Several of Manchester’s leading hotels have spoken about the need to use technology to improve customer service and drive business.
BusinessCloud held a breakfast event on the future of the city’s hotel sector, sponsored by Percipient, at the Radisson Blu hotel ahead of the Annual Hotels Conference.
It was standing room only as the audience heard from 10 hotel experts on a range of issues, including the growing importance of embracing tech.
Hotel Gotham opened in April 2015 and has 60 bedrooms spread across five floors. Their occupancy rate in the first year was 90 per cent and they won countless industry awards.
They use technology across the business and have built up profiles for the 200-plus people who have joined their prestigious private members club.
Members’ faces are scanned on arrival so their favourite drink is ready for them when they reach the bar.
Explaining how the tech works, sales manager Matt Miller said: “The member walks into the hotel and the facial recognition sends a message to an iPad in the bar. This will bring up his or her full profile.
“The staff can then welcome, for example, Mr Smith from a particular bank, and have his Hendrick’s gin and tonic ready.
“We’ll know when his birthday is, we’ll know when he’s come to celebrate, we’ll know his favourite food.”
According to research by JLL, the best two performing hotel markets in the UK are Birmingham and Manchester.
In Manchester 1,920 rooms are expected to enter the market by 2018, driven by improved infrastructure and capital investment across the cities. Around 30 new hotels are in the pipeline in Manchester.
INNSIDE by Melia Manchester general manager Adam Munday, who has more than 2,000 followers on Twitter, said social media was a great weapon.
“If you look at my Twitter account it’s about football, food and, at times, business,” he told the audience.
“I think if you can make a connection with somebody in the community about any of those topics it certainly helps and obviously we get lots of business through social media. But being on social media means 24/7 accessibility. For the brand that’s important.”
Munday said the key word in his business was ‘bleisure’ – where business meets leisure.
His example was someone on a business trip who posts a photo of what they eat for dinner on Instagram, or someone working on a laptop in the hotel lounge and combining doing work emails with checking their social media accounts.
He said conferencing has become a huge part of revenue since the hotel opened in 2015.
“We’ve recently launched a creative room, which I guess is Google-esque. You can write on the wall, you can project stuff from your phone onto a digital screen. We’re finding that very popular,” he said. “This is a room where you can feel like your living room.”
Munday believes the hotel room of the future may not even have TV screens.
“I think they’ll have a screen you can pull down which you can connect with on your phone and play whatever you wish.
“The top five things people want is great Wi-Fi, great shower and water pressure, to pay the price they think they’re going to pay, great coffee and location.
“Technology is just expected to work: our biggest complaint at the desk is as soon as the Wi-Fi goes down.
“Technology plays an incredibly important part in our industry.”
The Lowry Hotel appointed a Chinese digital agency to raise its international profile after Chinese President Xi Jinping stayed at the five-star venue in 2015.
A version of WeChat, one of the most popular social networks in Asia, was designed for the city centre hotel. In Chinese culture, people are keen to follow the movements of the President.
General manager Adrian Ellis said: “I think Manchester has been very UK-centric for a long time. The big opportunity for Manchester is where we can grow international business.
“It’s great to see the airport growing so substantially. I think the hotel community are doing this too.
“We’re working on how we can try to attract people from Europe, from China, from the Middle East.
“We can see quite a big increase on the number of groups that are coming through. We’ve been using Wechat and I think it’s been useful for us in terms of getting social media out there.
“The WeChat is just for Chinese guests and we did that for the presidential visit.
“He stayed in the hotel and visited various sites in Manchester. We used WeChat to exploit that and let people know that they were coming to Manchester.”
David Schubert is the sales director at Percipient, which uses tech to help hotels.
He said: “I think hotels are using technology more now. They’re looking at new ways to move forward bit I think there’s a big gap.
“People want a seamless experience when you’re going into a hotel. I don’t want to queue when I go to a hotel to check-in, I just want to check-in and know where my room is.
“We’ve got the technology out there to do it. If I’ve been to a hotel before why am I being asked if I’ve stayed before? All that makes me want to do is go to a different hotel. I think the hotel sector is definitely getting there.”
• The other speakers at the event were Nick Brooks-Sykes, Director of Tourism, Marketing Manchester; Jamie Watson, managing partner, Pixel8, Prakash Krishnamurthy, senior development manager, Accor Hotels; Justin Hopwood, sales and marketing director, Emirates Old Trafford; Kerian Barnes, operations director, Starboard Hotels; and Simon Beer, managing director, EPIC Aparthotel.