Spain's Confederation of Hotels and Tourist Accommodation (CEHAT) is led by Jorge Marichal. We had the opportunity to speak with him during the Innovation Summit of the Hotel Technological Institute (ITH) about concepts such as digitization, sustainability and guest experience in light of the industry's current reality.
He played a crucial role during the pandemic, when he staunchly defended the industry in newspapers, radio and television.
In this Q&A, Marichal shares his experience, opinion and knowledge about the current hotel industry situation.
You mentioned during the ITH Innovation Summit that the Spanish hotel industry had to rise from the ashes in record time, much like the Phoenix. What role did digitization play in achieving recovery against all odds?
Jorge: Digitization has been underway for some time, but it has accelerated due to the needs created by the pandemic. It has been a crucial and valuable tool for meeting all the needs arising day after day.
The development planned for 10 years has been implemented in about a year and a half, and now it is a trend. Given that technology is exponential, we can say that digitization, along with sustainability, will set the standard for the hotel industry in the coming years.
Can hotels that don't adopt technology lose market share?
Jorge: You can rest assured that they will be left behind if they don't adapt quickly. You have to look for tools that make your customers feel special. The industry has The concept has always worked this way, but with industry standardization, it had changed over the last 20 years.
In today's world, customers want added value, they want to feel special, and technology must enable them to find what best suits their tastes without being intrusive. To provide real-time value propositions to guests, the hotel must incorporate technology.
STAY provides hotels with the benefits of digitizing services. Here are several of them: direct communication between guests and staff to improve the guest experience, access and visibility of services via smartphones, wow factors such as the mobile key, and real-time surveys to resolve bad experiences. The list goes on... Out of these, which one do you think can have the greatest impact on hotel operations?
Jorge: In general, I like all of them, but especially the value of communication and the closeness between staff and guests. This can be done in person or through a chat application managed by the staff. Here is where we make a difference in the guest experience. But also the use of data to improve decisions and provide added value to guests in real time.
Without being intrusive; the nuance is important. Technology should be used to make our lives easier, not to make them more complicated.
In an age of technology, where is the human factor? Maybe the staff should focus on ensuring that the digital tools are handled humanely?
Jorge: Let's take the example of a chat bot. Now imagine an app that offers concierge chat services, such as STAY. This chatbot is not supervised by anyone. Instead, the hotel staff manages the concierge chat service. This is where you can make a difference. Technology cannot replace human interaction.
You will be influenced by what receptionists say about how good or bad a restaurant is, for example. Robots cannot replace a person's expertise in customer service. Technology facilitates new ways for humans to interact while adapting to the modern age.
Ramón Aragonés, CEO of NH Hoteles, said that the company has been able to save 800 tons of paper per year through its digitization strategy, in which the STAY Partner plays an important role. In one of our success cases, Dreams Nature Resorts highlights that they save 1.5 tons of paper every year. What role does sustainability play in today's hotel industry?
Jorge: Sustainability should be viewed not only from the perspective of reputation, but also from the perspective of profitability. When I talk about profitability, I am not only referring to a short-term impact on the company's bottom line.
Sustainability policies help to improve online reputation, following a trend that 's highly demanded by the society and the sector. We sell sustainability, so we need to keep thinking in that direction, because it will bring us positive outcomes.
The digital tools are clearly helping to achieve paperless experiences, we're saving more paper and preventing waste generation with these policies, and as I said, from a number of perspectives it is profitable.
Listening to Marichal reaffirms the idea that drives our work. Technology is unstoppable in this sector. Hotels will succeed or fail based on how they humanize this revolution. His words motivate us to continue down the right path.