The hotel industry is looking for new ideas. Some use the smartphone as a room key. Others rely on maximum personalization and virtual concierge services.
Is this the hotel of the future? The first impression from the outside: A functional building, beige, the architecture can be described as inconspicuous at best. The front has the holey appearance of a cheese. In the heart of Vienna stands the Hotel Schani. Schani – this is how the youngest waiters in Vienna were called in the 19th century.
The employee at the check-in points to a screen where the guest can type in his name. Everything else then goes automatically: The machine creates the room cards, which actually no one needs because the room door can easily be opened by a smartphone app. According to information from the hotel, this accessibility is already used by more than half of all guests; trend ascending. Before arrival, the desired room could already be selected, booked and paid via the internet.
In the middle of the lobby stands a Bitcoin ATM. In addition, there is a hip styled co-working space and a small bistro, where breakfast can be served in the morning.
The room looks just like a budget room in the heart of a metropolis looks like: pragmatic, manageable and only partially comfortable. The check-out is then also widely automated: just leave the room cards in the room and go, the bill comes automatically via email. Anyone familiar with the usual queues at the morning check-out will certainly appreciate this better service through automation.
Innovative or just automated?
This approach to digital hospitality was co-developed by the German Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. The goal: Maximum efficiency, low prices, as well as extensive automation and as few staff as possible.
However, it raises the question of whether this is what guests want? Do guests like to spend a night without a personal reception? On the contrary, are they simply happy to come quickly into the room after a long day, without having to answer standardized questions such as “How was the journey” etc., which are being rewound by tired service staff?
To clarify this question, the hotel industry is currently spending a lot of money. Numerous studies try to determine what the hotel of the future might look like. The current status quo shows no clear trend. Rather, there are two camps that represent their respective arguments with verve.
Based on information from DER SPIEGEL
The hotel of the future
Alexander Hübner CEO Le Bijou HRM AG
One side is convinced that it is no longer sufficient to greet guests with an “individual” text on the TV screen, to offer a telephone in the room and fitness equipment in the cellar to be considered a top address. This site is convinced that customers want more smart, digitally accessible and usable services. “Anyone who does not rigorously digitize, automate and personalize their business will have to struggle with declining margins and survival”, says Alexander Hübner, CEO of Le Bijou Hotel & Resort Management AG.
From the exact opposite, the other side is convinced: “The more digital everyday life becomes the more many people want real experiences. Similar things are perceived as a luxury, especially by younger guests”, says Christoph Hoffmann, founder, and CEO of the 25hours hotel chain.
Major brands such as Accor (Novotel, Ibis, Mercure) invest massively in the digitization of their homes. Starwood (Sheraton, Westin, St. Regis) has already introduced a system that allows guests to open their room doors by smartphone. The Steigenberger Airport Hotel at Frankfurt Airport takes things a step further: Here, service personnel is conducted via smartwatch through the 550-room establishment. What may seem strange at first glance makes sense for all involved: Needed rooms can be arranged flexible and “on demand” for the new guest; this increases customer satisfaction and reduces the cost of the hotel.
Slowly but surely, a traditional industry is changing whose biggest technical challenges so far have been the air conditioning, minibar and pay TV in the rooms. Partly in the meantime tablets are available, over which a pizza ordered to the room or a taxi can be ordered. But are these steps enough to keep up with guests’ ever-increasing expectations?
The hotel of the future: smart and personalized rather than simply automated
Hoteliers already have lost control over the bookings. Most rooms are now booked through booking portals such as Booking.com, HRS or Expedia. If a guest uses a booking platform, an average of 15 percent of the room rate will be charged a commission. Although the occupancy of most hotels is good, higher room rates are becoming increasingly difficult to enforce. Thanks to the booking platforms, the next cheapest hotel is actually just a mouse click away.
The fact that the hotel industry has to reorganize is not just about digitization. “People are traveling more than ever before”, says Vanessa Borkmann, a researcher at the Fraunhofer IAO Institute in Stuttgart, and adds: “In the past, hotel accommodation was a luxury. Today, seven-year-olds have been taken for granted abroad. These guests can only be thrilled with special experiences and outstanding service.”
But even a digital technology in a hotel room can’t do wonders. Nobody books just because there is an automatic check-in. Technical solutions are always interesting for hotels when they succeed in improving service or reducing costs. And the biggest cost block of every hotel is still: staff.
It is obvious that this is being worked on – service robots are to shape the hotel of the future. And every hotel company is working on its own solutions. They are called “Connie” (Hilton), “Mario” (Marriott), or “Dash” (Intercontinental). These service robots could once populate the minibar, arrange chairs in the conference room, or recognize and greet guests by name.
But digital usually also means surprise-free. What works for a guest on a business trip, who just wants everything to work, can be hell for someone who likes something a bit more individual. Some guests, for example, may want to feel something of the city in which they sleep if they spend the night in Zurich. These guests would like individual advice on new restaurants, events or special services.
What’s needed are approaches that provide guests with a unique, personalized experience and value-added services that increase revenue per guest. Digital technology should seduce the guest to spend more money than he has planned.
The key question is: How can these different claims be realized in one property and with one platform?
Le Bijou combines lean processes with maximum personalization
Today’s travelers are looking for something different from the classic hotel: they want more privacy, more space, and a more authentic travel experience based on insider recommendations and quality service rather than big brands. Le Bijou is the first company to bring this innovative concept to the upmarket travel industry, offering guests the luxury and service of a 5-star hotel, in addition to the privacy and style of an exclusive city apartment.
Le Bijou focusses on creating an environment in which guests feel at home. Stylish furniture and first-class workmanship in beautifully designed interiors in the heart of the city have won numerous awards. Le Bijou works with renowned architects and interior designers to create a spectacular environment for their clients. They give Le Bijou brand aesthetics personality and a local flair. This elegant style blends with state-of-the-art technology that matches the ambiance, service and even the decor to the taste of the guest.
Each Le Bijou has a fully equipped kitchen, built-in multimedia technology, and 24/7 concierge service. We combine this personalized experience with a unique digital service model. With our virtual concierge and in-house app, guests can tailor their Le Bijou stay to their personal needs.
Meet James, the face of our virtual concierge service. With the help of Augmented Intelligence, James can ease the life of every guest. From a 24/7 concierge and shuttle service to private dining, to spa and security services: just ask, and James will deliver. This concierge technology, available in each apartment, is able to interact with and learn from the guests. It works invisibly in the background, making every Le Bijou stay a perfectly personalized, sustainable experience.
Each Le Bijou apartment is equipped with interactive, smart technology that connects to our concierge service and can be used either via voice activation or via the Le Bijou app. The rooms respond to our guests’ preferences: whether it’s an entertainment program through the built-in audiovisual system, a tip for visiting a new restaurant or a suggested appointment for the spa’s signature treatment.
As soon as a guest makes a request, it’s being sent to our carefully maintained service provider directory. The first service provider who accepts the request has the job. Thus, the needs of our guests are met quickly and efficiently by a partner of our trust. Like a traditional concierge – but better.
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