An interview about New Generation Hotels with hetras managing director and technology expert Uli Pillau, an industry veteran of 30 years
Ulrich, you’ve been involved with the hotel industry for 30 years, mostly in hotel technology companies. Shouldn’t you leave the new generation to the younger generation?
Wherever I go, I help companies rethink traditions and redefine the way things are done. At Fidelio Software (later Micros), I positioned the products with a user-centric approach rather than with the traditional financial approach. This forever changed the way hotel software is sold. At IDeaS (later part of SAS), I introduced the previously unthinkable concept of revenue management to Europe and the Middle East. It is now standard. hetras is yet another game changer and I’m excited to introduce innovations on a regular basis. If I ever run out of new ideas, I’ll retire!
Everyone’s talking about new generation hotels. Very briefly: What makes these hotels so special?
New generation hotel chains have successfully broken traditional assumptions in the industry: They are defined less by their size or the buildings and much more by modern technology. They appeal to the so-called urban traveler – travelers who want to quickly and independently book comfortable accommodations in a central location. Cool-looking and high-quality furnishings are a part of this, but not the traditional concierge, wellness, telephone and minibar.
And hetras‘ technology supports precisely these hotels?
Our cloud-based platform enables basically all hotel operators to automate various typical hotel business tasks, to centralize management tasks and to systematize time-consuming processes. Some new generation hotels were simply just a bit faster, hoteliers from other market segments are now following suit.
You say that when hoteliers upgrade their technology, it pays off – at what point does it do so?
What we know from our customers is that new generation hotels are not only pioneers in design and technology but also achieve higher yields than traditional hotels. This is because they achieve higher revenue per available room while investing less per room and employing fewer staff. Other hotel chains have come to realize this.
Fewer staff and yet satisfied guests; how can this work?
Through automation. Hotel staff can focus more on the guests, they don’t have to gaze at a computer screen during check-in while the line of people at the reception desk grows longer. If the guests do this themselves before they arrive either at home or on their smartphone, then this is taken care of more quickly and conveniently. If assistance is required, then of course someone is there. As Jens Gmiat, Vice President Operations of Ruby Hotels & Resorts recently stated: “Hotel guests today want to travel with ease. That speaks in favor of automation but the human factor is still important. As long as the soft skill factor of our employees fits, this is an excellent mix.”
A bit like when you check in with airlines on your phone or at the kiosk at the airport?
Yes, the self check-in is comparable with the express checkout at Ikea or Tesco. Customers who have no prior experience with the system are guided through the check-in process by an employee. The process is quick, some even speak of a memorable experience because it’s so straightforward. Positive reactions are also observed on a regular basis in the hotel review sites.
Lower costs for hoteliers, more fun for the guests – hetras must be inundated with orders!
At hetras we are indeed observing a great deal of interest in our platform from many countries and from various types of hotel chains. At the moment, however, we are careful not to commit to too many projects at the same time. Hoteliers are increasingly sensing that their guests want greater flexibility, for example they want to choose their room online at home or on the go. If they submit their information, such as address, credit card number or number of nights, in advance, they only need to confirm the information on-site at the hotel with their digital signature. The check-in works via the guest’s own smartphone, tablet, or – like in an Apple store – at reception tables with integrated iPads. The same is true for the check-out process. Anyone can come and go as they please. Travelers who have experienced this tend to report about it and become “repeat offenders”. Word really is getting out and is spreading like wildfire.
This all fits with the typical new generation hotel guest. What convinces other chains to use hetras?
Our cloud solution provides the link between the hotel and the customer because it controls all of the functions involved in a hotel stay. Hetras is connected to over 250 booking channels, through which the guests create a reservation. Of course the hotel website – optimized for every device – is tightly linked to hetras. hetras takes care of the subsequent check-in with a room plan for room selection, booking of services and check-out at the end of the stay as well as a questionnaire and the link to review sites. All data and functions are therefore available to the hotelier in a central location. Compared to traditional PMS, we see hetras rather as a mobile platform that combines distribution, revenue management, hotel operations and guest communication and thereby streamlining processes for the ultimate in efficiency.
What characterizes hoteliers with vision?
Hoteliers of the future create rooms that are available to guests with heart, soul AND technology. Today’s requirements must be served comfortably. This is not science fiction, but very much a matter of hotels of the future. In Vienna, for example, the Hotel Schani is currently under construction: a new building in which the first concrete research results from the scientific work of Fraunhofer IAO are being applied. The trend-setting solutions in this hotel include, among others, the mobile check-in and check-out process. At the groundbreaking ceremony, Managing Director Benedikt Komarek said: “By using the latest technologies, our goal is to make our guests’ stay as pleasant and hassle-free as possible.” In other words, this concerns nothing less than lifestyle, good functionality and the joy of living.