6 min read

How to Check Out of a Hotel: The Hotel Checkout Process Explained

Avatar

Jordan Hollander in Guest Experience

Last updated November 07, 2023

image description

Did you know there are nearly 6 million hotel rooms in the United States? That means there are hundreds of millions of checkouts every year – and for hotels with an inefficient checkout process, that adds up to a lot of wasted time for travelers and hotel staff. Checking out is a necessary piece of the guest journey, but that doesn’t mean hoteliers need to do things the way they’ve always been done. Perhaps you’re searching for ways to save time, cut costs, and increase guest satisfaction; your checkout process is a great place to start. With a smooth checkout procedure in place, your guests can end their stays on a positive note, making them more likely to leave with a good impression and intent to return. So how can you enhance your checkout experience? With the right technology in place, you can turn checkouts from annoying to amazing – while delivering value to your staff and your guests.

Why a Smooth Checkout Process is Important

Hoteliers place a lot of emphasis on the check-in process because it’s important to set a good first impression. And while there’s nothing wrong with this logic, it’s also worth noting that the last impression matters too. Just like you want to end a good meal with a delicious dessert, you want your hotel’s checkout process to be just as smooth as the rest of your guest experience. Nothing leaves a bad taste in a guest’s mouth like getting charged the wrong amount or waiting in line at the front desk when they have a flight to catch!

In addition to ensuring the checkout process happens quickly, efficiently, and error-free, another challenge is ensuring guests are aware of the steps to follow during your check-in process. How do guests find out the check-in time? Many guests will simply leave their room for the last time and bypass the front desk. If this happens, how do you know the room is vacant and ready for cleaning? If the guest must return some physical items, like a room key, how do they know where to put it? Using technology to simplify the process and eliminate as many hurdles as possible can turn your checkout process from clunky to convenient.

Preparing for Checkout

The checkout process begins before your guests actually check out. When guests arrive, or even when they book their rooms, you should clearly inform them about the checkout time and any relevant checkout procedures. Many hoteliers disclose checkout times and policies on their website, booking engine, and confirmation emails. OTA listings allow you to describe your checkout policies too. But guests usually look at those touchpoints only once, so another great place to mention checkout details is in your hotel app. Customizable, guest-facing apps like Duve serve as digital versions of the traditional info sheet or binder you might find in a guestroom. These apps ensure guests always have convenient access to everything they might need to know about your hotel. Even better, it’s easy for you to make updates to your app if a policy changes. Rather than having to reprint and replace a guestroom placard that mentions the checkout time, you can instantly update the checkout policies in your hotel app with just a couple clicks.

What if a guest wants to stay a little longer? If your guest needs a late checkout or an extra one or two nights at your hotel, they would need to call your front desk and speak to an agent, perhaps after waiting on hold for a few minutes. Your hotel app can enable guests to self-serve these requests, or you can partner with purpose-built upselling software, such as Oaky or Nor1, to promote late check-out and extension offers. These features make it more convenient for guests to action their requests, generating incremental revenue for your hotel, all while requiring little extra time from your staff.

Get the latest hotel tech tips, trends and insights delivered to your inbox once a month

You’ve been subscribed
Invalid email format
post_faces_combined Join 50,000+ executives from world’s leading hotel brands and get the latest insights delivered to your inbox once a month

Settling the Final Bill

 

Another key component of the checkout process is settling the final bill. Ideally, guests can see an itemized breakdown of the charges incurred during their stay, select their preferred payment method, and receive a receipt in their desired format (i.e. via email). Traditionally, guests might receive a printed bill slipped under their door the night before checkout, but that results in wasted paper and at least an hour of time to print and distribute those paper folios. With a robust hotel app, guests can instead review their folios digitally at any time during their stay. If something looks inaccurate, the guest can efficiently send a message to your staff using an integrated guest messaging tool that allows your team to triage and respond to messages from one central platform. Also in the app, guests can update their contact info, choose their receipt destination, and manage their payment methods. Upon checkout, guests can be confident their bills are correct, receipts are in their inboxes, and cards are charged properly.

Returning Room Keys and Other Hotel Property

What else does a guest need to do before leaving your hotel? Some hotels have physical room keys – keycards or old-fashioned keys – that guests are required or encouraged to leave behind. But, as you know, guests don’t always follow these directions. If your hotel absolutely must use physical keys (perhaps to align with a historic theme), then it’s a best practice to send a reminder text to your guests instructing them to leave the key at a designated place or pay a “lost key” fee. Your guest messaging app can automate this communication to free up time for your staff.

