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March 19, 2017

CRAFTING THE HOTEL CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

As the hotel industry faces a period of significant evolution and opportunity, hotels need to rediscover the differentiating factor that will help them stand out from competitors and be ready to face tomorrow’s guests.

The customer experience is the next competitive battleground.
—Jerry Gregoire, Former Chief Information Officer at Dell Computers

According to Hotel 2020: Welcoming Tomorrow’s Guests by Grant Thornton, the hotel industry is going through a period of unprecedented, irreversible change. The current landscape has witnessed the rise of alternative accommodations, online travel agencies, the change of consumer profiles to include digital natives and guests from emerging markets. How does this impact on hotel operations and how can operators best prepare for tomorrow’s dynamic playing field?

“Hotel chains have traditionally been focused on physical space and ‘heads in beds.’ Today, hotel chains are multi-brand entities bringing varied faces and experiences to their guests. However, the hotel industry is in a period of significant evolution which presents a unique opportunity to reinvent the travel experience,” Doblin Deloitte Consulting’s report Hotels of the Future stated.

What shapes the travel experience? Experiential hotel travel become a buzz word for the hospitality sector in 2016. “While the concept of hotels and resorts immersing their guests into their respective locations, tapping local artisans to share the best in locally produced goods, and helping travelers feel less like tourists and more like in-the-know jet-setters is a positive development, experiential travel is quickly going the way of farm to table—something travelers have come to expect,” explained Mark Grenoble of Enchantment Group in Scottsdale, Arizona in his article Going Beyond Experiential for HotelMag.Com

The challenge then lies defining or creating a memorable customer experience, when each traveler is unique and distinct when it comes to their preferences and expectations. In the Forbes article “When Designing a Customer Experience, Remember the Human Experience,” Micah Solomon states that “How customers perceive and experience your business—how it feels to them and what it means to them—is never as simple as those of us who design customer experiences would like it to be. For one thing, a customer experience is made up of a dazzlingly vast number of impressions, some of which are under your control and some of which aren’t: impressions delivered via the temperature, the scent, the lighting, the timeliness, demeanor, and tone of voice of the service provider, the cleanliness of your parking lot, and on and on and on.”

 

HOTELS OF THE FUTURE
“Yesterday, hotels were all about spaces. Hotels both owned and operated their hotels. Today, hotels are all about brands and the many faces of one hotel chain. Hospitality will always be about experiences and connecting to people. Even in the face of new technology, evolving customer preferences, and new competitive threats, hospitality will require a human touch. A personal and an active approach will place hotels on the same footing as the guests they serve and the owners they work with” (Doblin Deloitte Hotels of the Future)

Opportunities lie in creating a unique hotel experience with the hotel’s role as an integrator of experiences, people, cultures, spaces or processes.

 

THE CURATOR HOTEL
“As a curator you are an explorer, an experimenter, a tastemaker, and a branded experience. For guests craving variety and delight in a beige world of hospitality, the Curator offers more choices and new environments for guests to explore different lifestyles.”

 

For brands competing with the unique experiences of alternative travel, the Curator leverages the capabilities that come with partnerships to continuously redefine hospitality and keep brands fresh for guests. As a Curator, the hotel will build partnerships with companies to leverage their reputation and capabilities to continuously offer quality user experiences not found elsewhere. (Doblin Deloittte, Hotels of the Future)

Marco Polo Ortigas Manila

Marco Polo Ortigas Manila would be a classic example of this, as the recipient of the Forbes Travel Guide’s 2017 Global Five Star rating—the first time in six decades that Manila made it to the list. The rating was the mark of ‘outstanding, iconic properties with virtually flawless service and amazing facilities.’

