EVENT RECAP: Advancing Your Hotel’s Recovery from COVID-19 Crisis with Technology

SensorFlow wrapped up the week with an insightful hotel technology expert panel talk in our first ever LIVE virtual event.

On Thursday, 13 August, 4 PM +GMT8, we broadcasted our LIVE Zoom Webinar platform to a total of 30 hotelier and tech-enthusiastic attendees spread across Southeast Asia.

Moderated by STR representative, Bernard Kee, the event’s overarching theme was to explore the role of technology in the hospitality industry and how to leverage it as part of a critical strategy to recover from and adapt to the COVID-19 crisis.

Our expert panellists Saikrishnan Ranganathan, Co-Founder & CEO of SensorFlow, Bennath Evea, Director of Operations for Marriott Hotels and Hamzah Raja, Founder & Managing Partner of RHL Ventures, provided their unique perspectives on the current challenges the industry is facing due to COVID-19 and how these new challenges are shaping the future landscape of the industry.

Watch the recording for insights on the role of smart technology in accelerating the recovery of the hotel industry across Southeast Asia

Read our blog below for the top three takeaways from the panel talk session:

The Necessity of Striving for Operational Excellence
through Technology and Digitisation

As a hotel operations leader for 12 years in the SEA hospitality industry, Bennath knows the industry well as a labour-intensive and high-touch environment. Yet, the global pandemic has transformed the industry into a more high-tech environment where digitisation has become key to every hotel’s recovery and survival. Implementing technology to streamline the workforce and cut costs is the new approach hotels

needed to adopt to achieving operational excellence. Labour cost, as the leading expenses category, is the first in the pipeline that has to be cut down.

While reducing labour costs is the central theme across hotels in SEA, the COVID-19 pandemic has also heightened each hotel’s cleanliness and safety standards in line with the emergence of new guest expectations around immaculate hygiene in the hospitality industry. The three panellists agree that these new hygiene standards will be integral to hotels’ new operational guidelines and strategies, at least for the coming months and a year or so. For this reason, the technology hotels adopt will be catered to addressing these specific safety needs and on improving productivity level so resources can be maximised to ensure guest confidence and their stay experience. Digitisation has also proven to have helped hotels to streamline and optimise operational resources and maintain strong business values, as unanimously agreed by the three industry experts based on their unique experiences in the global SEA hotels industry. 

Importance of Identifying Benefits Aligned with
Priority Business Objectives when Adopting Technology

It was evident from the questions being asked during the panel discussion that many had concerns on how hotels should choose and implement technology amid the COVID19 pandemic. Some think that it could just be a marketing ploy or strategy that hotels are using to remain competitive and relevant to the industry amongst the bigger brands but which may not be as financially feasible for smaller hotels. 

How should hoteliers then choose technology that could solve their most pressing challenges and problems?

Sai and Bennath emphasized that hotels should sieve through the existing solution offerings based on cost-effectiveness and the practicality of the solution at helping hotels achieve their operational objectives. In the post-pandemic landscape of today, hotels should selectively prioritise effective cleaning-centred technologies and operational productivity solutions for maximised ROI and long-term benefits. Achieving resiliency and adaptability should be the ultimate objectives when hotels are sourcing for smart solutions to adopt.

A Growing Interest and Focus on Sustainability

A professional in the building and real estate investment landscape, Hamzah Raja shared how investment values have been increasingly affected by the level of efficiency and sustainability a building can operate with. Investors are always focused on looking for assets that have the greatest long-term values — which in today’s case is reflected by the increasing emergence of smart and sustainable buildings. 

Similarly, in the hospitality and technology landscape, as represented by expert panellists Bennath and Sai, they have observed that a similar trend is steadily growing and gaining stronger momentum, especially catalysed by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Hotel operators are increasingly rethinking and reorienting their operations through the lens of sustainability as part of their corporate social responsibility initiatives and also cost-cutting strategies. Relating back to a typical hotelier’s objective of deriving financial benefits from sustainability initiatives, Bernard, the moderator from STR, highlighted a 2018 statistic on how a hotel’s utility costs account for the largest operating cost for major hotels in SEA. Sai expanded on this observation by explaining how smart energy and resource management solutions are key to minimising this significant expenditure, as smart automation technology can directly save a hotel’s energy costs with the added benefit of maximising operational efficiency and productivity in a labour-intensive industry like hospitality.

With AI and IoT-driven smart building management solutions becoming the central theme of the cleantech and prop-tech industry, tech providers and vendors are also working hard to make it easy for businesses to realise this common sustainability vision shared across the SEA industry landscape. Startups and companies like SensorFlow are growing and expanding rapidly because the values of their products and services are in sync with the current market demands. Therefore, representing the key players of the hotel and technology industries of SEA, the three panellists agreed that the future of business development will be most favourable to those that implement smarter and more sustainable solutions

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