PARKING: THE FIRST IMPRESSION THAT PAYS

Like front desk check-in, valet and self-parking services can be an important part of guest interaction. When done properly, hotel parking operations can create a positive, memorable guest experience, in addition to becoming a major profit center. Often, parking is the first and last contact a hotel has with a guest.

HVS/Ultimate Parking Solutions, a parking asset management service, offers tips operators can use to improve their parking services:

  1. Invest in high-quality parking technology

    There are two core components of a profitable parking operation: access control and revenue control. Investing in high-quality equipment ensures that both components are handled properly, and even with a potentially large price tag, this type of equipment can pay for itself in less than a year.

  2. Invest in high-quality parking technology training

    If you want to realize its full value, you've got to know how to use your new parking access and revenue control system (PARCS) properly. This includes taking advantage of detailed and intricate reporting functions, as well as creative options such as pre-printed exit cards for hosted functions, etc.

  3. Invest in a full-service maintenance plan

    This means all costs, not just preventive maintenance. While this may seem expensive at first, it will save you much money in the later years of your system life, and better yet, will likely extend that life, too.

  4. Investigate automation/pay-on-foot options

    Even in the hotel context, an automated self-parking facility can work very well. While a pay-on-foot system — in which drivers pay for parking at what resembles a parking vending machine rather than at a live cashier window or booth — may smack of limited customer service, it's surprising to see the positive feedback it generates. With all transactions automated, payroll reduced and fewer hours to schedule and staff, it makes the overall management of the garage much easier.

  5. Invest in management

    With labor being one of the largest line items, most management companies look to save money by limiting staffing. However, having appropriate levels of management that can oversee auditing and revenue control functions is often the only way to ensure a parking facility's true revenue potential is realized. In most cases, the monthly salary of a parking manager is paid for many times over each month through the capture of full revenue and proper expense management.

  6. Reevaluate your use of space/traffic flow

    This is really code for outside-the-box thinking. Is there a better way to park vehicles on your property? How wide are the spaces? Would it make sense to introduce valet parking so tandem, or so-called stack parking, can be used? Finally, is there an opportunity to accommodate employee parking off-site in order to free up on-site parking for hotel guests or other paying parking customers?

  7. Know your customers

    Are there trends in their arrival and departure times? Can you match your valet staffing levels to those schedules in order to have sufficient staff during known high-volume periods while avoiding overstaffing during moderate volume periods?

  8. Know your market

    Better yet, know your neighborhood. Are your parking rates competitive? Could the parking demand withstand a rate increase? Are there any companies or other demand drivers in your immediate market area that is generating a parking demand that you could potentially meet with your excess capacity?

  9. Track your performance

    As with any business, it makes sense to monitor your performance from both customer service and financial perspectives. Do you employ a customer feedback mechanism such as a survey or comment card? Do you use available technology to track your revenue by market segment, time, days of the week, etc.? These types of analysis will tell you where your opportunities are to improve your service levels, tailor your staffing or market your inventory.

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