Jakob Norrby, owner and editor of Turismnytt, met with Elite Hotels and SHR to find out a bit about the rationale behind such an investment and what the benefits and gains of taking the plunge into this brand new system have been. He also wanted to find out if these systems are just for the big brands or if you can benefit from them even if you are a smaller chain or an individual hotel.
Since I am not an expert on this type of system, my first question was to Ronny Röe, the IT manager at Elite Hotels: For those who don't know much about these systems, what do they do and what is the main benefit? I'm thinking of smaller hotels that are at the beginning of their digitalisation journey and don't have the IT skills that the big chains have?
Ronny explained that what they have chosen to invest in are three large and quite different solutions. One is Windsurfer - CRS which is a distribution system which has everything necessary for all the hotels to connect to all channels. That is to say, it is a management and administration tool. As for the other two, Maverick - CRM and Wave - RMS, it depends more on how you work, your target group, the type of guests you have and how big the hotel is. More on that later.
When Elite Hotels started this digitalisation process, they looked at 20 different systems and suppliers, and as a small group (even though Elite Hotels is one of the larger chains in Sweden, they are very small from a global perspective) it was hard to get noticed, but SHR made them "feel seen". SHR was also very responsive to their demands, wishes and needs. From the very beginning, it was made clear that this was a journey that they would take together. The fact that SHR also has a Swedish representative facilitated cooperation throughout the procurement process, as well as during the implementation that is currently underway. This is also an important aspect for a chain or group that is a bit smaller, even by Swedish standards.
The link between guest satisfaction and the new systems
Elite Hotels says it wants to create the best guest experience, but where do advanced systems that help them to connect to global reservation systems, GDSs and revenue management systems come in?
The main tool is Maverick, which is a CRM system. Maverick allows Elite to communicate with the guest, but without being intrusive. It should be focused on the guest, making them feel that the hotel cares about and wants to make not only the stay but the whole process, before, during and after, a positive and welcoming experience. The beauty of Maverick is that if you already have a strong loyalty programme, it can 'crank it up' in a refined way, says Ronny Röe.
The CRM system Elite Hotels had before were like isolated islands: some were linked to the PMS system, and the loyalty programme was completely stand-alone and not adapted to the needs of the hotel sector. For that reason, Ronny emphasises how nice it is to have a system that is "spot-on" for hotels and B2C.
I asked Ronny what it was that made them start the process of looking for and then procuring new systems?
He explains that it started with the search for a system that would do what Windsurfer does, but with stability. Elite Hotels was looking for a product that had been recently developed (the one they had before was from 2004) and had further development potential. When they saw that SHR could also offer solutions for both CRM and Revenue Management in an integrated yet modular way, they were very interested, especially given the competitive price. Another factor that contributed to the decision was the fact that all three products are not based on old technology, but are newly developed and modular so that they can be developed and adapted without major intervention. Another advantage is being able to limit the number of suppliers.
When it was time for the Board to start procurement and make a decision, they naturally thought that Wave was most important because it has a direct impact on profitability (there are studies showing 5-10% increase on the bottom line), but they also saw great benefits from the other two elements.
Investing in the midst of the Corona pandemic
What I found interesting is that the hotel chain is making such a large investment in the midst of a pandemic that is not yet over and which has created a crisis for the entire industry. So I asked Ronny about it.
He said that the process started even before the pandemic and the investment was close to being decided in spring 2020 when the pandemic came. It was obviously a shock to the company, as well as to the whole industry, and the process came to a halt. However, already after the summer of 2020, the management saw that there were more reasons than ever to do this. In particular, it had become extremely important to keep track of the revenue-generating price optimisation elements. A period like this, with low occupancy and an organisation running at low speed, is also a good time to implement new systems.
The implementation of SHR's systems is just the beginning of an implementation journey that will do everything from optimising the guests' rooms (which is extremely important in pandemic times) to make the entire journey (booking, purchase of additional services, payment, check-in, door opening, evaluation, recommendations) as seamless and smooth as possible and even contactless for the guests who want it. Staffed reception desks will always exist, but they should focus on providing good hospitality and service. Elite Hotels also follows the development of modern payment solutions, with Swish and Klarna being the latest. We should be able to offer whatever guests want, internally and seamlessly.
As you can imagine, it was interesting to get an insight into the benefits of digitalisation and new systems, but not least into how a hospitality company thinks when it makes an investment like this.
Turismnytt interview with Elite Hotels about SHR.