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 Thomas Guss, the first General Manager of Raffles Europejski Warsaw in Poland. Now, he works in a new hotel in the middle east.
What is your vision of digital technology in terms of guest experience?
It’s more about the back of the house to help us to move quickly to the guest’s expectations. Most of the guests have the possibility to call or Whatsapp. But our brand promise is about anticipating guests’ needs. Usually, you don’t receive too many calls because our job is to anticipate their needs. Digital for me has to be relevant for the guests. I remember in one of the properties I used to work for (not in Raffles), we invested so much money into the technology in the shower. There were so many buttons in the shower that the guest had to wear their glasses—but who takes a shower with glasses? The guests could not use it. They had to figure out how to somehow switch on the hot water. Digital technology has to be there to help the guest to make their stay more comfortable. Every minute counts for them. Technology has to have a purpose for the guest.
Guests have the option to check-in at the front office, but most of the check-in will be in the guestroom with iPad technology. Guests can be directly escorted from the airport to the room. The check-in process is gone.
What are the most challenging issues your company is facing today?
Hiring the right talent. That’s the key to success in any luxury hotel: to find the right people. We have received more than 2,300 CVs. The hotel will hire more than 235 colleagues for 106 rooms.
We went outside on an international level to look for people. More than 58 of the people who are already in board have international experience. They have physically worked in the U.K., Switzerland, and the U.S. When people work outside their home country, the cultural diversity they bring is very noticeable. That’s the strength of the pillar of the hotel a good mix of experienced people from around the world, not only Poland. That is our key to success.
What is your definition of an iconic hotel?
An iconic hotel is only a building. The key of delivering a service engagement or a brand promise—this is the most important. First of all, you need to understand your guest’s purpose, why they are coming to visit you, etc. You need to deliver what they’re expecting from you. At the end, however, true luxury is about lasting memories, and sometimes it’s not just about money. It’s about small touch points that the guest will remember and talk to their friends about. We are so overwhelmed in the crowd in today’s world that sometimes it’s the small things that make the guests feel special. It’s not just always about champagne or money. It’s really about lasting memories.
Can you describe the art in your hotel?
The art in the hotel is proudly Polish. All of the art is contemporary Polish. There will be over 400 pieces of art. Art is so central to our identity that we decided to hire an art gallery manager on property who will be there to explain the art to the guest if they like. It is a feature similar to the one offered at the Raffles Royal Monceau in Paris. We will also have our own city tour guide manager for the guests who want to discover the city and the art in the city, so we will physically have 2 art gallery managers on property. In addition, we will have a book and digital facilities to explain all the art in the hotel to the guest.
How do you manage your staff team to encourage them to deliver the best of themselves?
The key element to work service comes from emotional connection and emotional intelligence. For this, you can train people as much as you want, but the service has to come from the heart. If the service does not come from the heart, the customers will feel it because then it just becomes a process. In Raffles, we spend a lot of effort, energy, and training to make people understand what emotional connection and engagement mean.
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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.