Future is smart hotels

Naveen Jain, Managing Director, Nouvelle Knowledge Services talks about concept of 'smart hotels'

The concept of luxury has been overturned in the present times. Till sometime back, we were used to old-style luxury – chandeliers and butlers, luxurious public areas and red carpets, servility instead of service and a lot more. But times have changed rapidly, especially with the millennials having high levels of “digital expectations”. For most millennials, luxury is all about creating meaningful experiences. They look to discover and explore newer options every hour, minute and second and directly from their mobile phones. In fact, they reach out for their phones the first thing in the morning and retire with it later in the night. And all this while, they use it for everything: from entertainment to ordering food. 

Importance on authenticity, service quality and personalisation are as sacrosanct as the value and uniqueness offered on a digital platform, say by a hotel. Today, “Smart” hotels do not just mean “connected hotels” as most of them are high on technology, use IoT and AI as base platforms, and try to showcase that minimalism in being “smart” is a wrong notion.


The current trends in the hotels go beyond free wi-fi and USB chargers. Guests expect everything to be automated and voice-controlled. Though the human element is most essential in the business of hospitality, guests now expect app-controlled check-ins and check-outs as well as the room keys. The feel-good factor of guest relations remains but then the front desks are becoming redundant faster than one had expected. In the coming years, robotic room service, interactive maps and way finding devices are likely to become the new normal.


Over the last few decades, synergies in operations have been one of the most talked-about subjects. The future is about identifying “what my business is today”? It makes no sense to run certain operations – say laundry, butchery, bakery, workshops and carpentry as modern hotels are most likely to have leaner business models without diluting the luxury quotient. The kitchens are expected to subsume into one or two levels with most raw materials in processed form and public areas turning into showcases for products and services. However, this does not take away the elegance of a restaurant or finesse of fine dining at the Michelin Star offerings that make some hotels iconic.


The most interesting challenge thrown by the ever-evolving times is managing human capital. There are learnings from every situation – be it hyper-growth or The Great Depression. The current scenario has challenged the hoteliers to wade through the existential crisis. Manpower, one of the three big costs in hospitality industrym has to be managed in a much better manner for the future. We have to work towards making the teams dynamically crisper. The hierarchies have to flatten, and shop floor culture has to be engrained. Enhancing the skill sets to supplement the core team with variable manpower is the writing on the wall. Productivity driven payroll, gig jobs and relaxing the non-compete clauses are the futuristic thoughts to brood on. 


With focus on “Saving the Planet”, we witness that evolved businesses are already talking about the Triple Bottom-line concept. Being energy efficient, using green energy and single use plastic, recycling water and harvesting and efficient HVAC is the norm today. However, using natural light, air and other atmospheric elements; dovetailing heat and air-conditioning, utilising stack emissions, zero discharge units and many more such concepts are being worked upon to look at a situation where we become carbon neutral or even carbon positive. This should not be treated as a CSR activity but as a process which helps us manage our costs better and utilise resources optimally, thus helping the stakeholders with higher profitability and becoming viable business units.


I remember one of the hotel group’s mentioning: “Safety and security is our DNA” and it is not without a reason. In today’s world, when the stakes are high and the threats omnipresent virtually, we, as hoteliers, have to be extra-cautious as we are in the business of giving a reassurance to our guests that they are in a safe zone. We have to graduate from fire drills and guarding to movement-controlled sensors, lockdown protocols, facial recognition profiling, electronic surveillance and much more. These are capital intensive but result-orientated essential expenditures. Thus, the future of hospitality lies in finding a fine balance in old world hospitality and incorporating technological advancements in this ever-evolving world. The hotels have to be super-efficient whereas the operators have to keep a very strong eye on the owner’s interests and generate relevant ROI’s with flexible cost structures.

This article was published in BW hotelier issue dated '' with cover story titled 'SMART MANTRAS ISSUE VOL 7, ISSUE 4'

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Naveen Jain Smart Hotels Nouvelle Knowledge Services


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