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 Chinmai Sharma, Chief Revenue Officer of the Indian hospitality group TAJ Hotels.
How do you use digital technology to promote your hotels?
We have a pretty strong in-house team. The good thing about India is that you can find good software engineers on every corner. We do a lot of development ourselves. We have social media-lite platforms, we have new websites and new ways; we use companies and web services like Amazon and Adobe for content management systems. We ensure that the content is fresh and available across our platforms. Between using great vendors as well as having in-house strength, we are relatively well-placed in the digital. More than 30% of our business already comes from online, and it’s only going to grow. We are ensuring that we do a good job with all these experiences because we are worried about platforms like AirBnB and Expedia.
What is your vision of digital technology in terms of the guest experience?
We use technology in a smart way. We have access to technology, but we don’t want to go overboard with technology because that personal touch is something that our guests want. We give them the option of online chat as well as calling directly, but at the same time, the ratio we have in our Palaces for the amount of associates and butlers per guestroom is very high. We are able to give them personalized attention on a one-to-one basis.
In terms of the digital experience, on our website, social media platforms, and mobile devices, we make sure that we do very good content inventory, including virtual 360 tours to make sure the guests are able to see what kind of experiences they will get. To give an example, as soon as a guest lands at the airport, we pick them up in a vintage car and take them through a grand arrival at the Palace, with a lot of drums, horses, and carriages. We shoot that on video and virtual photographs, and we post that material online through social media. Through this way, we use technology to bring the experience closer in a virtual way to our guests so that they know what they can expect. That strategy seems to be working well.
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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.