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Candid Conversations

Hospitality industry relies on technology to help reshape the guest and employee experience

Wendy Leslie, Executive Programs, Oracle

In this episode of Oracle’s Candid Conversations video series. Anasuya Strasner, Oracle’s GVP of North America Customer Experiences, focused on an industry that’s been hit particularly hard by the difficulties of 2020—hospitality. She spoke with technology leaders at multinational hospitality companies around the globe to get their take on managing through unprecedented change, and how technology has helped their companies weather the storm. Her panel of guests includes:

How has your company prioritized needs of stakeholders?

It’s a given that top-notch customer experiences are a key differentiator for any hotel or resort. However, in the current environment, all of the panelists agreed that employee safety and well-being is equally important. According to Neetan from Dubai Holding, “First and foremost, we focused on the safety of our staff and made sure they could work productively in a remote setting.” From there, employee engagement and “connectedness” became the focus. Marco from Four Seasons explained that the CEO began hosting a monthly conversation with all 50,000 employees, and the company’s culture department rolled out a series of wellness offerings featuring fitness, yoga, and meditation to keep employees mentally connected. Neetan and his team at Dubai Holding created a platform for employees called “One,” with the goal of making life easier for employees. He said, “On ‘One,’ employees can order food and groceries from the food and beverage divisions of our hotels and resorts, and they can take online classes from many of the experts on our staff ... like a cooking class with one of our chefs.” Meanwhile at Melia, Chris explained that his team quickly ramped up the content on their e-learning system and encouraged employees to focus on professional development by taking classes to gain new skills.

Organizations have shifted processes to meet new expectations for guest-employee interactions. According to Marco with Four Seasons, ‘We’ve invested heavily in digital experiences for our guests because it’s the safest way to interact. However, we’ve tried to create a blend of contactless and in-person experiences to maintain a sense of personal engagement.”

What about technology? Have you invested in solutions to enable rapid pivots?

All of the panelists emphatically agreed that they’ve been busier than ever because others have realized the importance of technology like never before—to enable staff to work remotely, to drive down costs to off-set revenue fluctuations, to digitize processes, and to create contactless customer experiences. Marco and his team had just completed an overhaul of their legacy email system to a modern communications solution. He said, “That project quite literally saved us because immediately everyone was connected and could work remotely. And with guest communications, we had a robust mobile and chat platform in place, but usage took off so we’re expanding functionality.” According to Chris, “We had embarked on a huge technology transformation initiative to become more efficient and eliminate friction in our processes across the board … with distribution and property management, back office processes, and purchasing systems. Because of the unique circumstances, we’re using the opportunity to cut CapEx costs as well.” Meanwhile, Neetan said they’ve been “fixing the basics” with their infrastructure, networks, and laptops. However, he and his team have also been digitizing existing systems and processes, like their new cloud native loyalty program. He said, “In the last quarter, we’ve kicked off so many new digital programs, but we don’t just want to do digital transformation. We want to deeply simplify and demystify processes and make operations invisible to our guests.” Alex added, “Priorities in the hospitality industry have changed dramatically in the last six months. We’ve accelerated integration and certification with many new third-party vendors because our customers were asking for these integrations … for things like mobile check-in and guest messaging.”

What will never change, and what will never be the same?

Our panelists agreed that providing great customer experiences will never change. Chris said, “Delivering amazing guest experiences is in our DNA. It’s the core of what we do in the hospitality industry.” Neetan echoed that thought, saying, “I hope the great experiences we create for our customers sustains forever.” On the other hand, Marco said, “I hope that the technology changes we’ve implemented won’t ever go back … that our industry will continue to leverage technology to enhance connections with guests and employees alike. I also hope that this new normal of a dispersed workforce with so many people working remotely remains. I don’t think everyone has to work in one location like before.” Chris agreed with Marco and said he hopes using technology to remove friction from processes will allow staff and customers to have even more positive interactions. Alex said, “I believe the desire to travel and see the world will never change and business travel will resume because people want to meet face to face. However, I think the bar has been raised for the hospitality industry ... with enhanced guest experiences and more transparent employee communications.”

Anasuya summed up the conversation by saying, ‘I love the focus on people and culture. We all have a new perspective on connection and engagement—with both guests and employees—that has completely changed in new and different ways that we hadn’t thought of before, and technology is driving that innovation.”

Watch the series

Thanks to all of our panelists for chatting with us. We hope you enjoyed this episode of Candid Conversations. You can watch the series in the video gallery. If you have a question or a topic you’d like us to cover, leave a comment. Stay tuned, stay well, and stay healthy.