Hyatt Hotels on the future of hospitality in Dubai
Hyatt Hotels has transformed the way it thinks about technology and has delivered a number of technological innovations across its Dubai operations.
IT and technology are together transforming how modern hoteliers do business — at every level. In recent years, Hyatt Hotels has streamlined its IT operations in a number of innovative ways, including virtualisation, restructuring and by working closely with its technology vendors and partners. Business Review Middle East speaks to Roy Verrips —Director of Information Systems for Hyatt Hotels in Dubai — to learn how one of the world’s top hotel operators is adapting to these changes and turning rapidly advancing technology to its advantage.
With a network of over 600 fully-owned hotels, Hyatt’s brands are renowned for a high-quality, holistic customer experience across the world. Heading up the company’s six hotels in Dubai – a city where scores of local and global hotel chains vie for potential guests’ attention – Verrips is in a somewhat enviable position. Past IT investments are paying off, he says: “What we have been seeing in the last two years, are the fruits of these technologies such as SaaS and Virtualization.”
But that is not to say that Verrips and his teams have been resting on their laurels. Check-in for guests is now a process that involves the careful coordination of a number of different systems, seamlessly working in the background. Even something as seemingly simple as internet access has been planned to the minutest detail. Verrips explains: “In the next three to four months you will be able to check into the Grand Hyatt Dubai, and when logging into the internet give us minimal information, and then in the back end our systems would match your device ID so that you never have to go through the wireless login process again. We have to try and meet what our guests have at home and then exceed it. Particularly when it comes to technology; the home is where your Wi-Fi connects automatically — there's no username or password or anything on that. That is the experience we're trying to create for our guests.”
Eager to crest the wave of the latest technological advances, Verrips has embarked on a systems-wide streamlining strategy that consists of centralisation, virtualisation and even switching vendors to achieve the perfect operational fit. It is a transformation that has involved both internal administrative infrastructure, as well as the customer-facing technology. “What we've done in the last two years in Dubai is streamlined operations,” he says “We have centralised as much as possible into a Centre of Excellence; rather than having a manager on each property with a team to back them up, we have centralised management and allowed for a more “boots-on-the-ground” IT coordinator role on the property level”.
“For each of the six properties in Dubai, we only have one IT coordinator on each. They will be very much helping people fix things and the direct contact with all the employees on property. On a city-wide level we can support the coordinators and also manage and vision-cast together. We also drive new projects and innovation available to us from Corporate into our city as a whole. It further allows for a more managed approach in terms of the owning company for the six Hyatt’s in Dubai (Wasl Hospitality) who receive a single technology investment vision and request for funding.”
“More people feel like they’re in charge of the property,” Verrips adds. He explains that this move has resulted in coordinators feeling empowered as the ‘go-to’ person for each property and, as a result, become a lot more motivated. Furthermore, this additional responsibility prepares coordinators for future management roles within the company. “It actually creates an environment where we've got more opportunities to transfer within the company to corporate positions — we've had two people already transfer from Dubai properties to our corporate office in Chicago.”
Working closely with vendors has also proved to be an ongoing source of innovation for Hyatt’s technology operations. Verrips explains. “In the past each vendor would add a different flavour to the services they provide for the guests to interact with. Reivernet have been really good at helping us with moving our guest internet to the next level, while planning ahead to make the experience more standard across our chain, yet also differentiated amongst our brands.”
“Reivernet and Cisco have been really good at coming up with the next generation of technologies, most prominently introducing beacon technology. Cisco comes with their solution of being able to track how many devices are connected on a particular location and creating heat maps of what it looks like. Reivernet are now in the process of matching and integrating with our other systems and will soon be able to provide that data to us in a way we can use it to make business decisions.”
The other big area of opportunity for Hyatt in Dubai has been around the tightly regulated area of Payment Card Industry standards (PCI). Moving credit card payments to cloud-based vendors like 3C payments and utilising tokenisation has led to high levels of efficiency and security in this area. “It’s just easier for me to make PCI compliance an issue my vendors need to handle,” says Verrips.
Having placed technological innovation at the core of its operations in Dubai, Hyatt Hotels has cemented its place in a particularly competitive market for years to come. With a lean, fit for purpose IT and technology strategy, the company has ensured that benefits to its internal operations have always resulted in a positive change to its guests’ experiences.
Read the October 2016 issue of Business Review Middle East magazine
5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.