CASE STUDY: Technology trailblazers
Kempinski MOE in Dubai has implemented a number of technology firsts
Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates in Dubai has taken the brave step of implementing a number of technology firsts for the region, relating to connectivity, mobility and efficiency
Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates in Dubai recently set about introducing a number of technological innovations to drive guest satisfaction and operational efficiency.
The results are a digitally-enhanced check-in experience, a greener environment and an international hotel technology innovation award.
The hotel’s director of information technology Prasanna Rupasinghe tells Hotelier more about each initiative and the reasoning behind them.
Rational and Objective
“Hotels have a number of common challenges that impact the guest experience. Some of these include internet bandwidth, poor or insufficient wireless coverage, time-consuming check-in and check-out processes, lack of guest information on the go, and slow operations in different areas of the business,” Rupasinghe explains.
One of the first steps taken to tackle these complaints was to ensure that guests could connect to the wireless internet on any device they may be carrying.
This led to one of the most challenging projects the hotel undertook; to eliminate “bottlenecks” in hotel High Speed Internet Access (HSIA). The hotel created a partnership with local ISP provider Du to implement “on-the-fly, burstable” internet based on real-time demand from guests, said to be the first of its kind in the region.
This innovative approach allows the hotel to fully tailor its internet offering to the guests’ needs, including guaranteed dedicated bandwidth for conferences and in-house guests. While basic internet access will remain complimentary, premium access can now be purchased on a usage basis.
Another new initiative for the region was to shift from fixed reception desk operations to wireless tablets and mobile devices offering check-in, check-out and guest services at the location of the guest’s preference.
“Opera2Go, the mobility module of the hotel’s property management system, went live with a beta version at the end of October last year and has already received very positive feedback from guests.
Through tablet devices employees can now wirelessly connect to instantly respond to guest queries while on the go and manage a guest’s check-in and check-out with much greater efficiency,” explains Rupasinghe.
In 2013, as part of the mobility solution through Opera2Go, the team will launch a key encoding facility and integrated credit-card payment through mobile devices.
The focus on mobility also led to the introduction of iPads in some of the hotel’s restaurants including the recently re-opened Aspen by Kempinski lobby lounge. At 1897 Bar, the iPads feature menus containing images of the food available as well as videos on how to make cocktails and light a cigar.
As part of the property’s green initiatives, Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates introduced a new in-room energy management system in November 2012.
Through the use of nearly 3500 Zigbee wireless devices and a unique thermostat technology called ‘recovery time’, this system automatically determines whether the guest is present in the room or not and adjusts the air-conditioning and lighting accordingly to reduce energy wasted.
The forecasted annual savings for this energy management solution include a 19% energy cost reduction and an average of 425 hours runtime savings on energy per guest room.
Concept and Investment
The internet bandwidth project, including the optimisation of the wi-fi performance at the hotel, took almost a year to complete and included discussions and negotiations with external service providers. Internally the IT team had three people engaged for the duration of the project and the main investment was time and resources.
The Opera2Go beta project went live at the end of October 2012 and took about eight months of testing and optimisation along with the Micros-Fidelio development team in the US to implement.
As the hotel is part of the pilot project for the EMEA region for this implementation, the property has been able to substantially reduce project cost.
The hotel rolled out the various initiatives with the sales teams and conference and banqueting teams first. It provided workshops and subsequent training on how to sell and explain these new solutions to the guests.
“From the guests’ perspective, we ensured that the roll-out was seamless and self explanatory,” Rupasinghe says.
Opera2Go was first rolled out to the front office department in a test environment set up for employees to train on over a period of four months before the solution went live.
The results to date
The burstable internet bandwidth and ubiquitous wi-fi deployment project has resulted in an increase in the base bandwidth by four times up to 50Mbps without incurring any additional costs, and the ability to provide dedicated internet bandwidth speeds up to 200Mbps to guests.
This project also received an award at the Hotel Technology Next Generation (HTNG) European Conference held in Vienna in December where Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates was named one of the 2012 EMEA Hotel Technology Innovators.
Furthermore, the hotel has seen a reduction in technology-related issues and complaints from guests along with an increase in customer satisfaction scores since the implementation.
The introduction of iPads in the hotel’s restaurants has resulted in a significant reduction in marketing spend and printing costs as updates to menus and promotions can now be done digitally. The use of iPads is currently being extended to other outlets in the hotel as it has proven to be a cost-effective solution.
“After the installation of the in-room energy management system, we have seen a reduction in guest complaints relating to in-room temperature controls. At the same time the system has enhanced guest service in terms of the room make-up request and do not disturb facility as this is now fully automated,” says Rupasinghe.
As the Opera2Go implementation is still in its beta stage, the team does not yet have any concrete results available, but hopes to have these towards the end of the first quarter.
“Our focus on mobility continues in 2013 and we are currently in the process of implementing a digital guest experience in the rooms. We have entered into a partnership with IRIS UK to provide a digital platform whereby guests have access to an interactive guest directory offering intuitive and on-demand access to all hotel services , ” he reveals.
Director of technical services
Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates
The implementation of the room management system (RMS) is critical to the efficient energy management of the hotel rooms for which we are responsible in the engineering department, and this implementation has delivered these benefits with strong anticipated results in terms of energy savings.
The forecasted annual savings for this energy management solution include a 19% energy cost reduction and an average of 425 hours runtime savings on energy per room.
In addition, the implementation of the system also helps us in engineering to proactively plan and conduct maintenance on the air-conditioning units in the guest rooms as the system provides us with advance alerts on maintenance requirements.
Green Inspiration champion
Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates
‘Green Inspiration’ by Kempinski is a wonderful initiative that gives us as employees the opportunity to get actively involved in activities that will help us become greener and more eco-friendly in our day-to-day jobs and thus in the operation of our hotels worldwide.
I am the green champion for Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates here and have worked closely with the IT and engineering departments to implement the recent solutions in the hotel.
Kempinski’s Green Inspiration programme is based on three pillars for sustainable development, which are social, economical and environmental.
In my role I make sure that any projects we undertake support the goals and objectives of this programme. In the case of the in-room energy management system for example, it helps us to demonstrate the results using facts and figures.
Marketing communications manager
Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates
Everything we do in the hotel has two main objectives. One is to enhance the guest experience and increase guest satisfaction and the other objective is to drive incremental revenue for the hotel. The improved wireless connectivity has met these two objectives and has helped us in our positioning as a marketing oriented organisation.
Innovative solutions like these allow us to focus on the details that make up a great guest experience.
For example, it’s not just about offering complimentary wi-fi to guests, but it’s about offering the best-in-class solution in terms of speed and quality and offering fully optimised connectivity.
The introduction of iPads in our restaurants has given us in marketing more flexibility in updating menus, implementing promotions and enabled us to respond to quiet periods through last-minute offers.