Every driver who regularly must go to the centre of large urban agglomerations knows the challenges not only related to traffic jams but also, or above all, parking. If we are not among the lucky ones who have a parking space offered to us by an employer in an office building in the city centre, we are unfortunately usually used to a lack of parking spaces in key locations or to having to fight for the last free space on the street. It also often happens that we waste 20 minutes driving around hoping that someone will leave and save us from the frustration and stress of once again being late for work or an important meeting. And all this because of parking… an inevitable source of everyday dilemmas in the urban jungle.
Parking is difficult to plan in advance. Even when we are informed where there are available parking spaces in the area, the challenge is not knowing if there will still be unoccupied parking spaces when we get there. That takes away a feeling of security and can ruin the day even for the calmest and most self-controlled city drivers.
It would seem that the salvation to the rush and stress resulting from trying to find a parking space comes in the form of so-called closed parking lots, which are usually public but still rarely used, mainly due to the fact that many people do not know about them or do not associate them with convenient and hassle-free parking. Here, I am talking about parking lots belonging to hotels, institutions, companies, office buildings, etc.
However, when we plan a weekend trip and have the opportunity to stay at a hotel, it seems natural that the facility is responsible for solving a potential problem with parking for their hotel guests.
I decided to check this out and, on a weekend trip to Krakow, stayed in a well-located hotel near Old Town, which declared on the website the availability of both free and paid parking spaces. And so, a sunny Saturday in September came. Excited about the trip to the previous capital of Poland, full of hope that the tourist season is already behind us (before it started for good), I set off on the Warsaw-Krakow route.
Before departure, I booked a 4-star hotel. On the website, the availability of the hotel parking lot was declared to be included in the price of the room, and that the guest has the possibility of staying in the VIP parking lot for 25 zloty per day in the absence of available parking spaces.
Anticipating the potential stress related to high hotel occupancy, I decided to call the hotel and reserve a place in the VIP parking lot, believing in the saying “better safe than sorry”. It turned out, however, that parking reservation was not possible and, in the opinion of the hotel staff, also not necessary, because the paid parking, as I was informed, “always has available spaces”.
Reassured by this, I happily reached my destination. It was late. The hotel turned out to be located next to a shopping mall with which it shared an above-ground, public and free parking lot. That is where the hotel has its own share of free spaces. However, all of them turned out to be occupied, along with all the places belonging to the shopping mall despite the late-night hours.
Still not losing my confidence, I headed towards the VIP parking lot, which was closely guarded with a barrier and intercom, which later in this story will turn out to be only an automatic parking ticket distribution machine without an intercom function. The VIP parking lot, to my surprise, also turned out to be 90% full, but I managed to see one vacant place that seemed to be waiting for me.
A thought ran through my mind – 25 zloty per day is not that expensive, and as there were no places anywhere else, I decided to bear the cost and start my weekend stay in Krakow.
So, I drove quickly to the barriers and pressed the only button on the intercom-like box, assuming that in response, the parking barrier would be raised or a ticket could be retrieved. Instead of a voice on the intercom and a ticket, a sentence appeared on the display informing me that there was no paper, and tickets could not be printed.
There was nowhere I could call because clearly, the button with the receiver was not serving the purpose for which it would seem that it would serve. Only silence answered on the other side. The parking barrier did not move. I found no clue on the intercom to avert this crisis. Krakow seemed to be asleep.
There was no booth with a guard, which gave me a clear message that no one would manually open the barrier for me. So, the only thing left to do was get out of the car, walk 50 metres to the hotel reception and ask politely for help with the problem of the lack of paper at the entrance to the VIP parking lot.
The lady at the reception responded to my problem with surprise and said, “Oh, of course, I will open the barrier remotely”. So, I went to my car, parked 50 metres away, which was blocking the entrance to the parking lot. Fortunately, in the middle of the night, there was no traffic. The receptionist opened the barrier, and I pulled into the parking lot.
Morning came, and nothing indicated that I would start my day with another problem with the hotel parking lot. With undisturbed peace and excitement related to the upcoming sightseeing of Krakow Old Town, I made an attempt to leave the hotel.
Unfortunately, without a parking ticket, leaving the parking lot turned out to be impossible. The only blinking hole on the intercom mercilessly demanded the insertion of a ticket. It was also not possible to call the reception desk from under the barrier, due to the lack of a calling function as well as the lack of a telephone number. The only option remaining was to get out of the car once again and go to the reception to show the receipt for the stay at the hotel as proof of payment for parking.
To make things worse, in the meantime, a queue formed at the parking lot exit, and I, unfortunately, was at the head of it, effectively blocking the way for other customers of the VIP parking lot, who, I assume, were lucky enough to get their priceless ticket before the paper ran out. The receptionist kindly informed me that “Of course! I will open the barrier remotely. Please tell me which car it is, I will have a look from afar and open the barrier with a button”.
My frustration slightly increased as I walked back to my car and saw the annoyed faces of drivers waiting for me to solve my problem with the parking barrier. I got into the car, and it was time to wait until the barrier was opened remotely from the reception desk. I waited. I waited. The barrier still didn’t move, and in the rearview mirror, I surreptitiously watched the growing dissatisfaction of the drivers behind me.
Many scenarios were running through my head. Surely, the receptionist had a queue of people to check-in or forgot to “peek from afar”. An accelerated heartbeat heralded the approaching wave of anger. Luckily, after another two or five minutes, she remembered that I was blocking the exit from the parking lot! The barrier went up. Without any further stalling, I went for a coffee with the hope of saving my day.
As a summary of this experience, which may not be an isolated incident, let’s move to the future and see what it could look like if the idea of digital parking came to Krakow and the hotel decided to digitise parking processes and provide its customers with the possibility of using and paying for parking using their phones.
By installing VIP cameras at the entrance to the parking lot and simply integrating the NaviParking system with the current solution of the parking infrastructure provider, my parking experience would be completely different (regardless of the time and day of arriving at the hotel).
If I had the NaviPay mobile application, I would choose the hotel address when leaving Warsaw. The navigation would lead me straight to the VIP parking barrier. I could also check the current availability of parking spaces in the hotel in real-time.
Cameras at the entrance to the parking lot would recognise the license plates as belonging to the user registered in the NaviPay app. The barrier would open automatically. I would make the payment in the same application, choosing any convenient payment method. And all this without leaving the car.
The next morning, when approaching the exit barrier, the cameras would recognise the registration number of the car and detecting the payment having been made, the barrier would open automatically.
In addition, by implementing the possibility of booking parking spaces in advance, the hotel would offer me the convenience that when I went to the hotel, I could reserve one and be sure that I can avoid any stress related to the potential lack of parking spaces.
The hotel experience begins with the booking of a room. Parking is an essential part of a positive assessment of the entire process, and it can have a significant impact on the overall guest satisfaction with the facility.
That is what the digitisation of the parking lot is all about. Improving the experience, convenience and comfort of the guest through practical technology that we only need a smartphone to access.