Cover Story

The digital edge

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Today, technology is redefining guest experiences in hotels. The recently concluded CeBIT INDIA Insight Series at FHW 2015 Bengaluru gave an interesting account of the present and future of leveraging digitisation to enhance guest experiences in the hospitality industry By Rituparna Chatterjee

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Karthick Prabu

A new addition to this year’s Food Hospitality World (FHW) 2015 Bengaluru exhibition was the CeBIT INDIA Insight Series. Held on the second day of the exhibition at the White Orchid Convention Centre in Bengaluru, this panel discussion witnessed chief product officers and IT heads sharing their viewpoints on leveraging digitalisation to enhance customer experiences in the hospitality industry. The discussion was moderated by Karthick Prabu, chief product officer, RoomsTonite eBookings, and the panelists included: Vijay Choudhary, general manager, HRH Information Technology; Sathish Gangappa, IT manager, The Chancery Pavilion; and Pawan Kumar Dhiman, IT manager – IT and telecom, The LaLiT Ashok Bangalore. The discussion touched upon a wide range of topics including how digitisation is enhancing various hotel services, guest Internet (the next generation in-room connectivity solutions), digital marketing, overcoming security challenges, budgeting for IT, among others.

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Vijay Choudhary

Talking about leveraging digitalisation to enhance customer experiences, Gangappa informed the audience about the integration of web check-in and restaurant management system in his hotel. “We are also developing social media content to engage with the guests,” added Gangappa. Sharing his thoughts, Choudhary spoke about how his hotel is focusing more on strengthening its IT department. “In the past we were more focused on workflow management, but at present we are concentrating on developing a strong IT department to control cost, enhance customer experience, improve customer interaction, among others. In the future, we have to see how we can turn IT into a profit centre and not a cost centre,” suggested Choudhary. Though digitisation has helped in creating personalised guest experiences, there is also the underlying concern among customers about their personal data getting shared, which was voiced by Prabu.

A complete solution

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Sathish Gangappa

A customer’s experience begins from the moment he is reserving a hotel room and in recent times customers are increasingly shifting towards direct bookings. “Guests will go through every detail while booking online. We are encouraging our guests to book rooms directly through our website rather than through our channel partners since each of them project different room rates,” informed Gangappa. However, online booking can be a challenge. “The hotel website is not compatible with the latest technology and we need to keep it updated,” averred Dhiman.

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Pawan Kumar Dhiman

Moving on to the discussion on simplifying the check-in and check-out procedure for hotel guests, Gangappa informed, “We are speaking with Wipro, which has introduced a technology wherein a guest’s Aadhaar card number  can be taken and with the help of a retina or biometric scan  his identity can be verified. This will ensure security of the other guests and the hotel.” Sharing his suggestion with the audience, Dhiman said that hotels can skip identification checks of their regular guests. However, the identification checks of international guests need to be thorough.

Being innovative

Today, social media is a significant contributor in enhancing guest experiences at hotels. “There are several touch points to engage with guests and social media is one of them. In Australia, we have an Instagram hotel which encourages guests to click and share pictures of the hotel on Instagram. This gives the hotel free publicity. Globally, social media is being adopted at a completely different level as compared to India,” stated Prabu.  Reiterating the same, Choudhary suggested, “Innovative thinking is required. There needs to be an understanding at the top management, allocate a budget from marketing for social media, hire people having domain expertise, etc.” Having a dedicated team giving daily updates on social media and a strong focus on online selling were other suggestions given by the panelists.

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Wi-Fi is a key component for guests to choose a hotel. Whether or not to give complementary Wi-Fi to guests was also touched upon by the panel. Choudhary stated, “We have been serving the leisure market majorly. We did a survey five to six years back through which we found that guests tend to have lesser complaints if there was complementary Wi-Fi at the hotel. So we decided to offer complementary Wi-Fi across all our properties and increased the room rates to compensate for that.” While other panelists suggested that complementary Wi-Fi should be limited up to a certain number of devices and bandwidth. Drawing to a close, the panelists touched upon other topics like the need to constantly invest in technology upgradation and maintain a robust data security.

CeBIT Global Conferences INDIA – 2015

CeBIT Global Conferences INDIA – 2015 will be held from October 29-31, 2015 at the Bangalore International Exhibition Centre (BIEC) in Bengaluru. The theme of the conference will be – D!conomy (The Digital Economy). The three day event will witness visionary keynotes from digital business leaders, discussions on how technology will transform the workplace of the future and the focus on innovation. Digital driving business innovation will be the overarching theme for CeBIT Global Conferences INDIA – 2015. The event will cover all core themes of the IT industry. The topics being the Internet of things, start-ups, e-commerce, mobility, mobile payments, tech innovation, cloud and digital transformation.

The CeBIT Global Conferences, a crucial element of CeBIT, debuted in India in Bengaluru on November, 12-14, 2014. It had three conference tracks, a line-up of 83 speakers and 33 sessions for delegates including nine visionary keynotes, 17 panel discussions and four seminars. Apart from this, numerous speeches were made by government and industry officials at the Digital India Vision Summit that occurred on the first day of CeBIT INDIA 2014.  The concurrent CeBIT Expo saw the participation of 418 exhibitors from 14 countries. In all, there were 9311 visitors to CeBIT INDIA 2014.

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