Communication revolution - EHMA president Hans Koch discusses digitisation

22 April 2015

Digitisation is a juggernaut in the hotel industry as owners and operators continue to focus their attention on every media platform possible. EHMA president Hans Koch discusses the need to join the communication revolution to stay relevant, popular and profitable.

These days, all data - by which I mean texts, images, music, motion pictures, as well as customer data and behaviour - is being digitised. People often talk of digitisation like it is some kind of all-consuming beast. There seems to be no end to the process, after all. There is said to be more information on the internet than water on the planet Earth and more mobile phones used worldwide than toothbrushes. How can we be part of the communication revolution?

Let's just think about the encyclopaedia, for instance. You used to have the Encyclopaedia Britannica, or in German-speaking countries, the Brockhaus Encyclopaedia, taking a proud place in the front room of every well-to-do household. But these famous traditions have had to make way for Wikipedia today. Nowadays, you are only a few clicks of the mouse away from reliable and up-to-date information on simple questions and complex issues. Admittedly, like anything, digitisation contains dangers and opportunities in equal measures, but as hotel operators, we have the possibility to directly interact with our customers.

Important information

Digitisation is an exciting development for our industry, as it allows us to record detailed information on our guests, their wishes and desires. Thanks to the activities of people on all kinds of social media - 'likes' on Facebook, 'tweets' on Twitter or comments on Instagram - we can find out a lot about the behaviour, wishes and preferences of our customers.

How can we, as hoteliers, make this data profit our companies? Our industry has the fantastic advantage of bringing products and services right into people's hearts by using digital communication vehicles. We need to be innovative in offering products and services that can trigger feelings of excitement to stay in the minds of our guests.

We, as luxury hotels, have a special ability to trigger emotions that can last a lifetime with striking services. It is the most elaborate services that linger in the memory, of course - let's think, for example, of the spectacular seas of flowers of the trendsetting star florist Jeff Leatham, artistic director of the Four Seasons Hotel George V in Paris. Anyone who has been able to marvel at one of his floral arrangements in the hotel lobby or at a banquet would never forget his artistically incredible yet natural-looking arrangements of flowers and colour. Leatham has acquired a trademark ability and the means to excite his fans and followers.

New concept

At the KKL Luzern, we are able to thoroughly excite our visitors with an event concept for all senses, unique in Switzerland and even Europe - A Pirates Symphony - an exclusive concept of film, live music and dinner, all at the very highest standard. Its incredible success encouraged us to continue this coming winter season with Indiana's Symphony, featuring the blockbuster Indiana Jones film Raiders of the Lost Ark. Visitors show their faith in us not only by coming back but also in their social-media activities. They are helping us, as ambassadors, to spread the excitement over the concept and therefore to generate additional audience.

Demanding guests who like to indulge can, however, also be attracted by very simple yet authentic things. The recently launched Swiss Tavolata project in Switzerland is an example of that. It allows domestic and international tourists to eat at carefully selected farm homes. Authentic and traditional dishes that are cooked splendidly with ingredients from their own farms or the region are served. Homemade bread and pastries, newly interpreted old family recipes and personal contact with locals, including tours of the farms, fascinate even the most travelled and luxury-loving guests. That is why Switzerland Tourism agreed to cooperate with Swiss Tavolata. Such a project would not have been imaginable without digitisation, by which I mean a top website and intensive social-media activity.

In conclusion, we need to continue developing new ideas with credible and reliable content that can reach the hearts of our customers. They will soon become our best ambassadors, as they are prepared to share their joy and sense of pleasure on the internet with others.

By being part of the communication revolution, I hope you have plenty of fun and lots of success along the way.

Hans Koch is president of EHMA and official delegate for EHMA’s Swiss chapter. Throughout his 35-year career, he has worked at hotel operators all around the world, ranging from Hilton International to ITC Hotels. He is also CEO of KKL Luzern Management.

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