The rise of the cashless hotel
Coins and notes are fast becoming a distant memory as the world moves into the cashless era where everything from a carton of milk to a new Ferrari can be paid for digitally.
According to the World Payments Report 2018, global non-cash transactions grew by 10.1% in 2016, with Asia emerging as one of the chief drivers in the growth with an increase of 25.2%. Meanwhile a report by UK Finance showed that debit cards have now overtaken cash as the primary source of payment, and contactless cards and apps like Apple Pay and Google Pay account for more than a third of payments in the UK.
While going cash-free is convenient for the consumer, there are numerous benefits for businesses too. It can reduce internal fraud, increase revenue and save time - so it's easy to see why more hotels are choosing to operate cashless systems.
After launching in Hossegor in 2017, Accor's new budget brand Jo&Joe opened its first Parisian outpost in Gentilly in May 2019. With a cashless payment system, self-service beer wall, yoga and open mic nights, it's no surprise that Jo&Joe is largely aimed at the millennial crowd. "Our goal is to adopt the habits of our guests rather than asking them to comply with ours,” says Francois Leclerc, VP Brand & Operation.
Jo&Joe is the first brand from Accor to operate an entirely cashless system. “Payments are the least favourite part of anyone’s journey, so our philosophy of ‘no cash, no clash’ makes the experience as smooth as possible,” explains Leclerc. “Foreign currency transactions are simplified, fraud risk is reduced and ordering another plate of tapas is a no-brainer.”
While it’s one of the first in France, over in the Nordic region cashless hotels are increasing in popularity. The Clarion Sign Hotel in Stockholm, part of Nordic Choice Hotels, operates a fully cashless system, and the Comfort Hotel at Copenhagen airport, which opens in 2020, will also function this way.
However, according to the Banque de France, non-cash payments are on the rise in France thanks to the increased popularity of e-payments and a decline in the use of cheques.
“When we started out, our cashless environment consisted of our proprietary payment application and prepaid cards, but the feedback from our guests showed that we needed to provide a broader range of digital payment options,” explains Leclerc. Jo&Joe has since partnered with various mobile payment applications including Lyf Pay, Lydia and Alipay and it’s now integrated the cashless system with the room key card, which allows it to be used for all the hotel services - from payments at the bar and restaurant to storage lockers and even the laundry.
“While most of our international guests are conversant with the technology, our staff are happy to help educate newcomers to the payment apps, helping to convert even the most traditional cash-only guests into digital cashless nomads,” says Leclerc. “And the elimination of all fraudulent activities within our food and beverage outlets has been an added bonus. We're also able to gather spending data which gives us greater ability to customise future guest experiences.”
Contactless cards and apps like Apple Pay and Google Pay account for more than a third of payments in the UK
But it's not just the big hotel chains which are going cash-free. The family-run Grand Hotel in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire now operates on an entirely cashless basis. “We decided to go cashless in 2017 as we wanted our operation to be more streamline,” says Director, Tom Webb.
“We started phasing it in about two years ago, but it really took until the start of 2019 until we made the hotel fully cashless.” Like Accor, The Grand has seen numerous benefits to using the system from time saving to avoiding fraud. “There used to be all the handovers of cash in the bar, counting the tills, then when we do the banking we have to count it again, and then the bank counts it, it was a long process. Now we don't have to go to the bank anymore with cash, which lessens the security risk.”
It's easy to see the benefits for management, but what about the guests? “The feedback has been quite mixed,” explains Tom. “There are still people who like to deal in cash, especially those who work in the hospitality and building trades, as they often run cash businesses. We now warn everybody that we operate a cashless system when they book online or over the phone, and also in the bar and restaurant we've got it on the front door.”
As for the future, cashless systems in hotels are continually evolving and Accor is one of the brands at the forefront of the movement. “We feel the operational and revenue advantages to a cashless system are too great to ignore and we will continue to introduce cashless systems in markets where it makes sense for our guests, this may be at the brand level or the property level, but we certainly already have many hotels working in this direction,” concludes Leclerc.
- Going cashless has numerous benefits for hotels from reducing fraud and saving time to increasing revenue
- Debit cards and payment apps have now overtaken cash as a primary payment thanks to the increased use of contactless and smartphones
- There will still be guests who like to deal in cash, so pre-advise every customer that the property operates solely on a cashless system
- Remember to do your market research before making any major changes, considering your customer base and market