The GX factor19 June 2020
HFTP has partnered with Shiji Group to launch a global campaign, GX: Guest Experience Spotlight, a series exploring how the world’s leading hotels are using technology to reimagine the guest experience. Frank Wolfe, CEO of HFTP, highlights some choice profiled properties using new and established platforms and tools to enhance their offering.
Hotels all over the world are looking for new ways to differentiate and provide guests with an excellent experience that keeps them coming back. As someone who has travelled extensively and stayed in countless hotels, I have seen that a growing demand for an exceptional guest experience (GX) has transformed the hospitality industry. Hotels are finding new ways to provide better service for their guests, pairing a high-level of personalised hospitality with the latest technology. This trend extends beyond the in-person experience as hoteliers utilise technology across all platforms and touchpoints to promote service, and grow revenue and loyalty.
In the past few months, GX: Guest Experience Spotlight has showcased some of the world’s most innovative hotels, shining a spotlight on how each brand implements their own unique vision of the GX. Although each hotel approaches this from a different angle, they all use the latest technology to ensure that their guest journey is seamless and personalised.
Sophisticated technology with a classic English design
London’s Eccleston Square Hotel, once the residence of Princess Victoria, is a remarkable case study in the use of technology to enrich the GX. The hotel’s founder, Olivia Byrne, was only 23 when the hotel first opened, yet she quickly turned the property into one of the most renowned and technologically advanced boutique hotels in Europe.
Underneath Eccleston Square’s sophisticated and classic charms lies an advanced system of guestcentric technology. This high level of technological integration within Eccleston Square Hotel lets guests completely personalise their stay. The personalisation begins before check-in, with pre-arrival emails that are tailored to the specific needs of individual guests.
The rooms themselves take inspiration from high-end yacht designers, with advanced technology embedded into walls, glass doors that turn opaque at the flick of a switch and televisions hidden behind bathroom mirrors.
Eccleston Square also uses advanced AI to streamline back-of-house processes and enhance GX. For example, the hotel’s AI infrastructure connects with other applications for guest data, revenue management and entertainment, as well as with the hotel’s chatbot, which allows all requests and guest data to be collected, organised and available in one place. All of this culminates into a driving philosophy that aims to deliver guests the same seamless continuation of technology, comfort and convenience that they enjoy at home.
Embrace local, low-key luxury
ARRIVE Hotels represents a new generation of hoteliers-cum-techies and techies-cum-hoteliers. The founding team behind ARRIVE is made of visionaries from such diverse fields as hospitality, architecture and information technology – including two of the earliest employees at Facebook. The team brings an innovative, disruptive mentality to the hotel space, which combines a passion for localism with a robust tech stack that includes real-time SMS messaging, internal chat and ticketing systems, and a powerful CRM to increase guest personalisation.
ARRIVE properties take inspiration from the unique neighbourhoods where they’re located, inviting guests to share in what makes those neighbourhoods special. ARRIVE believes that service should be warm, proactive and unpretentious, and should leave guests feeling like they’re ‘in the know’ about the local culture. That’s why their properties are designed so that the bar doubles as the front desk, making the check-in process more social, while also encouraging food and beverage sales. Guests interact with staff via a mobile messaging platform, which allows staff to quickly accommodate special requests, and relay arrival and check-in information while also providing an authentic, low-friction means of communication. The messaging platform is also integrated to ARRIVE’s CRM platform, which allows them to track and act on guest preferences in real time.
ARRIVE encourages its staff to work interdependently and empowers them with a number of technological solutions. These include the SMS platform and a system that automatically escalates negative GX all the way to the chief operating officer, who determines the best way to handle the issue.
A high-tech, celebrity service
The Hollywood Roosevelt is a high-end, luxury hotel that has been at the heart of the Hollywood scene for almost a century, acting as both an introduction to the ‘Hollywood life’, and a reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the Boulevard. Opening in 1927, the Hollywood Roosevelt boasts a guest list of Hollywood legends, such as Shirley Temple, Clark Gable, Charlie Chaplin, Prince, Brad Pitt and Marilyn Monroe.
The Hollywood Roosevelt supports its high-touch, celebrity service with a high-tech suite of platforms that let guests choose their own Hollywood adventure. For example, the hotel makes comprehensive use of its CRM and marketing platforms, allowing it to monitor and manage its online reputation. Additionally, the hotel’s implementation of a mobile SMS lets guests checkin/ out directly from their smartphone, while giving them a choice of mobile-enabled amenities and room upgrades.
Italian luxury meets advanced data
Overlooking the Gulf of Naples is the Hotel Corallo Sorrento, a classically luxurious Italian getaway that utilises advanced data analytics to create a seamless guest journey. By analysing numerous guest surveys and overarching trends in guest satisfaction, Hotel Corallo can make nuanced and impactful changes to its guests’ experience. This in turn has fuelled the hotel’s success, boosting ADR, online reputation and overall guest satisfaction.
