It’s human nature to want the biggest and flashiest things. That’s why millions of people wait breathlessly for the annual iPhone rollout, the introduction of new car models, and the launch of new technologies. But sometimes bigger isn’t better. In fact, when it comes to hotel parking, ‘smarter’ is much more important.
Technology has transformed parking in recent years, making it much more user-friendly while, at the same time, making it easier to manage. Hotels, in particular, have benefited from the advances in parking technology and the extent to which they have improved the parking experience. For many hotels, particularly urban properties, parking facilities serve as de-facto lobbies. Patrons often drive directly to hotel parking garages and either valet or self-park their vehicles before checking in. If the parking experience is unpleasant, patrons’ stays get off to a bad start. Conversely, a pleasant parking experience gets the hotel stay off to a great start.
That’s why parking technology has proven to be so important to hotels. More user-friendly PARCS equipment (that gates all entrance and egress), LPR tools, and even pre-booking platforms make hotel parking easier than ever.
But one technology that should be a game changer isn’t making its way into many hotels. Parking guidance technology uses sensors to determine how many parking spaces are available in a particular parking facility—or on each floor of a garage. The sensors transmit that data to strategically placed signage that guides drivers to open spaces. A parking guidance program can help patrons conveniently find parking in just a matter of minutes.
It’s easy to see why parking guidance would be an attractive amenity for hotel patrons. After all, when you are ready to check into your hotel the last thing you want is to have to circle throughout a garage trying to find a parking space.
Parking guidance provides other benefits as well. For instance, by eliminating the need to drive around in search of a space, parking guidance reduces the risk of vehicle collisions and vehicle/pedestrian collisions. Safer parking facilities reduce properties’ exposure to liability.
Parking guidance also offers tremendous administrative benefits. When hotel managers have access to real time data about how their parking facilities are being utilized, whether they are at full or near-full capacity, and when they tend to be busiest, they can make better decisions about how to manage those parking resources. Better and more comprehensive information tends to lead to better management decisions.
So, if parking guidance is such a great management resource and patron amenity why don’t more hotels use it? Often, they are scared away by the cost. Depending on the system, it can cost anywhere from $250 to $750 per space for a single space system in which individual sensors monitor each space. So, for a hotel with just 500 parking spaces, the cost of installing a reliable guidance system would run around $250,000 and could run as high as $375,000. And that’s just the initial installation cost. There may also be maintenance and repair costs to factor in.
For many hotels, the answer may be found in a more streamlined, simple approach to parking guidance. A simplified parking guidance system relies on Intelligent Cameras located at the main entries, entrances and exits of individual parking floors, and even specific zones to monitor incoming and outgoing traffic. The cameras count how many cars enter and exit the structure, as well as each individual floor. That data is compiled and analyzed in real time to determine how many spaces are available in the parking facility as a whole, as well as on each floor.
The data is then transmitted to strategically located LED signs located at the facility’s entrance and at the entrance of each floor. When patrons drive into the garage, the entry sign tells them how many parking spaces are available at that moment throughout the garage. As they drive through the garage, signs at each level tell them how many spaces are available on that particular level at that moment.
For larger garages, it may be advisable to install additional cameras and signs to serve individual sections of a parking floor to provide more detailed information about how much parking is available in those sections. The system is also scalable to allow for the strategic individual monitoring of specialty parking spots such as ADA, Short Term Drop off, or VIP hotel Rewards spaces.
Hotels such as the iconic Hotel de Coronado outside of San Diego, California, have turned to this simpler approach to parking guidance, finding that it provides a much more convenient parking experience for patrons at just a fraction of the cost of single space parking guidance. It’s easy to see why the cost is much more attractive to hotels, since they only have to install a handful of cameras rather than hundreds of sensors.
Like other forms of parking guidance, the systems also provide invaluable information that can be used to better manage parking resources. The data collected can be connected to a cloud-based management portal that tells hotel administrators how many cars park in their parking facilities every day, which section of the facility are most popular with patrons, and which hours and days are busiest. This information can be used to appropriately set parking rates, inform marketing efforts, and even plan shared parking programs with other local businesses and organizations.
When you know how your parking resources are being used, you can make better decisions about how to manage those resources. Parking guidance technology provides that information.
Guidance in Reach
Parking guidance technology can be a powerful tool for helping hotels provide a better experience to their patrons from the moment they arrive. But many hotels have avoided investing in the technology because of the expense of installing and operating a single space system. The simpler, streamlined approach to parking guidance may provide the answer for many hotels because it is much less expensive and more manageable.
Chris Scheppmann is managing member of EnSight Technologies, a leading parking guidance provider. He can be reached at [email protected].