During the conference ILTM, I was eager to discover how different brands chose to approach the issue of digital technology. Below you will find my interview on the subject with Michael Golden, General Manager at the Park Hyatt Bangkok in Thailand.
What is your vision of digital technology in terms of the guest experience?
I love technology, but there is a fine line between going too far with technology in a guestroom to the point where it becomes complicated. What we’ve done in our hotel is we have that technology available, but in various forms. If you want to play your content on the television, you can still plug in and transfer that content onto the television, but we also have streaming available, depending on how comfortable you are with that. If you’re watching television in the guest room and you want to continue to watch that show, but you want to go somewhere else in the hotel, you can download an app to do that. You just transition from the TV to your device and then move on around the hotel if you want to. The biggest one is putting your content onto the TV, so people do that. All of our rooms are equipped with Bluetooth speakers, so it accommodates people’s music preferences. Rather than having big movie selections or music channels on the TV, we allow people to use what they want, where they want, when they want.
As for the rest of the technology in the room, when it comes to lighting and air-con controls, we try to keep that very simple and not too complicated. We did look at the options of having iPads in every room so that people can order room service and do all those things, but when we tried all that in our other hotels, we found that people didn’t want to use it. They still wanted to call because they had questions. “What kind of dressing do you have?” etc. So, we didn’t do that. We have the ability to do that. We do have a hired app which has the ability to do that, but we find that people tend not to use that particular technology.
We are moving towards keyless entry. Same thing: when I ask people whether they will use it or not, people are in two frames of mind. We have the technology, but we’re trying to keep it as simple and practical as possible. We approach it more like this: if you’re sitting at home, what do you do? If we all have an iPad or an iPhone and an Apple TV, you want to be able to stream up to the Apple TV, so you can do that in the guestroom. If you don’t have that and you’re a little bit more plug-and-play, you can do that as well. We’ve tried to make it user-friendly for travelers, whether you’re there for leisure or business. Everything is there. To share the information that we have available, we still have the old-fashioned compendiums, but you can also view things on the television. We sit on top of a shopping-mall, so you can have all the information on the shopping-mall there. It’s all there, but you can still stop by the concierge and just ask the question as well.
Obviously WiFi coverage is very important. We have technology coming out now where you can message the hotel through whatever messaging service you use and make requests for extra pillows, room service, etc. You can just send a message, and that gets taken care of through those systems. That kind of instant contact is good. In-room media and accessibility are important for everyone because they want to use that all the time, and obviously on the apps, most hotels now are developing the apps to be able to order the room service or make requests to housekeeping and all those kinds of things. We do that, too. At the moment we’re not seeing that much of a take-up on that. I think people still like to communicate with us. In our hotel, people have to walk through the lobby to go out of the hotel, so it’s easy for them to stop and make requests. You have to be careful not to go too far with the technology.
Things change so quickly and the problem with a lot of these technologies is that installing them when they’re available is not easy. You try to keep it as simple and practical as possible so you’re not out of date before the technology even comes out. It’s a tricky one.
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Known for his international expertise on luxury hotels through his magazine, Laurent Delporte shares his vision and experiences in the world of hotels on his site DELPORTE Hospitality. He decodes the behind-the-scenes action in the sector: from food and beverage facilities, accommodations, architecture, to the quality of services. He offers interviews, advice, and articles as pragmatic resources that industry professionals and private individuals can refer to in their search for information.