Hotel Corallo Sorrento’s general manager, Antonello Assante, is no stranger to data analytics: he runs individual A/B tests on different aspects of GX, while also analysing longer-term trends to see what guests are talking about over a period of months. This focus on both the small details and the big picture has enabled Hotel Corallo to increase ADR by 20%, overbooked at just under €550 a night and maintain a 95% positive online reputation.
How has this been achieved? First, with a strong focus on in-stay surveys in which staff are encouraged to personally respond to issues in real time. Then there’s a clear post-stay survey that is used to further inform GX improvements as well as improve online reviews. Finally, the Hotel Corallo Sorrento team uses detailed online reputation management to review guest feedback from sources around the web, ultimately influencing top-level policies and spending decisions.
The key takeaway from Assante and the Hotel Corallo Sorrento team’s GX strategy? Have the right data to take action at the right time.
The art of hospitality and technology
What sets TI’ME apart from other upscale leisure brands is the passion they put into every aspect of their business – from growth to corporate responsibility, to GX. In GX Spotlight’s profile of Dubai’s TI’ME Hotel, it introduces the hotel’s multilayered technological ecosystem that touches every stage of the guest journey, including pre-stay targeted advertisements, personalised service and activity recommendations, and post-stay automated guest satisfaction surveys.
All its different systems, whether it be point of sale in its multiple restaurants, mobile check-in or its CRM, loyalty systems or reporting are integrated so that TI’ME corporate director of IT Joseph Fayad and his team have a deep understanding of their guests. This unified, data-informed overview allows them to put the guest at the centre of all they do. Fayad and his team believe that a heightened GX can best be achieved through the marrying of a strong service mentality and advanced, useful technology.
Affordable luxury for mobile travellers
CitizenM’s mission is to provide “affordable luxury for the people”, but this understates just how much this brand transforms the GX. CitizenM is built to cater to a very specific type of guest: young, international, forward-thinking, socially conscious and, most importantly, mobile. Mobile citizens aren’t looking for traditional hotel amenities like oversized rooms or in-room robes and slippers; instead, they are searching for a streamlined and authentic hotel experience at a price they can afford.
Consequently, citizenM properties have no front desk, no valet, no concierge and no room service. In most hotels, the lobby serves as a glorified waiting room for check-in, but at citizenM, it’s designed as a multifaceted space for dining, socialising, reading, working and unwinding. The brand’s open-plan design features a ‘curated chaos’ of designer furniture and eclectic, contemporary art – the kind of quirky objects that people would collect on their travels. CitizenM uses technology to enhance almost every aspect of the GX; instead of a bulky front desk, guests can check-in through a touchscreen smart-kiosk or online through their mobile devices; instead of a traditional sit-down restaurant, citizenM features a 24/7 grab-and-go canteen-style eatery, where guests can grab food, use their room key as a payment method, and get on with their day – without needing to hassle a waitress for the bill. Also, instead of an oversized room with a phone from 1997, citizenM rooms feature ‘moodpads’ – customised iPads that control all the room’s features and allow guests to order food, control the TV, and adjust the temperature and mood lighting.
Their forward-thinking spirit extends, not just to the hotel itself, but to the concept of a hotelier as well. At citizenM, staff aren’t siloed into compartmentalised roles. Instead, they are hired as multifunctional ‘ambassadors’, empowered to help guests find whatever they need. Ambassadors are backed up by advanced analytics, including middleware, which relays information on virtually all guests’ interactions and a guest intelligence solution that monitors social media posts to ensure that guests’ needs are being met.
Tech serves the guests
All the hotels profiled so far by GX Spotlight have different strategies for achieving an elevated GX. But what do they all have in common? The belief that the technology they use must ultimately serve the guest.
All hotels noted that selecting tech for the sake of having the shiny new product never worked, but when it used technology to meet a certain need, it often discovered breakthroughs that led to a better GX. The GX Spotlight team’s mission to showcase the leading hotels that use technology to enhance the GX is needed. It reminds a hotel that if it focuses on how it can best serve its guests, it’ll often yield the best results.
The GX Spotlight team will soon be launching their ‘GX Column’ series where industry leaders will share their opinion on the latest trends, tech and challenges in the industry, as well as many more thought-provoking and inspiring hotel profiles.
HFTP has already profiled some of the industry’s most forward-thinking hotels, but there are plenty more to look into. As technology and GX strategy continue to evolve, new ideas, methods and philosophies will emerge, continuing to push the industry forward into a better, brighter future.
Hotel Corallo Sorrento’s ADR increase due to in-stay surveys, post-stay survey and online reputation management.
Hotel Corallo Sorrento