Frank Reichenbach

Frank Reichenbach, General Manager of Marco Polo Ortigas Manila and recipient of the 2016 General Manager of the Year (ASEAN Region) Award said “Warm hospitality with a modern touch is what we have always been proud to showcase. We take pride in the exceptional service that we provide for every guest who wish to find a sanctuary in the city with premium accommodations and award-winning dining destinations. You will definitely have your best hotel experience with us. This award is the fulfillment of our hard work and passion for service,” Reichenbach adds, “The success of bringing the team together to raise to the level of service and consistency of the Forbes Travel Guide Five Star level means a lot to us. It also gives us satisfaction to know that with passion and dedication we can measure up with larger hospitality groups in the industry”

Marco Polo Ortigas Manila’s Sky Lobby

A Curator will also empower guests by offering rotating flavors of rooms and experiences to choose from and customize, elevate the hotel to a branded experience that designs spaces targeted at guests’ desired mindsets and facilitate guests’ exploration by offering opportunities to try on for size new lifestyles, habits, or products. *Doblin Deloitte Hotels of the Future)

I’M Hotel breaks the mold as the first five-star hotel in the Poblacion district of Makati, housing the first Onsen Spa in the Philippines. After a soft-launch in November 2016, I’M Hotel seeks to redefine the concept of luxury, with signature elements that exemplify the property and provide an unprecedented hospitality experience.

Spanning an expansive 3,800 square meters over 6 stories, I’M Onsen Spa is the largest state-of-the-art spa facility in the Philippines featuring a unique carbonated bath with technology imported from Japan.

Designed by renowned Singapore-based interior designer Suying Metropolitan Studio, the property evokes sophistication and elegance. The hotel features 434 spacious guestrooms, including 91 suites equipped with a Bosch-fitted kitchenette, living room, and dining area. Artwork has been supplied by the resident artist, Bai Tian Yuan, exclusively created to suit the theme of the hotel.

 

THE MATCHMAKER
“As a Matchmaker you are a host, a connector, and a social network. For guests searching for meaningful and interesting interactions while on the road, the Matchmaker facilitates personalized connections between guests for socializing, networking, and sharing experiences. “

A Matchmaker hotel will utilize the hotel’s hospitality, diverse spaces, and knowledge of guests for personalized matchmaking and rendezvous, facilitate a variety of interactions between guests that makes it worth traveling to meet new people for business, and capitalize on the hotel’s diverse base of guests to attract younger travelers seeking to expand their network and their world of knowledge. (Doblin Deloitte Hotels of the Future)

Marriott Hotels realized the potential that digital apps play in making connections. In 2014, Marriott International launched the redesigned Marriott Mobile app for Marriott Rewards members, offering a dynamic mobile experience customized for each guest.

For Marriott Rewards members, the new Marriott Mobile app dynamically adjusts to personalize the user’s experience throughout their travel journey. Whether members are in trip planning mode, getting ready to travel, in transit, or enjoying their hotel stay, the app will display content and features based on what services members are most likely to need in that moment of their travel journey. (Marriott Reimagines its Mobile App to Meet the Needs of Modern World Travelers)

 

THE NEIGHBOR
“As a Neighbor you are a local, an active participant, a good citizen, and a community center. For guests looking for a more purposeful way to engage the local scene, the Neighbor offers a new culture of hospitality where guests can directly experience the heart of culture making. For brands who need to be more adaptable to their context, the Neighbor re-imagines the brand as a local culture-maker and community center that is empowered to explore new opportunities for hospitality.”

As a Neighbor, this will empower hotel properties to take on the aesthetic and the qualities of the local community, focusing brand properties instead on the guest experience, activate the hotel to become a destination place for the community by providing products and services specific to locals and become an active participant and contributor to the local community and culture. (Doblin Deloitte Hotels of the Future)

This is perhaps the biggest opportunity for savvy hotel operators to look into. There are numerous ways in which local culture can be integrated into the hotel experience. We have already seen hints of it with Filipino food making its way into the hotel’s food and beverage operations and some activities that highlight our culture.

