, it gives them a lot more reassurance and safety. We don’t generate the access codes. They’re all auto generated by Salto.”

“Another benefit is that it has helped reduced bad debts. We don’t send the room access code without payment first.”

“Also, if a guest breaks house rules, we can lock them out of their room straight away. Fortunately, we’ve only had to do that once. If need be, we can give emergency services a unique access code as well.”

Mackay says most younger guests love contactless management, but there is a generational divide.

“Some people love the fact they don’t see anyone, that they can walk straight into their room. Older guests aren’t that sold on it. Most in that demographic want a manager physically there. I’d say if you’re considering implementing a smart lock system, it’s worth thinking about whether it’s suitable for your guest profile.”

Hi-Way’s owner is now looking to install Salto at two of his other properties, a backpackers’ hostel in Ayr and a nine-room motel in Mackay (North Queensland), which is also managed remotely by (Cameron) Mackay using traditional lock boxes and physical keys.

“Personally, managing multiple properties, it’s better for my own mental health,” says Mackay. “I can carve out a reasonable life for myself. When you’re always onsite you kind of get caught up in your own world, and it’s 24/7 stressful. Contactless is much better. I went up to Mackay last week and was still operating Grafton in transit very easily. All I needed was my phone and laptop.” END

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