A long-term digital strategy acts as the foundation for an appreciated guest experience
Zaplox and SkiStar‘s commercial cooperation started in 2011 and focuses on digital access with mobile keys. Today, SkiStar uses the Zaplox SDK to provide mobile keys in their SkiStar app for access to cabins, apartments, and hotel rooms with locks for mobile access. Together with the lock supplier, SALTO Systems Zaplox works proactively to ensure that the technology works satisfactorily 24/7 and that SkiStar’s digital plans are supported. Prior to the season of 2020-2021, SkiStar launched the mobile key fully in the app with check-in and check-out service.
Zaplox met with Ola Rådström, Customer Experience Responsible at SkiStar and Lena Backlund, Hotel manager SkiStar Lodge Hundfjället to learn more about SkiStar‘s digital strategy and how it has improved both the guest experience and the hotel’s way of working.
“We want to create simplicity, satisfaction, accessibility, and security for our guests when they stay at our destinations. They should be able to focus on having a good time with their family in the mountains, either skiing or cycling in the summer. Everything around them should be worry-free, which digitization helps us with. We want to provide solutions that fundamentally support the guest, and thanks to digitization, the guest can today do everything from check-in, manage their key, buy a SkiPass or search for information about the destination in the app. This means we can focus on giving the guest a better and more memorable experience,” says Ola Rådström.
“Accommodation is one of the first things you check when choosing a destination. It places high demands on how the accommodation looks, where it is located and what services are available. We see that the guest’s demand for quality accommodation is increasing, as well as the need for digital options. It should be “there’s no place like away,” and the SkiStar Lodge concept with a combination of hotels and apartments is a product of that expectation. The first lodge built in Sweden was SkiStar Lodge Lindvallen in Sälen. The concept proved to be popular and has since been developed further. SkiStar Lodge Hundfjället has taken it one step further with an expanded level of service and new digital possibilities.” says Lena Backlund.
The fact that digitization in the hotel industry has been accelerated due to the pandemic is widely known. Although SkiStar already had digital plans in place, the priorities changed when restrictions and distance requirements were put in place for guests. It was suddenly easier to argue that guests should use the digital check-in option and the mobile key.
“It is exciting to see that guests today take for granted that digital solutions should be available. SkiStar Lodge Hundfjället opened in December 2021, and we have been almost fully booked from the beginning. When the slopes closed in April, we celebrated a successful premiere season with satisfied guests. The digital possibilities are certainly part of that success,” comments Lena Backlund.
9 out of 10 guests are very satisfied with
SkiStar’s guest app
SkiStar’s digital guest journey consists of a combination of its website and the SkiStar app. The guest pre-books their accommodation and pays for the service they want on the website. The app then handles three primary parts of the stay – check-in with a mobile key, purchase of SkiPass or Lift/TrailPass in the summer, as well as information about the ski area with open lifts/slopes, weather, statistics, and activities. The objective is that as much as possible of the stay should be pre-booked and pre-paid before the guest arrives at the facility. Upon arrival, the guest can solely focus on enjoying their stay while keeping track of the bookings in the app.
Previously, guests who arrived without having purchased a SkiPass or pre-booked ski rental would have to queue to buy a pass or rent skis. Today, when all bookings/orders are made digitally, SkiStar has prepared the order for collection when the guest arrives at the hotel. Since the guest handles the check-in himself and receives the room key on his mobile phone, the reception can focus on providing high-quality personal service. In SkiStar’s customer survey, 9 out of 10 guests say they are very satisfied with the service in the app.
“SkiStar Lodge Hundfjället is often fully booked, with close to 700 people staying at the hotel. It gets hectic at the time of check-in and check-out; therefore, the mobile guest journey is incredibly helpful, while it is also crucial that it works 100% around the clock.”, says Lena Backlund.
