Suppliers Roundtable: In room technology
The most advanced tech suppliers discuss how to impress your guests
A panel of some of the Middle East’s most forward thinking technology companies discuss how to provide your guests with the best in-room technology and reveal some of the cutting edge systems that may blow their mind
Meet the experts
Isabella Dumas Glendinning
VP sales and marketing EMEA, Appy Hotel Corporation.
Having only launched a relatively brief nine months ago, Appy Hotels has already partnered with up to 700 hotels worldwide. Specialising in providing a quick and easy way to create and manage in house mobile applications, Appy allows hotels to promote hotel services such as amenities and concierge services as well as generating direct in-house revenue streams.
Rahul Salgia CEO, DigiValet. Powering close to 4000 hotel rooms across the globe, DigiValet offers hotels a range of fully automated in-room technology that comes with full integration with hotel Property Management Systems (PMS), allowing the capture of guest preferences, seamless integration with the Micros PoS and interfaces with most commercially available In-Room Systems – all of which creates an unique and versatile platform designed to enhance the guest experience.
Jason Jeffery Founder, iRiS Software Systems.
London-based iRiS Software Systems is a guest services application creator, providing apps designed for hotels, cruise lines and restaurants. iRiS applications such as the award-winning iRiS Valet interactive, multi-lingual guest services app, as well as the multi-lingual, iRiS F&B Suite digital menu, sommelier and bar application are designed to improve guest experience, increase revenues, reduce costs and improve communications between guests and staff.
Martin Chevalley Co-founder and CEO, InnSpire.
InnSpire has worked with hotels worldwide to develop software solutions that help the hotel industry to sell more, provide better services and entertainment as well as increasing efficiency and business insight with intelligent software solutions that help cut costs and are easily accessible with smart phones, tablets and TVs.
Petvin Fernandes Regional VP Middle East, Africa and Indian Ocean, Teleadapt Ltd.
Teleadapt is an innovator in guestroom products such as ethernet connectors, audio/video connectivity devices, power adapters and consumer electronics accessories that have been designed to allow travellers to stay connected and to make the most of their portable devices and digital content while travelling.
Q: How big an impact has in-room technology had on the Middle East hospitality market?
Isabella Dumas: The impact of in-room tech has been huge in the new markets it has created, while at the same time it has been small in the sense that guests expect it , so hardly notice it. It’s important to remember the lifestyle guests have, they are assisted by technology everywhere they go, and it is odd for them to have to stop that as they enter their hotel room.
Rahul Salgia: In-room technology has already had a tremendous impact and influence on shaping the guest experience in luxury hotels. In the Middle East, there is a lot of competition in the luxury segment, with technology playing a key role in creating a key difference between competing hotels.
Jason Jeffery: In-room technology is having a considerable impact worldwide, and the Middle East is no exception. Hoteliers are constantly trying to improve the guest experience, and have to be mindful of the costs associated with that. In-room tech also has a certain wow factor too, and hotels in the Middle East are always looking for the next best thing.
Martin Chevalley: In-room technology has traditionally been passive, isolated and tedious, and only now are we seeing how technology can adapt to hotel guests, rather than trying to force the opposite. We are seeing how technology devices can be used from the TV to the handhelds, and we’re seeing what we’ve learnt to call e-commerce move in to the palm of the hands of hotel guests — a concept called h-commerce — for hotel commerce.
Petvin Fernandes: In-room technology adds real value to the guest experience. Today’s guests arrive with all their own electronics and gadgets and they need to stay connected. How much a hotel is capable of catering to its guests’ technological needs is now as important as the quality of food and a well-appointed room.
Q: How can in-room technology maximise existing or create new revenue streams for a hotel?
Chevalley: In-room technology can help hotels sell more food, beverages, spa-treatments, movies and excursions, while even letting guests use their own handheld devices like their iPhone, iPad, Android-phone or simply the TV in their rooms. All this can be done with no unnecessary downloads and no installations. Just pick your service, choose your product and it’s done.
Dumas: It all depends on the technology, but as a general rule consumers engage in acts of purchasing when it is easy to do so. How many times have you started buying something online and after the third page of purchasing you’ve given up because it is just too complicated? It’s the same in a hotel, if the guest needs to talk to three people to make a dinner reservation, he’ll have dinner elsewhere; if he can book a table directly on his phone, there’s much more chance he’ll eat at the restaurant. That’s extra revenue stream.
Jeffery: In-room tech is producing considerable uplifts in room service revenue while boosting up-selling items. For example, it can suggest adding red wine and chocolate cake to go with a steak order. The hotel’s PMS and POS systems can also be integrated into the app, making room service orders and up-selling measurable. Other possible revenue streams include an increase in tour bookings, impulse buys such as shopping purchases (great for hotels with their own shops), advertising opportunities from outside brands and increases in spa bookings and treatments.
Salgia: Leveraging in-room technology creates new differentiators, meaning that hotels are able to raise the room tariff while new revenue streams are generated such as in-room dining, movies on demand, newspapers available on the iPad, shopping or e-commerce.
Q: How can hotels tell which in-room innovations are genuinely useful and which are just gimmicks?
