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Monthly Archives: November 2014

SaviOne

Meet SaviOne, your next hotel staff member. OK, maybe not this year, but in the not-to-distant future, SaviOne and its descendants will likely be working for you, providing service and entertaining for your hotel guests.

SaviOne is the first robot designed especially for hotels. At the time of this writing, there is a grand total of one SaviOne in service. I’m not sure whether to call it a he or a she or an it. But judging from the curves, I’ll call it a she.

Following the principles of lean management, SaviOne has been designed to handle only a few simple tasks but she can do them very well. Her favourite task is to deliver small items to guests in their rooms. Did the guest forget a toothbrush or razor? SaviOne will bring it. Does the guest need a charging cable for her iPhone 9, SaviOne will bring it (starting with the iPhone 10, the devices can be charged with air). If a picture is worth 1000 words, a video is worth even more. So watch SaviOne perform her tricks in this video.

SaviOne is learning fervently to handle room service so expect to see her offer this soon. Not sure why your club sandwich is taking so long? You’ll probably be able to track the location of your order on your smartphone or the in-room tablet. You probably used that device to place your order anyway.

The one SaviOne in service today is roaming the floors and riding the elevators at the Aloft Hotel in Cupertino, California. Very much in the heart of Silicon Valley. The reaction has been generally positive, but then again visitors to that part of the world are likely to be technology lovers.

So the question is: are the new generation hotel guests around the world prepared to accept robots? Taylor Short of Software Advice a hotel technology review site, did an extensive survey to find out what people think about robots in hotels today. The results show that around half of the population has a positive attitude about it. However when restricting the survey to millennials, or those people who came of age since 2000, the excitement level is significantly higher. For this reason, Starwood expects to introduce the robots to 100 more properties in 2015.

SaviOne’s descendents will likely be much more talented than the original. “At the moment, robots in hospitality can only serve basic functions like transporting items or serving drinks (like the robot bartenders aboard some Royal Caribbean cruises),” explained Taylor Short. “However, other feasible tasks could include helping guests check-in or out or offering concierge-type services, such as giving directions to local attractions or suggesting nearby restaurants.”

When will we see robots in European hotels? Well, some European hotels have adapted more creative uses for technology. “There aren’t any robots like SaviOne being used extensively in Europe, but Ibis Hotels have employed a more artistic automaton in Berlin, Paris and London. As guests sleep, this robot will interpret body heat, sound and movement to help it paint a picture. It’s not quite as useful as delivering items, but it shows that hotel companies are thinking about robotic technology in very creative ways.”

What uses do you see for robots in European hotels? Your comments are welcome!

New generation hotels need new generation thinkers. One of them is Tanja Baier, a software company manager and a hidden force behind the success of new generation hotels and chains

Tanja Baier – a women on a mission. Tanja Baier studied hotel management, now works as a sales manager and really enjoys working for hetras. However, hetras is just as fond of her. Sounds a bit like a match made in heaven, you might think. And, according to hetras, the Munich-based company that specialises in could-based hotel management software, this is in fact pretty much the case. Managing Director Uli Pillau even went a step further when he said: “Without her, hetras definitely wouldn’t be where it is today.” This is because Tanja, who has a degree in tourism management, not only sells products to customers, but also makes sure that hetras’ customers get maximum benefit from them. When doing so, she is always guided by a single principle: prepare for the new generation of hotel guests.

A recent example: A short while ago, hetras and the well-established German online travel agent Travel24 announced a partnership. This partnership was also partially brought about by Tanja Baier – a hetras manger and born in North Germany in 1983. I.e. in Tanja’s words she was able to “take an active role in all of this project’s key features” – from defining the hotel concept to the conclusion of the actual partnership agreement itself. To which she added that “We are now at a stage where we are working together to develop a strategy for implementing the new hotel concept with all of the IT partners involved in a highly forward-looking way. This means that we are drawing on a wide range of different ideas and having our technology in the background really allows us to open to new possibilities and analyze and act on the needs and requirements of the next generation of hotel guests.”

