Independent hotels

PHNX increases occupancy by 96% thanks to automation

 Christina Quintanilla

Christina Quintanilla


Bustling with urban flair and set in one of Hamburg’s most iconic factories, PHNX welcomes students, business professionals, and tourists to experience hip co-living in one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. The 225 unit property currently sees a steady occupancy rate of 98% and above, but this wasn’t always the case. Learn how the PHNX team was able to boost their occupancy, move away from a legacy system, offer a digital guest journey, and more.

About PHNX

Although set in a building with a rich history, the concept of PHNX is far from the traditional offering of most hotels. At PHNX, guests can experience modern co-living coupled with the latest and best in hotel tech. ‘‘We are not a traditional hotel and we want to offer our guests complete flexibility and freedom when it comes to the length of their stay, how they move throughout our customer journey, and how they move about our co-living spaces,’’ says Sophia Merlin, Financial Controller of PHNX. 

When the PHNX team first opened their doors in July 2020, they used a legacy system to run their operations. ‘‘Working with a legacy system was a nightmare. Everything was done manually and took forever. Our occupancy was low and our processes were slow. We knew we needed to make the change to a cloud-based solution,’’ says Philip C. Sauer, Managing Director of PHNX.


Challenges: Low occupancy and customer satisfaction rates

Hoteliers know that working with a legacy system presents its own set of challenges and the PHNX team elaborates on this further. ‘‘Since nothing was automated, the entire process to complete one simple task was more difficult than necessary and it wasted a lot of time throughout our operations. Previously, we had lines at the check-in desk and waiting times for customer requests on the phone. These wait times took a toll on customer satisfaction and how our staff operated,’’ says Sophia.

PHNX experienced the following setbacks while working with a legacy PMS:

  • End of day closing was not automated with the legacy system

  • Guests experienced long wait times on the phone and at the check-in desk

  • Low customer satisfaction rate

  • Legacy system UI was not intuitive and easy for front office staff to work with, and the design was outdated

  • Various reports needed to be generated manually 

  • Because nothing was automated, this caused a lot of human error, resulting in more wasted time


Solution: Boost occupancy and revenue by automating processes

In February of 2021, the PHNX team began to research cloud-based PMS solutions. ‘‘Our previous legacy system was extremely difficult to work with and we always knew we wanted to switch to a cloud PMS. We discovered apaleo and quickly realized this was the right solution to help us meet our challenges and improve,’’ Philip explains. Sophia says the team wanted to focus on increasing occupancy and improving customer satisfaction. They also wanted to improve workflows for staff and offer their guests a digital customer journey.

PHNX focused on tackling their challenges and addressing their pain points with two main solutions:

  • Automate processes

  • Offer a digital guest journey

Making the switch to the cloud and handling data migration 

There are a few things to consider when making the switch from a legacy PMS to a cloud-based PMS. Sophia says she questioned how the data migration would be handled with a small staff. The PHNX team was able to complete their data migration with only one employee. ‘‘To our surprise, the data migration went smoothly and it took less than one week to complete,’’ she adds.

Philip added that PHNX’s previous PMS was not cloud-based and the hotel experienced multiple system failures due to server maintenance problems. 

‘‘Having a PMS on a server is expensive. Not only do you need to buy or rent the server, but you also need to maintain it 24/7. Server problems are ignored by most hotels with lots of staff, as the staff on site can deal with overwriting technical malfunctions without the customer noticing it. But successful future hospitality will very much require hotels to be more cost-efficient, and having unnecessary staff on your payroll is simply not going to work. Additionally, if you use a self check-in system such as HotelBird, it is vital that the communication with the PMS is stable. Therefore it is utterly important to use a cloud-based system. apaleo removes the need of servers and is able to communicate with all of the other systems entirely on its own. This was an important criteria why we chose apaleo.’’ - Philip C. Sauer, Managing Director of PHNX/ 


A dive into PHNX's tech stack

  • Based on the plug-and-play concept of apaleo, PHNX can easily connect apps from the Apaleo Store to automate processes and create a custom digital guest journey, something their legacy PMS could not do. The PHNX team benefits from connecting apaleo to the following solutions:

  • Guest Mailings: With the help of this app, PHNX is able to optimize their mail traffic from their guests. When a reservation is made, the guest automatically receives a confirmation, also in the event of a change or cancellation. ‘‘With this app we can also send the invoices to our guests with one click. This makes our workflow a lot easier,’’ Sophia explains.

  • happyhotel: Happy Hotel is an ingenious app for analyzing occupancy, sales, pickups, etc. Phoenix says the app-enabled them to carry out a better analysis of which rates were booked the most and at which times. PHNX also uses the Rate Shopper through Happy Hotel. ‘‘We were able to raise our prices depending on occupancy, holiday season or events in Hamburg. It's a very flexible program and we've seen a significant increase in sales as a result,’’ exclaims Sophia.

  • Hotelbird: With the digital guest journey, now guests can check in ahead of time and skip lines. ‘‘apaleo works great with the Hotelbird app. Guests are checking themselves into their rooms and can even use their smartphone as a key to access their room. Now the guest journey is modern and contactless. Guests are more satisfied,’’ says Sophia. 

  • HotelNetSolutions: HNS is PHNX's Channel Manager. They use it to keep a simple and central administration of all portals.

  • Roomchecking: PHNX says that before they integrated the Roomchecking app, their facility team worked with Excel tables the team created manually every day. ‘‘With this app, we were able to automate the entire cleaning process. We have a very special approach to cleaning. A little example: Our long-term business guests receive a cleaning once a week, our students once a month and short-term guests every three days. We were able to configure the app in such a way that RoomChecking automatically recognizes which rate the guest has booked and distributes the various cleanings to the team. This made the work of the cleaning team more effective,’’ Sophia explains.


Results: Improved workflows, happy staff and customers, and more

The PHNX team says it is now easier to handle reservations and get in contact with customers. ‘‘The automation of guest communications and emails just makes everything much easier. Our workflows are improved and all processes are much faster and easier. Automation changed everything for our team,’’ says Sophia.

  • Automation removes room for human error

  • End-of-day/night audit closing is now automated

  • Customer satisfaction improved

  • Front office staff enjoys working with an intuitive system

  • Guests no longer wait at the check-in desk because the guest journey is digital and contactless 

Previously PHNX was experiencing an occupancy rate of less than 50%. ‘‘Now that processes are automated, we are able to generate a lot more bookings. Today we are 98% fully booked,’’ says Sophia.

When it comes to the cost difference, Sophia says some legacy systems may cost less but do not compare in performance. ‘’We do spend a bit more compared to the old legacy system, but the point here is that so much of our work is automated, so we are able to cut back on costs elsewhere and have more bookings. Our new solution with apaleo is definitely worth it! We spend a little more, but we get much more in return because we have a much higher occupancy!’’ she exclaims. 


Moving forward and growing the PHNX brand

‘‘Now that our offering is digital, our workflows are more efficient and everything is completed much quicker. We have a higher customer satisfaction rate and we are able to respond to specific customer requests quicker and easier. Our front office team finds apaleo easy to use and gets along well with it,’’ says Sophia.

The PHNX team has plans to expand across Europe within the next two years. They are currently scoping out properties in Bremen, Madrid, and Barcelona, and they look forward to seeing the brand grow. ‘‘We see PHNX growing and becoming even bigger, but we also see that apaleo and the apps will be what enables us to keep up with the demands of offering digital experiences in hospitality,’’ Philip adds. 

To learn more about how apaleo can take your hotel management to the next level, reach out to our team or schedule a demo.

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