Hotel Online  Special Report


Defining the Hi-Tech Hotel; 
Anticipating the Tech Needs of Your Guests
and Providing It Ahead of Being Asked

by Terence Ronson, HOTEL Asia Pacific, February 2005

Hoteliers need to be Boy Scouts {or Girl Guides}…

For me, the sun can’t rise soon enough on the day that dawns the new era when the Boy Scout Motto "Be Prepared" is unanimously accepted as the mantra for the contemporary Hotelier. This being crucial as they mold their attitude towards the ever demanding, and evolving technological needs of the guest.

Because of the cookie cutter approach some operators take in the hope of creating a so-called hi-tech hotel, there is an unrelenting need [for me] to correct their misconception and elucidate the real facts. The reality is - there is no hard and fast rule – it’s far too subjective, and what works for one – will, with all probability, not work for another. I’ve seen this [flattering] mimicry all too often – and whilst it may superficially look and sound good, it will undoubtedly lead to failure through a complete misinterpretation of the real needs.

The age old phrase ‘that beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ can equally be applied to what is perceived as hi-tech. For example, a luddite may describe having more than a color TV in their room - a complete overkill; while on the other hand, an iPOD touting road-warrior [you do know what an iPOD is – don’t you?] might very well feel @ home with all these gadgets and gizmos.

One’s personal belief could be that by placing high-def TV’s, Dolby 5.1 surround sound stereo systems with zillions of channels of hot and cold HD [High Definition] video-on-demand infotainment, suitably qualifies your establishment as having hi-tech accommodations. Another school of thought could see you believing that all you need is ubiquitous wired and wireless broadband so as to give your particular hostelry that hi-tech feel. Some operators postulate that their front-line workers need to sport PDA’s which facilitate them to immediately identify, and have instant access to, guest preferences, while delivering that extra special level of personal service, which they imagine can only be served up by real people.

Actually – I get peeved when people use the phrase hi-tech when they want to design or position their hotel. Being really objective – if you don’t give your property this so-labeled look and feel, then by default, you become low-tech, and I wonder how many of you really want to be portrayed in that manner - in 2005, and beyond. It likewise frustrates the hec out of me when I encounter those who say we should flood the guestroom with tech stuff, and by the same token I get equally exasperated with individuals who say we should slow things down when it comes to tech deployment, because it will just get outdated. You folks, I’m sad to say, have lost the plot.

Love ‘em as we do, Owners need to get away from their fixation of crystal chandeliers, black marble, silk rugs, umpteen floor atriums, designer paintings, aquariums and golden ornaments being the fragrant cheeseboard that gets the MICE through the doors. Yes, it may do the first time, but bring ‘em back time after time – those LCBTs [Laptop carrying business travelers], I’m not so sure this is the right type of bait for your mousetrap.

Remember that we – the descendants of apes and the people who temporarily inhabit this magnificent blue planet, are the ones [religious beliefs aside] who make all this happen. We are passengers on an evolutionary train ride moving along the time tracks with greater inertia than our forefathers could ever have imagined, and one thing’s for sure, we ain’t gonna slow down for anyone.

As consultants to the industry, we painstakingly examine this timeline, firstly capturing a snapshot that marks where we are at this precise moment, and then using our own type of time machine predict where we might be when a new hotel opens at some future point in time. We need to comprehend how people adopt and adapt to these new technologies - before deploying them in a hotel. Paramount to this process is the need to place ourselves in the designer trainers of kids, the quirky moods of adolescents, the fastidious minds of adults, and the often incomprehensible thought patterns of seniors. The importance of this process should not be underestimated especially when it comes to designing how a hotel should provision technology for a specific guest demographic. And oh yes, one must not forget the secret ingredient - a deep understanding of the operation, and how the two sides need to painlessly interact with each other.

I just wonder how many of you, for example, would have accurately predicted two years ago that millions of people would be clutching with white knuckles Apple’s phenomenally successful iPOD, and that many of those [potentially high yield] guests could be billeted in your hotel, wanting to play back their MP3s via the sound system of the TV you so kindly placed in the guestroom. Did you also correctly predict from your crystal ball gazing that people who carry digital cameras (video and still) would want to view their snaps on your plasma or LCD TV. In anticipating this, have you made sockets and connector cables available so that they can easily access these devices and at the same time, have an adequate amount of power sockets for the plethora of power adaptors they now carry in their RFID tagged luggage.

And, as we move forwards [maybe I should say sprint], are you geared up for the next GEN of travelers, those that for example will transport Apple’s even newer and revolutionary ‘Mac Mini’ (go look it up), and the rapidly emerging Wi-Fi phone pre-loaded with SKYPE, already being heavily promoted by some US carriers that is without doubt being heavily discussed around the water coolers of tech companies in the various silicon Valleys and multi-media super corridors.

Anticipating the needs of your guests and providing it ahead of being asked, is the art of hotel keeping – just like being a Boy Scout. If you need to be asked – then quite frankly you have not done your job [The Donald (Trump that is) would most likely fire you…], or you are trying to position yourself as something you are not, and therefore, don’t live up to the expectations of your guests. Giving that little bit extra, helps exceed expectations, and lets you justifiably earn that strongly agree ü on the guest questionnaire you so eagerly look forward to receiving and espousing about at your daily Morning Prayers.

Let’s be honest with ourselves - placing three or more remote controls for the in-room infotainment system either on the desk, or by the bed, is really stupid. A massively complex bedside panel that closely resembles the instrumentation of a nuclear power station is not only a waste of money – it is far too complex for someone who is just looking for a master switch to shut off that annoying [forgotten] bathroom light, or maybe some sort of night light under the nightstand or bed. Having power sockets that one has to crawl around the dusty skirting board and behind drapes so as to just be able to plug in the kettle is nothing short of a joke. Omitting a decent network cable in a room when you provide broadband is not only doing a disservice to your road warriors, it is an injustice to the service you once so proudly [and expensively] installed.

Deploying an enormously expensive phone system into your hotel with charges so prohibitive that a guest feels they need to pay a levy just for the privilege of lifting the handset, swiftly morphs it into a dust collector. This all too common phenomenon (I call it hotelier greed) will see the device being used for nothing more than placing wake-up calls, asking the Bell Boy to collect luggage, requesting Housekeeping to bring more towels, or for Room Service to promptly deliver Soup and a Club Sandwich. Is that what you call a RoI?

There is no Cordon Bleu recipe that you can follow which tells you just how much tech you need to put into your hotel in order to make it work. Likewise there is no need to arm all your staff with a Swiss-army knife so they are prepared to tackle anything.

What you need is the mindset, the understanding and the ……

© February 2005

First appeared in HOTEL Asia Pacific
© Copyright HOTEL Asia Pacific.



Subscription Information
Hotel Asia Pacific
Steve Shellum
158 Wong Uk Tsuen
Yuen Long
New Territories
Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2882-7352
Fax: +852 2882-2461

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