Hotels across India are trying to woo guests by implementing state-of-art technological features. Is that what business travellers really want?
Speed and efficiency has always been the mantra for hotels, but now they have added a technological edge to it. Be it iPad menus, digital concierge services in hotels or apps that help the restaurants remember their guest’s preferences; the hospitality industry is all geared to provide more efficient service without losing the human touch.
What The Hotels Are Doing
Accor uses technology as a digital concierge, with 70 screens showing daily information about news, weather and current events happening across town. “The touchscreen panels in the elevators also inform its guests about promotions within the hotel,” Jagan Lacsher, the Hotel Manager of Accor’s Pullman Gurgaon Central Park, which is due to open shortly said. The three restaurants and two bars in the hotel will also feature interactive iPad menus – a wine list with origin and specialities can be generated as well.
Hyatt Regency Pune aims to create an environment integrated with the right technologies in the right manner through smartphone apps, which give detailed information on tariffs, promotions, schemes; iPad menus, virtual tour guides to the hotel, the city’s lifestyle and nightlife. The hotel also has sensor-based mini-bars in its rooms that automatically record consumption and a calorie-counter.
Marriott International has launched a free app for iPhone, iPod Touch and Android devices that allows customers to book stays in 3,600 hotels across 13 brands in 71 countries. The app lets the users find nearby hotels, book a room, check their reservations and get details about their hotel, including photos. Said Shafiq Khan, Senior Vice President of eCommerce, Marriott International, “We know that more than half of our hotel reservations made using mobile devices are for same-day stays. This shows how rushed mobile travellers are around the world; speed and choice are critical.” Sheraton Bangalore Hotel at Brigade Gateway has installed a Respak system, which will give the guests, their preferred seats in a restaurant as well as remember their preferences.
While the Courtyard By Marriott Mumbai International Airport uses technology to enhance the guest’s experience, they do not want it to replace the human touch. “While we are all about ‘high touch’ (the hotel concierge team has created a Top 10 must-visit places apps for guests), we want to make sure that iPads don’t replace the human touch that comes from our concierge team, but enhance their job and make it easier for them to deliver better service,” said Noel Sumitra, Concierge Manager. Nevertheless, the hotel is set to introduce the Courtyard Go Board, a virtual concierge digital signage displayed on a 57-inch LCD touch screen, in the new lobby, where guests can see live feed on stock market quotes, airport delays, weather reports and more.
The Hilton New Delhi-Noida-Mayur Vihar and DoubleTree by Hilton New Delhi-Noida-Mayur Vihar has a media hub, which connects the laptop to the TV and Cisco IP phones, can customise XML-based services to let users access information, such as stock quotes. It also has a free iPhone app, which is integrated with GPS services and mobile maps, and the room can be customised with Requests Upon Arrival. Another interactive in-room gadget is the alarm clock with iHome, which enables users connect their Apple gadgets like iPhone and iPad. The iHome player is also found in rooms at Park Plaza Bengaluru.
iPad Menus Over Waiter?
iPad menus, interactive and easy-to-use has become a common feature. Koh by Ian Kittichai at InterContinental Marine Drive has an iPad menu, which allows guests to browse through the menu, and find information on each dish, photographs and price. The guests can also learn more about the restaurant and the chef, as well as give feedback and comments.
Ista Bangalore has also introduced an iPad menu at Lido, its poolside all day dining restaurant. Said Vishvapreet Singh Cheema, General Manager, “We decided to introduce the enhanced menu at Lido with the added features of an iPad. This adds an element of fun and helps us build a more interactive relationship with our guests as well and build on the ultimate objective of greater brand awareness.”
The Valentino at HHI Kolkata had also launched an iPad menu, and Edo, the Japanese restaurant at ITC Gardenia, Bangalore, has joined the fray as well. Apart from information and photographs, the device also suggests the best sake, different assortments of sushi and sashimi are on display, and different tasting notes can be viewed with pricing. An e-restaurant reservation option has also been piloted at the ITC Maratha, Mumbai.
Apart from an iPad menu at Geoffrey’s, the Royal Orchid Hotel offers QR codes on its reservation vouchers, which contain special promotional links and promo code vouchers to create value around the product. The digital menus are expected to launch in the other restaurants as well.
The Novotel Hyderabad Convention Centre, which offers a digitised menu and a guest feedback system on iPad, also has a Digital Tour Guide for guest to use during sightseeing and an LED Digital Signage for branding during events.
Arijit Bhattacharjee, General Manager-Information Technology, ITC Hotels, elaborated on the group’s philosophy on technology. “Human interaction and personalised service will always remain the core values of the hospitality industry. But imagine if technology can enable associates to instantly recognise guest and provide proactive service based on specific guest preference information from anywhere within the hotel, it can certainly create a superior guest experience fulfilling ITC Hotels’ motto of ‘creating WOW at every moment of truth’.”
But few business travellers are sceptical about adapting to the iPad menus. “I personally prefer waiter who brings the menu instead of the iPad as I can interact with the person and he can guide me the right dish as per my taste buds where as in case of i-pad it is difficult to guess how the food will be in taste,” said Sushovan Chakraborty, Branch in-charge, Brand-comm, Kolkata. Agreed Chandni Khanna, Director, Hippocampus Children’s Company, Chennai. “Although iPad menus is an interesting concept, it’d still rather be served by a waiter who I can interact with and who can recommend dishes, tell me about the restaurant’s specialties and such,” she said.
However, there are those who like the convenience of iPad menus. “Natasha Shah, Founder of The Nature’s Co, Mumbai is impressed with the concept. “I would anyday fo for the iPad menu as I would like to browse the menu at my convenience. I was very impressed when I visited a restaurant, Koh at Intercontinental Marine Drive, Mumbai, that has such menus,” she said.
The Leela Palace Udaipur has plans to offer a tablet in its car, which will have all the information about the property –visuals, restaurant menus, operational timings and information about Udaipur and nearby areas. At Leela Palace New Delhi, the iRemote used for entertainment also has a preview of the guest room folio, a message inbox, and functions like world clock, timings, temperature and calculator.