Technology: Fuelling hotels of the future

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WhatsApp killed SMS and Skype ousted ISD – imagine the savings that customers have been accruing! Technology is busy replacing traditional systems and, in some cases, inadvertently making people redundant. As hoteliers we are in a fast paced, dynamic industry and the need to update our skills is paramount, else we will go the way of the good old steam boilers, made irrelevant by the high efficient combi ovens/cooking mixers/flexi chefs. Within half a decade the entire range of traditional steam generators/cooking vessels got replaced.

When we talk of updating ourselves, we are not talking about the basic skills such as PPTs, mails or simple Excel, but of the more advanced tools. For example, Acad, which is used extensively in kitchen designing, is slowly getting booted out by Revit software, in the field of architecture.

We use technology to obtain guest feedback in a stylish, yet effective, technologically driven manner. Today, the traditional papers are out and smart tabs are presented to the guests – the boss gets the juice in real time! The old housekeeping boy’s trick of chucking the GM feedback card kept in the room, because he felt that there could be a complaint, is no longer possible today.

Technology- reducing costs

Technology has played a great role in bringing about cost effectiveness in the industry:

1) Self steam generating equipment like cooking mixer machines, combi ovens, etc. have proved to help reduce fuel costs by 40 per cent. The traditional steam rooms/generators have been done away with, resulting in space reduction and the avoiding of huge equipment costs.

2) The tilting pan mechanism has replaced the huge handi (vessel) washing ritual at the pot wash! No more back-breaking episodes.

3) We use PPTs for Skype meetings; this has resulted in lesser printing costs. Personal travel, too, has been reduced to a majority extent.

4) Online travel portals such as MakeMyTrip.com, Goibibo, etc., popularly called OTAs are a major source of room business. The hotel can save significantly by allowing a reasonable discount structure, while finalising the E-contracts. This leads to large reduction of legal fees cum banking charges. The monies are directed straight to the hotel’s account; even before the guest checks in. How cool is that? The accounting follow ups and costs are well under check.

5) Smartphones: The handy mobile phones have touched our lives in every angle, and are yet another invaluable opportunity to improve our customer service, and for transfer of information. All the hotel chains worldwide offer guests the ability to check in and out, select their room, check maps and make extra requests or purchases, from their smart phones.

6) Smart appliances: Sylvan Labs, the Bengaluru based automation company, offers high tech facilities such as lighting, temperature, blinds, alarms, TV, radio, etc. through a single tablet device, or from a single app that guests can download and login to, from their own devices. This has proved very effective in our Jayanagar hotel.

Guest technology

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It’s predicted that the advent of futuristic hotels is just around the corner, and, when that happens, our experience will be not just an away from home one, but one of an alternate reality which may include check-in kiosks, holographs, and infrared sensors that can control literally anything. Robots could possibly start stirring Martinis – bond style, not shaken. The cherry could be a LED plum, not the juicy type we are used to.

Technical updates should enhance the guest’s experience to create the wow factor. Social media and the internet has made information readily available, and reviews – good or bad, can have an immediate effect on a hotel. Lady guests, especially, do online searches on references before proceeding to book – statistics show that the numbers have increased from 18 per cent in 2013 to 46per cent in December, 2015.

Some of the latest innovations really help:

  • Guest customised Check-ins facilitate seamless experiences and reduce costs. Staff members are not needed for the guest’s check in,
  • Few hotels are already built with techno walls, which enable 100 per cent audio streaming and 200 per cent Wi-Fi effectiveness.
  • The Hi-tech music lamp is, again, a great feature that allows guests to listen to music via Bluetooth or recharge mobile phones. They might even be able to activate phone calls through flat screen television. In one of the hotels here in Bangalore, we can even order room service on the TV!
  • Shower walls which turn from clear to frosted at the touch of an I-pad.
  • Smart keys are great sources of seeking room guest history. They can also have functional roles such as to open the room’s windows and doors. External assistance which leads to huge power and man power costs, can be thus avoided. A must for any smart hotel.
  • Motion detectors instruct the thermostat to adapt the temperature to keep it optimum, thereby controlling the net maintenance costs.

Personal tech skills set

We must constantly endeavour to get the latest tools towards creating work-life balance skills. The road to success on the personal tech front is quite simple:

1) Social media or business sites such as LinkedIn: We, hoteliers, need to be clearly responsible in choosing our social media platforms carefully; this needs to be based on the target audience, and not on a ‘me too’ approach. Facebook is still the favourite site for promoting the hotel’s F&B services or facilities, through quality pictures and catchily designed posts.

2) WhatsApp groups: Again a great tool for ease of communication, eliciting direct info from our hotel guests. A simple message or a well-designed picture/art work can be sent promptly. Care has to be taken that you don’t get into the sending forwards mode, or else the guest will simply WISH you out!

Seventy six per cent of the respondents’ in future smart cities such as Bengaluru, Gurugram and Raipur, feel that hotels need to quickly adapt to the new guest check in options or log out. We are heading to a high-tech era where hotels will have smart tabs replacing guest folders, smartphones in place of room keys, apps for remote controls and receptionist with Samurai or Confucius Robots.

As in any other industry, technology in hotels is a necessary partner – use it judiciously and reap benefits, or ignore it at your own peril. This reminds us of the famous statement that the VP of Nokia had said in an emotional outburst, “Ladies and Gentlemen, with deep sadness we announce the closure of our ops, but want to stress on the fact that we didn’t do anything wrong!” To which, one of the smart reporters retorted, “Agreed Sir, but Nokia didn’t do anything right either – i.e. you people didn’t update your technology.”

Venu Rao
Director – Peacock Hospitality.

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