Other ideas could include re-purposing the hotel as a place for both guests and locals. The Neighbor makes the hotel a destination place where people want to hang out by bringing the outside in. The Neighbor provides locals with space for community engagement and events, including organizational training, educational exchange or public forums. The Neighbor could be a brand that adapts to context, taking on a new quality of blending into their environment and the personality of the local scene to appeal both to guests and to locals. The Neighbor considers what it can do for the community as a way of expanding into new opportunities for hospitality. It activates external spaces around the hotel for locals to enjoy, and offers opportunities for guests to participate as well. (Doblin Deloitte Hotels of the Future)

Kowloon Shangri-La, Hong Kong recently unveiled their Cultural Heritage Package, which offers guests a chance to experience Tsim Sha Tsui’s culture heritage and the community’s iconic people who have lived in the district for 40 to 70 years.  The hotel offers a beautifully bound commemorative publication, video clips and a Cultural Heritage Package, available until 30 December 2017, with a three- to four-hour guided walking tour to see and feel the living cultural history.

Apart from food, shopping, night life, popular places of interest and sound infrastructure for business and leisure, Hong Kong has much to offer.  Tsim Sha Tsui alone is a land of legends brimming with cultural heritage and fascinating stories.

As the very first hotel to open in the reclaimed Tsim Sha Tsui East, Kowloon Shangri-La, Hong Kong pioneers a project to unearth some off the beaten paths and unbeknown interesting facts ‘hidden’ in the Tsim Sha Tsui areas for decades or even a century.

The hotel’s publication, video clips and newly created room package all capture the sights of the past and present, and some untold stories.  The sights include the city’s oldest military facility, the first Catholic church on Kowloon peninsula, the primary school attended by kung-fu master Bruce Lee and buildings that have received UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage awards.

The stories reveal the Hong Kong people’s lifestyle in the last few decades, ‘East meets West’ and the harmonious blend of different cultures, languages, ethnicities and faiths.  The endurance of ancient traditions in its modern spaces has shaped this unique culture and is a truly contemporary fusion of antiquity and innovation.

 

THE ARCHITECT
“As an Architect you are a resource provider and a flexible platform. For guests that demand greater flexibility in the types and locations of spaces to stay and work in, the Architect supplies new options and resources that are optimized to meet the needs of business travelers. For brands that desire increased brand distribution, the Architect diversifies and extends the reach of brands to locals and businesses by restructuring hotels into nontraditional, flexible spaces ideal for serving new customers.”

As an Architect, the hotel will reimagine how space is used to offer guests greater flexibility for where they can stay, redefine the hotel to offer a variety of more intimate and new types of spaces to meet changing expectations of guests, activate space and resources to provide guests, remote workers, and businesses access to the spatial resources they need to run a business or co-work with teams. (Doblin Deloitte Hotels of the Future)

The Architect reimagines how existing capabilities can be leveraged in new ways to transform under-performing spaces into new mixed use spaces, such as co-working or retail areas for guests and locals to utilize. We have already seen this with the recent mixed space structure of hotels.

The Architect takes a new spin on the strengths and capabilities of hotels. The Architect could build partnerships with companies to offer specialized co-working solutions so that companies can save money on space. The Architect could take hotels into a new market by investing in solutions like co-owned apartments and time-share homes in order to offer guests more intimate spaces they currently seek elsewhere.

The Architect could reimagine the hotel as a set of interconnected spaces rather than a centralized one. Hub and spoke and other spatially distributed models allow hotels flexibility in the locations they can offer guests and the way they do business.

A recent visit by Marco Polo Hong Kong and Niccolo Hotels shared news that about its exciting new flagship property in Hong Kong. The Murray, a Niccolo Hotel, is part of the government’s Conserving Central Project that will open in October 2017, on Cotton Tree Drive in Central.

As well as being the first significant new luxury hotel to open in Hong Kong for several years, The Murray will breathe new life into one of Hong Kong’s most iconic and historic buildings.

The tall white landmark structure, with its distinctive arches and unique recessed windows, was built in 1969 and has since won many awards for its ground-breaking and energy-efficient design.

