Sunday , April 11, 2021

Why Ticketing Kiosks Are Checking into Hotels

The next step in transaction automation in the travel industry may well be the introduction of self-service ticketing machines, which are getting increasing usage at airports, into related markets like hotels, allowing travelers to integrate several transactions into one. Already, self-service kiosks at hotels allow travelers not only to check into and out of their rooms but to get boarding passes for upcoming flights, as well. “This will be the year of seeing airline self-service expand into hotel customer-processing networks,” says Jim Brown, director of marketing communications for Kinetics Inc., Lake Mary, Fla., which makes self-service kiosks, primarily for airlines. Kinetics has two pilot projects running with the W hotels of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., one in Boston and the other in New York. Brown says Kinetics hopes to expand rapidly to “several dozen” Starwood properties this year, and is talking as well to car-rental companies and cruise lines about deploying machines running so-called common-use software that would integrate, say, car reservations with airline check-in. Interest in such integrated functionality across travel markets is fueled in part by the recent explosion in self-serve ticketing among airlines. Kinetics has deployed about 4,000 ticketing kiosks in 180 domestic airports for 10 client carriers, including Continental, Northwest, and Delta, up from 2,500 at the end of 2002. The company projects another 2,000 shipments this year. Its biggest competitor, IBM Corp., claims 3,000 installations, including the industry's first multi-airline, shared kiosks, which went live at Las Vegas's McCarron International Airport last October. Meanwhile, airlines are seeing increasing passenger usage rates. Just in the past year, for example, the percentage of passengers with e-tickets using Northwest's kiosks ballooned from one-third to two-thirds. It and other carriers are now exploring added features, such as the ability to use credit cards to buy tokens that can be turned in for meals once onboard the plane. “The airline business is booming,” says Brown. “It won't be long before 90% plus (usage) will be the standard.” At these rates, the kiosks are beginning to make money for the airlines, with passengers using them to upgrade seats and buy add-ons like meals. And some low-fare carriers are planning to allow walk-up customers to buy tickets at the kiosks. The payback, Brown says, is now less than a year on an order of 100 units. Up to now, the machines, which run as much as $8,000 apiece aside from software and maintenance contracts, were viewed primarily as cost cutters that allowed the airlines to reduce service personnel.

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