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Tanja Baier

The future – something that is of huge appeal to Tanja

In particular when it is a matter of not just letting the future happen of its own accord, but of taking active steps towards shaping and influencing it. Which is another reason she loves working for hetras, because “At hetras, we are trying to use our hotel concepts to realize things that other companies are still only dreaming about. Thanks to hetras’ lack of bureaucracy and flat hierarchies, every one of my days here is full of new challenges and opportunities that I can act on quickly, efficiently and without any fuss. So, rather than navigating long paper trails and complex hierarchies, at hetras, we tend to just meet with our CEO in our open-plan office. We openly discuss ideas and my highly-motivated colleagues will not only take my ideas up to another level, but will also contribute their ideas in turn.”

However, how does hetras know what the hotel guest of tomorrow might want and need? According to Tanja, “Our clients tend to be trendsetters in the hotel sector. They are companies that are acutely aware of the fact that the way hotel guests have been treated over the past decades is completely outdated and – often – even resented. I.e. they are companies who have extensively analyzed their guests’ needs and then acted on the results of these analyses.” To date, these analysis results have been used in selecting locations for hotels, lobby design, hotel staff selection and training, the use of technology and to shape guest interactions – although the list of key factors that strongly influence hetras’ hotel concept goes on and on.

Providing hotel guests with the ultimate hotel experience

Few people will feel a guest’s dissatisfaction as keenly as Tanja. The question is – is it possible for everybody to learn to tune into a guest’s level of satisfaction? The answer is: only to an extend. In Tanja’s case, learning to listen to customers started at a very early age. She comes from a family of hotel owners and, “we all had to muck in and help in the daily running of the hotel from a fairly early age,” Tanja laughs and adds “I guess you could say that my passion for the hotel sector literally started in the cradle.”

A degree with a difference

Now having lived in Munich since 2010, Tanja had the fortune to study at the University of Bangkok for six month during her time at university and to get to know a completely different side of the world of hotels and tourism. Her experience of this completely different culture made a deep impression. Hence she laughingly shares the motto she has since adopted to guide her in life: “Are things really what they appear?” – which brings to light another one of Tanja’s traits that those who know her are just too aware of – the sense of lightness and fun she brings to everything. Anybody who thinks that the only way to get through life is by being serious will be very much on the wrong track with Tanja, whose experience has taught her that a sense of lightness is a key advantage in one’s working day.

However, what makes somebody chose the subject “Intercultural personnel management in China” for their bachelor’s thesis? Tanja has always had a deep interest in different cultures, and in particular in “how they affect peoples’ daily interactions.”

In addition to the above, the rapid change taking place in China, its economic growth and China’s increasing significance on the world stage all made fascinating facts. “I really wanted to know how Chinese employees interact with one another and how they interact with colleagues from other cultures. What are their values, how do they come across as business partners?” In order to answer these questions, Tanja intensively studied Chinese history, and the values and standards that govern family life in particular. Just in case Tanja’s career path should ever take her to China, she will be prepared.

At hetras, everybody is acutely aware of Tanja’s importance and dependability both as a manager and colleague. As managing director Ulrich Pillau put it, “Tanja’s work with our customers has consistently yielded great results for both us and our clients. She has successfully managed to help high-class hotel chains to integrate hetras’ solutions into their complex hotel environments.”

Tanja – held in high regard both internally and externally – a fact regardless of whether or not she laughingly dismisses it, and firmly emphasized by Pillau. “Without her, hetras definitely wouldn’t be where it is today. This is both due to the fact that she makes an excellent member of our management team on the one hand, and on the other, that she has an unusually detailed knowledge of the hotel sector.” The latter being thanks to Tanja’s solid training and work experience in the hotel sector, followed by working in a software company in which she has the freedom to take on any role she needs to – from sales to business analyst and customer support. “She has definitely acquired a solid understanding of her trade from the cradle on”, explained Pillau. But that’s not all. Tanja’s personable nature rubs off on all her colleagues. Even when working throughout the night to help a hotel go live on time, Tanja keeps the team permanently in a good mood.

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