Conference Report Back INSPIRE’18

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Conference Report Back INSPIRE’18

By Sharon Hirschowitz

The International Luxury Hotel Association held their 7th annual INSPIRE’18 Summit at the Four Seasons Las Vegas 13&14 December, with Ted Teng, President & CEO of The Leading Hotels of the World opening the day with a talk entitled “Look Back to Look Forward”.

He reflected on how the luxury industry has changed over his career, highlighting two key areas of change: who the owners are of the hotel and the impact this has had on the industry, and how guests make a reservation.

Owners are now separated from the from the operation as hotels have become financial assets, rather than hospitality assets, and are more concerned about the value of the building. Long term investment is now around 5 years.

Reservation in the ‘60s or ‘70s involved a tollfree number where you spoke to a hotel reservation sales agent who had the features, rates, inventory in front of them. In fact, hotels would have tariff sheets for the year! Then came GDS and now the information was in front of a professional Travel Agent, who would assist clients, selling across multiple hotels. Now, we put all that information in front of a complete novice, the consumer, and this has changed everything.

The future? It’s hard to predict, but one thing we do need to bear in mind is that hotels are demand accommodators, not generators. We need to constantly stay on track of what is generating the demand for your particular hotel.


Bridget Tran, VP of Global Digital Strategies & Innovation for Nobu Hospitality spoke about the Power of CRM: Drive Guest Experience and Personalization, comparing their CRM to a brain, a warehouse of information, collecting data from their hotel property management system.

They learn your behavior, preferences, whether you are there for business, leisure of bleisure, services you purchase and any complaints. These are all captured, along with how you got there, what ad you clicked on, what influencer you spoke to, what social media site you visited. But it doesn’t stop there, when you leave, they are still collecting data. Did they meet your expectations, what did you think about them?

To map all this to an individual they would tag your name, social media account, phone number, address, IP address, devices etc., in effect, your Digital DNA. This way, they can improve their product, their business and predict future growth, streamline operations, train staff, and elevate service levels. They can also upsell you and know whether to do it before or during your stay or perhaps, you don’t want to hear from them at all once you have left the property. They will also know if you prefer to communicate via short texts, mobile or on social, helping to drive business and marketing decisions.

With an anticipated 20 hotels by 2020, Nobu is working to convert their original restaurant customers to hotel guests with data accumulated from all different kinds of sources over the last 20 years.

They are launching an adaptive website which is the next level of technology that changes shape across different devices, much more effectively than the current responsive websites. It will also change over time as it machine learns your behavior, putting content in front of you that is relevant to your personal profile, using all the data they have collected on you.


The panel session, Hotel Tech Innovating the Guest Journey with Hotel Owner Christophe Mendjel of Hôtel Paris J’adore, James Geneau, VP of Marketing, Benbria, David Goldstone, President, The Americas for DigiValet and moderated by Rohit Verma, Dean of External Relations, Cornell SC College of Business highlighted how technology and automation needs to be seamless. If it takes more than a few seconds, it is not going to be a frustration-free experience for the guests. Christophe mentioned a few ways in which they have incorporated technology and automation into his hotel Paris J’Adore, where the guest is able to control their bath from the bed using an iPad, selecting their temperature preference, and receiving a notification once the bath is drawn.

A TV switch will show it is room service at the door so that you can authorize them to enter your room without you having to get out of bed. Tiles warm in the bathroom, without the guest even thinking about it, a wake-up call can raise the lighting by 20%, add some jazz music, a little scent, then start to pour your bath. Lights are automatically triggered by movement in the hotel room so you don’t have to search for the light switch upon entering, and housekeeping can tell via motion detectors that you have used your guest card so will never disturb you. He is determined, as a hotelier, to try to eliminate all the small frustrations that we experience as guests, thinking like a guest, not a hotelier.

As David mentioned later in the session, they believe in Proactive Personalization, which means giving guests the level of personalization they enjoy at home or even taking it up a notch.

James talked about using technology to make the experience better, and using existing messaging apps like WhatsApp, instead of forcing the guest to download your app. This means data privacy issues will be tied to that app and the guest is communicating on a platform that works for them.

We had Tom Klein, President & COO of Canyon Ranch and Terry Schaak, Medical Director of the California Health & Longevity Institute based at the Four Seasons Westlake Village, and Renee-Marie Stephano, President & Co-Founder of the Medical Tourism Association and Global Healthcare Resources, along with Rohit Verma, discussing Transforming Wellness: Incorporating Wellness into Guest Experience. Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Corporation spoke about The Golden Age of Cruising and Allison Sitch, VP of Public Relations, Americas, for Marriott talked about The Role of Communications to Inspire Travel, to highlight a few of the sessions.

But at the heart of the event were the friendships made and ideas shared  over a cocktail, a canape or a meal, and our incredible sponsors who continued to inspire us into making the guest experience just that little bit better.