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On the one hand, there is an undeniable demand for technology to perpetuate a culture of convenience while on the other, there still exists a need for human touch.

Go back to the time when you entered a hotel lobby. What are the things you used to notice? A grand entry, plush sofas and shimmering chandeliers. Remember the child-like excitement you used to have in strolling around perfectly lined desserts while waiting for your welcome drink to arrive. To the keen eye, however, the experience was really about the warm smiles waiting at the concierge, the casual laughs or a personal meal recommendation.

With hotels and resorts adapting to new technology, will the grand, warm welcome still be the same? It seems like luxury hotels and resorts are in metamorphosis as they prepare for a post-pandemic world. Most of them are rolling out new initiatives and leveraging technology to improve the experience of their guests. A contactless service, guest service apps, new hygiene technology, to name a few. These are some of the changes as the hospitality industry re-defines itself.

On the one hand, there is an undeniable demand for technology to perpetuate a culture of convenience while on the other, there still exists a need for human touch. How are luxury hotels and resorts trying to strike a balance?

World Travel Magazine’s recent conversations with some of the luxury hotels and group of hotels shed light on how technology can also offer guests greater convenience, customisation and personalisation.

Personalisation of a human concierge

While many luxury hotel brands have introduced chatbots to answer customer requests, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts has taken a ‘human behind tech’ approach. Four Seasons Chat combines the convenience of instant messaging with the personalisation of a human concierge. Guests can message Four Seasons staff before, during and after their stay using Facebook Messenger, WeChat, SMS or the Four Seasons App. The 24/7 service allows for speedy response times, and also enables staff to translate messages into more than 100 languages.

Four Seasons Chat App

Four Seasons Chat App

Four Seasons Chat App

Four Seasons Chat App

“Four Seasons looks at things first and foremost through a human lens in our approach to effective and meaningful connection with our guests. Integrating new technology as part of our celebrated Chat service adds further value at each touchpoint in the travel journey and paves the path to our continued growth and innovation in the mobile space,” says Christian Clerc, President Worldwide Hotel Operations, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.

Encouraging one-on-one interactions

Accor Hotels and Resorts are making the best use of technology to anticipate the needs, likes and dislikes of their guests to deliver a more meaningful, personalised service and encourage one-on-one interactions.

“Guest passion is at the core of Accor group. We are always looking for the right balance between digitalisation and human touch. I’m convinced that the hotel business is all about service, personalisation and creating unforgettable moments, especially in the luxury segment. Digital innovations serve either to make guests stay more fluid by eliminating check-in and check-out payments, or ever more personalised, by creating tailored-made attentions according to the preferences of each one of them,” said Maud Bailly, Chief Digital Officer in charge of Digital, Distribution, Sales and Information Systems, Accor.

The philosophy of Accor Live limitless (ALL), the new loyalty program, launched in early 2020, is at the heart of this experiential vision, based on emotion and recognition.

“We didn’t wait for the digital age to turn our profession into a succession of personalised attentions: preparing the room with favourite pillows, welcoming guests with their favourite glass of wine, celebrating birthdays as they stayed with us, all this has been done for decades by all our hotel ‘Heartists’,” she added.
The Accor group in 2018 launched at Accor Customer Digital Card (A.C.D.C) as well which helped them capture preferences of their loyal members and allow for all participating parties to know in a privacy secure manner what would delight these loyal members. Accor’s internal surveys showed that personalisation had a significant positive impact, increasing satisfaction levels by 17%.

Technology and personalisation work in tandem

With award-winning luxury hotels and residences across the globe, the Capella group of hotels has realised the importance of human connection more than ever. It has evolved elements of its operational strategy to ensure that it can safely continue to uphold its legacy of offering the highest level of personalised service.

“At Capella Hotels and Resorts, we are implementing a technology platform that enables us to capture guests’ preferences based on our customer’s previous interactions and behaviour. Going beyond pillow selection and customised toiletries, guests can expect to arrive in a room that’s tailored specifically for them, from desired lighting to work and entertainment systems that mirror their standards back home,” said Nicholas Clayton, CEO, Capella Hotel Group. Technology and personalisation will work in tandem.

In this new contact-lite era, most luxury hotels and resorts are confident of striking a balance between crafting a genuinely personalised and enriching experience and leveraging on the convenience of technology with creativity. Standing at the crossroads of an interesting yin and yang – technology and the human touch – the hospitality industry will come out as winners. ◼

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© This article was first published online in July 2020 – World Travel Magazine.

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