There will always be a human element to hospitality, but technology can improve the experience for both customers and employees at a time when it is desperately needed.
CitizenM is renowned not only for its design-forward aesthetic and affordable luxury ethos, but also tools such as in-room MoodPad tablets that control the temperature and blinds and lights that serve as TV remote controls.
But digitization will never replace human connection, CEO Klaas van Lookeren Campagne said Thursday at Skift Forum Europe in a discussion with Skift Senior Travel Tech Editor Sean O’Neill.
“Digital is the salt and pepper on the table,” van Lookeren Campagne said. “It enables much better service and much more interaction with our guests.”
New technology has put the company in a position to cut down on manual tasks and interaction and engagement between guests and citizenM employees, whom van Lookeren Campagne refers to as ambassadors.
He cited the citizenM app, which won a Skift IDEA Award in 2020. The platform has separate interfaces built for ambassadors and guests, and it allows staff to provide travelers digitally instead of having to pull up maps at a front desk to give directions. In the Great Resignation era, the proof is in the pudding, van Lookeren Campagne believes. Most open positions aren’t customer facing but on citizenM’s data engineering side.
“I think the direction that you move to where you can constantly try to surprise and improve your guest experience,” he said.
“Especially after the pandemic, we’re now in a fight for resources. I think that everybody is struggling for good employees. Guess what, if you have the highest guest satisfaction and if you have these cool tools, of course people like to work for you.”
But new markets may just be the key to further success. As O’Neill mentioned business travel is expected to be 15 percent below 2019 levels through 2023, van Lookeren Campagne said expansion in the U.S. is critical.
“We are growing. The biggest part of our portfolio is the U.S. and that is one big domestic market,” he said as citizenM is set to open six more hotels by the end of 2022 and another six properties in 2023.
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