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Emerging concept of digitalised smart hotels

Monday, January 23, 2017, 10:33 Hrs  [IST]

Hospitality industry in India has indeed evolved over the last six decades both in the branded and unbranded space and by all counts is contributing substantially to the mainstream economy of the nation both in terms of GDP and employment generation. The Indian hotel industry in terms of the outlook up to 2020 is on the cusp of good times again with ARRs and occupancy inching upwards, indicating the beginning of a top of the cycle!

However, there is still a mismatch on supply and demand on the branded space in the existing and emerging leisure destinations. At no time it is evident as it is during the extended weekends when almost all leisure destinations in India are served far in excess of the capacity. This phenomenon would continue as the investment and development cost in holiday destinations in India continue to face structural and ROCE challenges primarily due to basic infrastructure in terms of connectivity, availability of resources, management and skilled manpower, seasonality, unpredictability, and the stifling license regime.

India has been well recorded, has gained an irreversible momentum driven by the aspirational, highly energised middle class population with a majority young people. In a era of changing consumer needs and individual preferences by the highly tech savvy target audience of upwardly mobile Gen X & Y, the hospitality industry is ideally the right time at the right place to embrace all such innovative concepts and leapfrog into the world of smart hotels. The challenges for the sector will be in reorienting themselves to the new age and highly mobile traveller who can boost or pull down a brand based on the imprint the hotel has in his/her mind space through the well established social media in India.

Therefore these changing consumer demands will create a new genre of contemporary, progressive and conservation conscious architects, designers, engineers, contractors who all would work together in creating a very trendy and futuristic mid market, economy and budget hotels encompassing the latest innovations in sustainable development, green technology and increased automation.

A new phenomena of ‘experiencing the experience’ revolving around efficiency and functionality more than the interior design component would in the mid term and long term replace the highly over-rated conventional hotels in down town, up town and suburban locations. The day of template design and product offerings are behind us with different demographic groups wanting diverse products forcing the industry to develop its niches and pick segments that a particular company would like to concentrate on. In a sense, the western trend of bringing ‘DESIGN’ on to the centre stage of every facet of the hotel – be it with the design of the room, electronic and digital gadgets, shrinking public areas, full and select service philosophies, warm and personalised service, ease of check-in, stay and check out, amenities and facilities reflecting ease of use and speed, transparent heart of the house with limited but efficient back of the house. The traditional pyramid will flatten out to work empowered and self-directed work force with very limited supervision and management.

The new norm is a slice of luxury with a very high efficiency quotient that empowers the guest to zealously guard their personal space, time and privacy. The quest of the millennial based of the philosophy of I, me and myself, the new ambience and service is all about unobtrusive yet around system of support and services. The internet of things powered through the palm held devices, will completely transform the contemporary business traveller on his/her ability to be totally independent and in control of choice of hotels, last minute check ins, value pricing, unbundled packages, 24 hours check in and ultimately seamless check in and check outs on their own. The emerging social support systems like sharing is caring, safe and secure network groups, instant survival gismos will dictate the industry creating a dynamic environment. The race to be ahead of the curve between the business and the consumer will only sharpen and refine to an eventual sophistication. With information becoming the key driver for a majority of the markets - branding, product and pricing will have to be restructured and process made more agile to adapt to the evolving customer.

Welcome to a new world of digitalised smart hotels!!

(PK Mohankumar is a hotel industry veteran with over four decades of experience with Taj Group in senior leadership positions and hard core operations. He is currently the Principal Advisor – Hospitality at Ozone Group, a leading reality company based in Bengaluru).

The views expressed within this column are the opinion of the author, and may not necessarily be endorsed by the publication.

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