‘AI is proving to be the game-changer’

It is a fact that the pandemic has altered consumer behaviour and expectations, maybe even permanently

Information Technology in the hospitality industry is a vast mandate, being a service department in a service industry that caters to internal and external stakeholders. Along with a robust and skilled team, I oversee day-to-day IT operations, provide strategic guidance and support to individual hotels, ensure all compliances are met. I also manage and empower the team, impart training and overlook global and local technical projects. At present, all of Radisson Hotel Group’s 108 operational hotels and 20-plus upcoming hotels fall under my purview.

We evaluate and launch new systems and do our best to automate manual processes, thus increasing efficiency and productivity while cutting costs. Additionally, my responsibilities include setting departmental goals, developing and overseeing the IT budget, developing and enforcing sturdy IT policies, procedures and best practices across the organisation.

For upcoming hotels, the involvement begins from the very inception. We provide IT brand standards, requirements, networks, and milestones and undertake periodic reviews until the hotel is live on our main IT systems. Once the hotel is fully functional, it comes under IT operations mode.

Role of technology and trends 

It is a fact that the pandemic has altered consumer behaviour and expectations, maybe even permanently. We strongly believe that technology-driven guest experiences and personalisation will be at the heart of hospitality going forward. Evolved travellers are more inclined towards safety and hygiene and actively scout for properties that have contactless express check-ins, digitised in-room and dining services, online payment gateways and seamless check-outs. Additionally, travellers want more control over their journeys as they are now looking to access and managing these services on their own devices through mobile applications, mobile keys and QR codes. 

The use of Artificial Intelligence in hospitality is proving to be a game-changer. Travellers can have quick, helpful conversations and issue service requests with chatbots – it is simple, efficient and happens at the touch of a button! Using AI, we can not only predict and better accommodate guest needs but reduce friction points and costs by automating guest interactions. 

Processes that are repetitive in nature like continuous corridor cleaning or information sharing can now be taken care of through robotic automation. Hospitality revenue and commercial teams can make the best of big data analysis using AI, thus helping them put in place speedy rate management strategies. 

Maintaining corporate policies, procedures and standards 

We have developed a process for conducting self-assessing IT audits at all our hotels which is followed by an in-person IT audit. During these audits, we ensure that all hotels are following and are updated with mandated IT brand standards, policies and processes. We also have a system in place that collects monthly data from all the hotels on IT systems and setups, thus giving us a line of sight on required improvements in hotels.

RHG and technology practices 

With the current access that we have to technology, most aspects of guest service, relationship management and asset utilisation have been reimagined and integrated with hi-tech solutions. At Radisson Hotel Group, we have introduced a EMMA – a unified technology platform. This 360-degree customer experience platform is designed to encompass revenue management, property management, and business analytics. EMMA offers our partners the speed to market new capabilities and delivers an enhanced guest experience by allowing consistency across all our hotels. The augmented and open platform further allows us to harness big data and improve every aspect of our operations, with an integrated system for reservations, distribution, sales, catering, loyalty programs, and more. 

The Group has already launched strong central reservation systems, guest requests cum complaint management systems, contactless check-in and check-out processes, along with digital dining and payment facilities. These provide a WOW! experience to guests and translate into repeat customers and an increase in hotel revenues. 

Cost-saving initiatives

We have provided global/ local contracted rates for critical systems which has helped us save costs. We have been piloting clustering of IT services across hotels as it gives significant cost benefits and improved services. We are now looking at scaling this clustering model to a larger level. The team has also resized hardware requirements, thus bringing about a cost reduction for hotels.

Hiring the right IT candidate

Our first preference is to grow the talent within our Group before we consider recruiting IT members from outside. When hiring, we scout for diligent candidates with a positive attitude, good communication skills, the capacity to work well within a larger team, sound knowledge of the hotel domain and experience using Indian hospitality systems. For training, we have customised, in-depth induction-cum-learning programmes through which we share working knowledge of Radisson Hotel Group’s IT systems, digital security measures, best practices, processes, routine checklists and virtual job aids.

This article was published in BW hotelier issue dated '' with cover story titled 'BW HOTELIER MAY-JUNE 2022'


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