A COMPANY in Ellesmere Port has created pioneering software to help the crisis-hit hospitality industry welcome guests back safely during the coronavirus pandemic.

Hop Software, based at Venture Point, has developed a hospitality management system which minimises human contact, even down to customers being able to open and lock their hotel bedroom doors, remotely.

With the global hospitality industry slowly opening back up to visitors, Hop’s sales team have been busy, with existing customers already benefitting from some services free of charge.

Using the company’s bespoke branded app, guests can book, check-in, pay bills and check out without having to physically distance in reception queues.

The paperless system is environmentally friendly while avoiding the handling of receipts between staff and guests.

Furthermore, with hospitality being one of the sectors worst hit by the fall in global tourism, the company claims the system will help hospitality businesses slash costs through staff efficiency and removing payments to third parties.

Room service can be ordered from the app on any device, complete with a chosen time-slot when customers can have their food and drink delivered to their room by staff.

A text service alerts guests to Covid-compliant measures in place in the establishment as well as services available to them.

During lockdown, Hop’s developers created a free click-and-collect and online delivery service called ‘Hop Shop’ in a week, allowing existing clients to safely sell to their customers, ensuring some elements of their business could continue to trade.

Instead of taking payment for the shop service, the company simply asked beneficiaries to make a donation to the NHS.

“The shop element was created and delivered by our teams during the early stage of the pandemic, in response to our customers’ needs. We were acutely aware hospitality businesses worldwide were struggling with no income and bills so we didn’t charge,” said director Richard Drummond, who previously worked for Whitbread and the 5-Star Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland.

He added: “Because Hop Software is a company started by hospitality people for hospitality people, we know the challenges our clients face. They are the same challenges we face.

“Hospitality emerged through the last global downturn, but this is different. We need to create environments where customers feel safe but that are not too clinical. People still want to enjoy their experience and the technology can reduce the level of contact but still provide the customer with a high level of service.

“Innovations such as digital door locking and opening, for example, completely cuts out the need for the touching of handles and surfaces from which the virus can be passed and reduces cleaning cycles for staff.”

Hop Software, which has clients across the world, was launched in late 2017.

Its three Directors were frustrated at the cost and functionality of existing hospitality technology.

During lockdown, the business’ 30+ staff evolved their product in line with the health crisis and introduced Hop Academy online tutorials for each hospitality role, so new users could get quickly up to speed with the technology.

CEO, Jon Erasmus, said: “Because our entire system is integrated in one place, and there is no need to pay for third party add-ons, our systems will save hotels thousands of pounds in bills each year. Given lockdown, every hospitality business worldwide is looking at reducing costs, so we are well placed in the market.”