Salgia: Hotels should select products that already have successful live installations and only base the success of a particular product on guest feedback. Any technology that can’t fulfil either of these qualities should be questioned whether they can deliver the value promised.
Chevalley: What’s genuine and what “sticks” is really “in the eye of the beholder”, meaning only the guests can tell. In terms of telling solutions apart, this has traditionally been a very big problem as old systems were notoriously clumsy, locked and rigid and nothing could be changed without huge investments. Most hotels were simply happy if they had a system that they could get their logo onto! With InnSpire, each hotel looks very different, clearly branded all the way through with the tone, colours, logos and brand identity of the hotel.
Dumas: Anything that saves time and provides more customer intimacy is good. The crucial step is about testing the product, reviewing project references, and making your mind up. There are many technologies out there for many different needs. A good rule of thumb for technology is: “has this made my customer’s life simpler?”
Fernandes: Opinions, forums and surveys are quite prevalent and accessible across the internet where you get the pros and cons of almost anything. So regardless of a good marketing campaign, the consumers will get to know if it’s a short hurray or a standout product. So it is best for hotels to give it some time before jumping straight into the latest craze.
Jeffery: The key is effectiveness and simplicity. The genuinely useful apps are those that add real value to both the guest and the hotel. A good gauge of an app’s effectiveness is if it improves the guest experience, increases brand loyalty, increases revenue opportunities and reduces costs.
Q: How can hotels guarantee their guests’ personal details are protected while they are using in-room technology?
Dumas: While data collection can be key to a hotel being able to understand and anticipate the needs of its guests, the protection of their personal data must be guaranteed by the service provider. However, it is the hotel’s duty to insist on having a clear understanding of where that data is stored, who the information is or is not shared with and how it is being specifically used.
Chevalley: As a software provider we are very concerned about protecting hotel guests’ personal details, which is why this security is an integral part of everything we do. For example, we use bank-level industry standard encryption for all data, and we clear all user-data on check-in, on check-out, and the guest can press the trash-can icon any time during their stay to clear their personal data. Even if there would be some sort of outage, or technical problem, we automatically clear all data after a certain time period.
Salgia: Each hotel guest's personal details are protected by making sure that the each access device is specific to the stay of each guest in a specific room. Making sure that all guest browsing history and preferences, which can be useful for return guests, gets stored appropriately and that all other personal details are wiped clean before the next guest checks in is important. We have found that the iOS platform is an extremely secure and stable system to use in such respects.
Fernandes: The question of security and personal data is not as relevant for content suppliers who focus primarily on power, data and multimedia connectivity. In these cases the majority of user’s will already be using standard security procedures which will protect them. For instance, a mediahub enables guests to view the content of their personal devices on the big TV screen, so that their existing devices’ protocols would exist.
Q: What was the first piece of in-room technology that really impressed you?
Chevalley: I am a tech nerd, but more than that I have a passion for marketing and concepts. So technology in itself is not enough — it has to “wow” the user and be so intuitive and useable that the user doesn’t even think about how things are done. I think the InnSpire air-mouse is an example of this — when we were able to finalise this, I was really impressed. It works like your kids’ Wii-remote, but is even easier to use — just point and click — and flip it over, and there’s your qwerty keyboard!
Fernandes: MediaHub Connectivity Panels lets me connect any, if not all, my gadgets. When travelling, I always have my smartphone, laptop and camera with me among other things. I then use the media hub to charge, to play my own music from my Smartphone to the TV speaker, watch my own videos and see the pictures I have taken on the TV.
Dumas: It has to be the humble WiFi! It opened up to so many possibilities for guests during their stay, whether business and leisure, making hotel stays much more easy and stress free. I know it did for me.
Jeffery: When iRiS first began there wasn’t anything that existed on the hospitality market that really brought together TVs, telephones and other gadgets effectively. This is what inspired us to create a solution and something that would actually impress guests and simplify the process for the hotel.
Q: What are the biggest mistakes hotels make when investing in room technology?
Jeffery: The biggest mistake is buying a piece of technology that is totally stand-alone. The reality is that hotels need to look at the bigger picture, not just now but also in the future. Hotels should select a company that not only has certified integrations with the major PMS, POS, IPTV and SOS companies, but one that will enable them to bolt on new applications connected to the same CMS.
Hotels must work with companies that are proven and realise that cheap is generally unsustainable in this world. Talk to a number of vendors and get references to make an informed decision.
Fernandes: I would say the biggest mistake hotels make is when a purchase is decided based on whatever has the lowest price. When investing in in-room tech, certain things should be looked into; such as do the majority of your guests need this product? Is it compatible with most, if not all devices? How “friendly” is the device? Is it using the current technology and will it support foresighted/future innovations?
Dumas: The biggest mistake is investing in technology that will soon be obsolete. Technology changes and evolves so quickly that the best is to choose a provider that has the bandwidth to evolve with the market demands.
Salgia: Hotels should assess the success of a technology based on how many live installations are available and how strong the usage factor has been. This is what will cut the hype from the reality. Hotels should select technology that is live, working and credible.