World-renowned architects Foster and Partners, whose works in Hong Kong include The Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank headquarters and the Hong Kong International Airport, have been engaged as designers for the project.

The Murray Hong Kong, with its unique location in a stand-alone building positioned between the Central business district and the green oasis of Hong Kong Park, the 336-room hotel will offer a sophisticated, urban chic sanctuary in the heart of the city.

Among its unique features will be a stunning rooftop bar with some of the most breathtaking views of the city. A series of signature restaurants are also being planned.

Seasoned British-born hotelier Duncan Palmer, The Murray’s Managing Director shared that “I am quietly confident this will become the preferred hotel in Hong Kong for visiting dignitaries, captains of industry and leaders in style. They will appreciate the sophisticated and international standard of hospitality that the Niccolo brand delivers.”


THE CHOREOGRAPHER
“As a choreographer you are a personal assistant, logistics guru, virtual concierge, and the ecosystem nexus. For guests that value convenience above anything else, the Choreographer redefines the hotel as a new service that seamlessly manages the entire travel experience and logistics of guests. For brands that want to sidestep the costs of expensive loyalty initiatives, the Choreographer disrupts other brands by taking advantage of the interchangeability of hotels to focus on adding value where it matters most.

As a Choreographer, the hotel will facilitate a seamless and holistically managed travel experience for guests by integrating travel logistics traditionally beyond the purview of the hotel; utilize technological solutions to become a virtual hotel that focuses on providing guests with a signature experience in any hotel, regardless of brand name, build new and cheaper booking channels to access guests directly and to offer targeted services to group and high frequent travelers; simplify the hotel experience by offering bundles of third party services guests can customize for each trip, paying for only what they want at one time; and utilize guest information and data to customize and automate the travel experience. (Doblin Deloitte Hotels of the Future)

The Choreographer could use its virtual services to specifically target group audiences and redefine group travel by offering specific services that meet their needs. The Choreographer allows for disaggregated pricing and bundling services so that guests can purchase the exact services they want to customize their trip. The Choreographer sidesteps traditional channels to access guests by building a competitive alliance with operators to offer a cheaper avenue to guests. The Choreographer streamlines and manages the entire user experience for high frequency and group travelers. The Choreographer redefines the hotel as a virtual service that strips away brands and focuses on connecting guests to hotels and offering streamlined logistics.

There is no doubt that smart hotel concepts are becoming more the norm. Beacon technology, messaging, streaming in-room entertainment are just some of the investments that hotels have been gradually looking at. The question now lies in how to take that smart technology and utilize it to create a seamless travel experience for your guests even before they arrive and until the time they depart.

One example is how Hilton Hotels partnered with Uber, which allows the ride-hailing app to be embedded in the Hilton Hotels apps and sites. This collaboration uses a mobile-first approach and concierge service that is a first in the hospitality industry.

If a reservation has been made, a Ride Reminder has the destination automatically changed to the hotel. While en route, a few clicks allow the rider to check in and request for a digital key. A ‘local scene’ feature, curated from top Uber rider spots visited in that city, helps HHonors members discover top destinations easily and seamlessly request an Uber to check them out.


WHAT’S NEXT?

The combination of knowing who, what, where, and why to integrate
will be key for the hotel of the future. In order to make those new choices, hotel companies will need to reflect on key questions.

“Becoming an integrator will require hotels to both rethink what resources and capabilities are available to them and how they are deployed. Today, the traditional hotel operates in silos defined by brands and spaces. Tomorrow, hotels will need to face the challenge of learning how to build bridges to access new resources, to balance the use of resources to bring new life to existing capabilities, to mobilize current resources for new partnerships, and to merge outside potential into new opportunity areas.

Hotels should consider the range of resources available to them including space, people, brands, and services. They will also need to consider the capabilities they have at their disposal such as: technology, human capital, user experiences, operations, and business models.” (Doblin Deloitte Hotels of the Future)

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