I attended the 2017 edition of the ILTM Conference in Cannes. Over the course of the program, I sought out numerous hoteliers and hospitality experts to discover the latest emerging themes and challenges in the luxury hotel industry.
One theme that has fascinated me over the years is the subject of digital technology. It is a controversial term in the luxury hotel universe, which has traditionally centered around human touch and would thus ostensibly resist the digitalization of the unique service that defines luxury hospitality.
During the conference, 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 Mark Kobayashi, Vice President of Marketing for Peninsula Hotels. The Peninsula in particular surprised me with an unusual piece of technology that they offer in their guest bathrooms: nail-drying appliances for women. Naturally, I was eager to see what other technologies they had in store.
What is your vision of digital technology in terms of guest experience?
We have a research and development team that’s always looking to update or make the next generation of technology in our guest rooms. The Istanbul and London properties will have the next phase of that for our company. It may be an extension of the tablets that are already in there. It may be televisions inside of mirrors that you can move down. The next hotel openings will be the next evolution of our technology for our company.
What we find in everyday life here as technology, we’re trying to adapt it and make it part of your technology. For instance, not that we’re implementing it, but you have Google Assistance at home. The story that I have is that this kind of technology is becoming part of everyday life, so you’re expecting it to become part of everyday life. If you use Google Assistance to switch off a light at home, why wouldn’t it be the way that you’re doing it when you travel?
What we always have in the back of our mind is that you should be able to enjoy what you do at home just as if you’re traveling abroad. Sometimes I think the technology is so fast in the way it’s being developed. For a while, it was almost to the point where when you came to our hotels, the technology was what you wanted to take back to your homes. Right now, I think this speed is changing and affecting the way we keep up with technology. For instance, you have the home vacuum cleaner that comes out to do your vacuum when you’re not home. Maybe it could be as simple as that. We’ll continue from a digital transformation or implementation. Our company will always invest in that area. You’ll continue to see our products being the most innovative when it comes to the market because we’re actually developing technology that is meant for the room. We’re not simply taking technology that exists and just putting it into the room because it doesn’t always work that way.
Today is it possible to book room service in the room from the tablets?
In some of the properties, yes. Our older properties will transition over the technology In the Istanbul and London properties, you might be able to do more than just order. Who knows? In 3 years, who knows what technology will be? So there are lots of possibilities.
Would you say you are the only brand to work on technology?
I would say that in terms of true investing, it’s like a Think Lab. It’s like Silicon Valley in Hong Kong. It’s an existing team outside of our office spaces. They’re playing with things, they’re thinking of things, they’re trying things. If it’s practical or not in the guest rooms, then we make a decision.
What are your biggest challenges today as a hotel group?
As with any other hotel group, we’re looking at the best possible way to engage with our guest from a digital technology point. How do you consume information? How do you book things? What are you comfortable with? For us, it’s about being able to customize and be able to speak to you however you wish to be spoken to, whether it’s by a letter, by an email, or by a messenger system. I think we continue to be challenged by that. At the end of the day, in the hotel business, it’s all about providing a bed, a room, a safe environment, and a memorable stay while you’re with us. It’s always something that we register. We’re always using these buzz words like ‘experiences’, but at the end of the day, it’s really that memory that you walk away with. It could be as basic as having a great conversation with a staff member on your way out and thinking to yourself, “That was really memorable.”
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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.