Hospitality and digital guest value cohere
For SkiStar, the guest value has always been prioritized in the digital strategy and development, which is confirmed through high usage. The possibility to check in early, use a mobile key and share it with your travel companions, as well as being able to check out directly in the app without having to queue in the reception area is appreciated. The objective is to make it as easy as possible for the guest to manage their stay themselves.
At SkiStar Lodge Hundfjället, the digital service has saved resources and changed the way the front desk operates. The staff can step away from the front desk to welcome guests already at the entrance and provide them with first-class service. Guests are happy to manage large parts of their stay digitally while appreciating that the staff is always available for questions and assistance.
“Now that guests can check in digitally, they can handle more of their stay themselves. Instead of stopping by the front desk, they can go straight to their room. The front desk staff is always ready to help, but much of the service is also available in the app. Another great advantage is that the guest’s mobile key, in addition to providing access to the hotel room or apartment, also provides access to the ski storage area and the garage. It makes things extremely easy for the guest and us, as we don’t have to manage access for every guest.”, says Lena Backlund.
“The Security is also better with mobile keys as it is not possible to check in the wrong guest in the wrong room. Previously, the guest could receive one or two key cards that would be shared with several others. We have large apartments at Hundfjället, some have up to 16 beds and the person holding the reservation can now share a mobile key with each person staying in the apartment. Gone are the days when you “hid” the key card, mixed up/lost it, or had to wait for your friends to enter the apartment. Now all guests have their own key in their mobile phone,” comments Ola Rådström.
Guest feedback is essential as technology evolves
“We develop the digital guest journey continuously and based on our guests’ feedback we prioritize user-friendliness and security. It is important to us that all guests, regardless of digital knowledge, can take part and use our digital services whenever they wish. We plan to gradually roll out the availability of a mobile key to all our hotels and lodges. When it comes to our cabins, they are often privately owned, and many of them are located out on the mountain. We have to find a solution that both suits the cabin owners and the unpredictable mountain weather. An important part of our strategy is to hurry slowly not to lose focus on the guest and his needs. Therefore, we have chosen another digital solution with automatic key boxes for cabins for the time being. However, we are convinced that the technological development will soon make it possible to offer digital keys for our cabins as well,” says Ola Rådström.
SkiStar is currently evaluating the possibility of introducing support for “Mobile BankID” in its app to simplify login and payments further. For the mobile key, developments from Apple and Google are monitored closely.
“The close and productive collaboration we have with Zaplox contributes greatly to our digital delivery. We know that with technology, things happen all the time. Hence, we need to work with agile teams that understand our processes. We have a good dialogue with Zaplox, and if any issues should occur, they are always on their toes to solve the problem. That we greatly appreciate,” says Ola Rådström.
“Our goal is to find solutions that our guests are used to. Solutions that can make our guest journey smoother. We can never settle down and say we’re finished. We continuously work with our digital strategy, trying to be where our customers want us to be.” Ola concludes.
For many, SkiStar’s mountain facilities are a natural choice for a winter ski trip with a combination of indoor and cross-country skiing, a wide selection of accommodations, restaurants, shops, and health experiences. SkiStar was founded in 1975 and today operates at six destinations in Sweden; Sälen, Vemdalen, Åre, Stockholm Hammarbybacken, and in Norway; Trysil and Hemsedal.
Historically, the company has had a strong focus on winter experiences, but since two years ago, the strategy has focused on creating year-round experiences. Five of the destinations offer mountain experiences, and the new, growing destination Hammarbybacken in Stockholm-Hammarbybacken, offers experiences mainly during the summer.
SkiStar’s accommodations can be divided into three different types; cottages, hotels, and lodges. In recent years, the company has put extra effort into developing the SkiStar Lodge concept. SkiStar Lodge Hundfjället is an example of such a destination.
SkiStar’s digital strategy focuses on developing its destinations and digital platforms based on customer insight and data analysis. Through increased accessibility in digital channels, they have seen a significant shift from physical checkout purchases to skistar.com and the SkiStar app.
Read more about SkiStar’s digital strategy here.