But if physical keys aren’t crucial to your brand, or maybe you inherited a legacy keycard system, there’s no better time to upgrade to a modern mobile key system. Mobile keys, or digital keys, are not really keys at all, but rather Bluetooth-enabled door locks that allow guests to enter by waving or tapping their smartphone against the lock. The technology behind these locks communicate with your PMS, hotel app, or contactless check-in system to authorize each unique guest during the dates of their stay. Not only do digital keys streamline the checkout process, but they also make check-in smoother and save money on physical keys or keycards. Front desk staff also love digital keys because they don’t get demagnetized or lost like keycards do!

Verifying the Checkout Process with the Front Desk

 

Assuming your modern checkout process goes smoothly, and the guest doesn’t need to stop by the front desk, how will you know when guestrooms are vacant so your housekeeping teams can start cleaning? You have a couple options. You can send an automated text message to guests asking if they’ve departed, or you can ask guests to tap a button in your hotel app to notify you that they’ve left. Another option is to leverage a contactless check-in system, like Canary, which automatically notifies housekeeping staff when a checkout is processed in the app. All of these discreet options will help your team clean rooms faster without disturbing guests who are still in-house.

Post-Checkout Considerations

 

Although a guest has departed your property, you can still keep that guest engaged in the post-stay experience. The hours and days after checkout are prime times to send your hotel survey, ask for Tripadvisor or Google reviews, and promote your loyalty program or repeat guest discounts. Getting guest feedback while it’s fresh can help your hotel continually improve, and a reputation management app like TrustYou or Revinate can automate the review solicitation process. 

Why is it so important for hotels to dial their check-out process heading into 2024?

 

While the checkout process is usually just one piece of every guest’s time at your hotel, it’s an important one, and it can make or break the guest experience depending on how convenient and efficient it is. Partnering with software that can automate parts of this process, eliminate friction, and deliver immediate answers to your guests can not only boost guest satisfaction, but also reduce costs and manual time required to handle checkouts. Ready to take your checkout process to the next level? Start by reading reviews of the leading guest experience software.

In the hospitality industry, the check-in and checkout processes are pivotal moments in a hotel guest's experience. As hotel chains like Hilton, Marriott, and Hyatt fiercely compete for guests, refining the hotel checkout process becomes vital for several reasons. First, a smooth checkout process can leave a lasting positive impression, reinforcing the hotel stay's overall enjoyment and encouraging repeat business.

Traditional checkout procedures involving long lines at the front desk and hassles over discrepancies in the final bill can sour a guest's experience. Thus, hotels are adopting PMS (Property Management Systems) to streamline these operations. The PMS can track everything from room service and minibar usage to wake-up calls, ensuring that the final bill is accurate and reducing the need for guests to double-check charges.

With today's technology, online check-in and mobile app usage allow guests to manage their stay efficiently—from selecting perks to requesting a late checkout—without needing to wait at the front office. Key cards can now be activated as a room key through a mobile app, making the check-in process quicker and giving guests the freedom to access their hotel room without unnecessary queues.

Hoteliers are also recognizing the importance of offering a variety of checkout options. For example, a guest at a Las Vegas hotel who has opted for room service may prefer a speedy checkout to maximize their time enjoying the city. The convenience of using a credit card or debit card through a secure hotel’s website or mobile app for checkout means guests can ensure their minibar and room service charges are settled with a few clicks, allowing them to depart with the sentiment of "safe travels" rather than frustration over the checkout time.

In addition to convenience, providing an efficient checkout process is also a matter of operational efficiency for the hotel staff. By reducing the time spent on each guest check-out, front desk employees can attend to the needs of arriving guests or prepare for the next guest, ensuring that room number assignments are ready and that any request for a wake-up call or knowledge of local know-how is communicated effectively.

As guests increasingly expect seamless experiences, the checkout process is also an opportunity for hoteliers to gather feedback and open a channel for communication that can lead to improved services. This continual improvement cycle is essential in a competitive market where hotel chains aim to offer not just a hotel room but a memorable experience from check-in to checkout.

 

Refining the hotel checkout process is about enhancing guest satisfaction, operational efficiency, and competitive edge. By leveraging technology, understanding guests' preferences, and ensuring a hassle-free end to a hotel stay, hotel chains can ensure their guests leave with a positive last impression, which is as crucial as the first.

Author image
Jordan Hollander
Jordan is the co-founder of Hotel Tech Report, the hotel industry's app store where millions of professionals discover tech tools to transform their businesses. He was previously on the Global Partnerships team at Starwood Hotels & Resorts. Prior to his work with SPG, Jordan was Director of Business Development at MWT Hospitality and an equity analyst at Wells Capital Management. Jordan received his MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management where he was a Zell Global Entrepreneurship Scholar and a Pritzker Group Venture Fellow.