Current developments and prospects according to Dieter van Acken, Tobit Labs (smartels)

Dieter van Acken from Tobit Labs makes a perfect match of digitalisation and hospitality. He talked to us about his lockdown experience at his digital hotel and the future role of digitalisation.

What was your experience of lockdown? What is the way forward for the hotel industry?

Lockdown was a massive blow for the entire hotel industry, both smartel and traditional hotels. The rooms were empty, guests stayed at home and that’s still the case today, by and large.Fewer people are travelling and more employees are working from home. It will take a while for the ‘new normal’ to set in, but we’re already seeing an increase in bookings. The whole industry will have to keep the coronavirus protection measures in place, and limit the number of guests in restaurants, bars and spas, for the time being.

What things have changed since the pandemic for smartels?

Very few things have changed for digital hotels like our smartel since the pandemic arrived. Cleaning staff make up the majority of hotel personnel so we haven’t had to make any staff redundant or introduce short time working. One thing that has changed is guest awareness for digital apps in the hotel and catering sectors. Using a smartphone for check-in and to control room technology has become the norm, as have digital orders and payments at restaurant and bars.

What are the factors of success for future hotel concepts and what role will digitalisation play?

We believe that successful future hotel concepts will have strong digital platforms that handle routine tasks. Smartphones will play an important role for authentication, as room keys, room technology controllers, communication platforms, as well as for digital menus and digital payments. Staff shortages are less significant in this scenario, but good service is a must. Vice versa, when guests perform many of the tasks themselves, the hotel staff has more time to cater to their well-being.