Technology innovation a must in the resorts segment: Q&A with NH’s Luis Arsuaga

Luis Arsuaga, SVP Development, NH Hotel Group

‘Innovation is in NH’s DNA’, says Luis Arsuaga, SVP Development at Spain-based hospitality group NH Hotels. He discusses the importance of technology in the customer experience and hotel performance, including for resorts, as well as staying on top of key hospitality trends and relations with partners, ahead of his participation to the Resorts & Residential Hospitality Forum (R&R) in Portugal on 25-27 October.

Hospitality Insights: What new initiatives have you put in place during the pandemic that will remain in the longer term?

Luis Arsuaga: Luckily for us, the pandemic did not catch us unprepared in this area. Innovation is in NH’s DNA, so when the sanitary crisis hit, all we had to do was accelerate the implementation of technological tools and services that were already in the pipeline, allowing us to respond quickly to the new needs of security, agility and comfort demanded by customers.

On the one hand, in the last year we’ve advanced in back-office technological developments that provide us with key information to understand customer's tastes and preferences and give us the opportunity to personalize our offer, adapt better and anticipate their needs. On the other hand, we have deployed services that offer a more agile, secure, comfortable and on-demand service. So, on top of our already existing FASTPASS (which offers guests the possibility to check-in, choose their room and check-out all online from the customer's mobile device) we’ve recently launched: Mobile Guest Service and Smart Tablets in reception. The first is an online platform accessible from any mobile device that provides practical information about the hotel, the destination, and grants access to hotel services such as room service, and restaurant and gym bookings, among others; The latter - Smart Tablets – serves to continue improving customer experience by providing a streamlined check-in, enabling guests to access digital copies of their booking, digitally sign documents and consent forms (such as GDPR) and complete the usual identity verifications needed when arriving at a hotel.

All of these initiatives, and more that are coming, are ideal for all types of travellers and segments, as they reduce wait times and facilitate transactions, freeing our employees so that they can offer a more personalized attention and allowing our guests to focus on what they really want to do, which is enjoy their stay.

Hospitality Insights: What travel and hospitality trends will have the biggest impact on resort investment and operations?

Arsuaga: First of all, digitalisation. Technological innovation is and will continue to be key for improving customer experience and therefore market performance. And although this used to be more linked to the concept of business travel, we believe will become a “must” in the resorts segment in the short term too.

We also expect a surge in the demand of unique experiences. There is a lot of pent-up demand where guests want to experience new places, cultures, cuisine etc. They will be more selective and eager to immerse themselves in their chosen destination and its local flavour. This is something that we already have experience in, and on which we will continue to focus on moving forward.

Other key trends that we believe will influence resorts operations and that we are also ready to respond to are: security both in terms of hygiene and flexibility, customization, remote working options for the flourishing bleisure travellers and sustainability integrated into the customer journey.

Hospitality Insights: The pandemic has had a strong impact on the relations between operators, owners, and all stakeholders in hospitality. What do you expect to be the lasting effect of this change?

Arsuaga: The pandemic has helped align the interests of all the parties involved in development transactions; it’s been a tough ride but I believe we have come out stronger. The situation has allowed us to open up constructive dialogues, re-analyse more traditional fixed lease contract and put in value alternative formulas like hybrid or variable leases and management contracts with owner’s priority returns or other formulas to align both parties’ interests, all with the underlying understanding that fostering innovative answers and finding accommodating solutions is for the benefit of all in the long term.

Hospitality Insights: What are your looking forward to with regards to your participation to R&R?

Arsuaga: Our main goal during R&R this year is to be able to showcase all that Minor and its brands can offer investors and owners interested in finding the ideal partner to grow in the resorts segment. Minor’s proven track-record in resorts together with NH’s operational expertise and top-of-mind brand awareness in Europe open up a huge range of growth opportunities for potential partners. Our solid commercial model, our operational excellence, our tailored solutions and flexibility and the global loyalty programme that we are part of, are some of the key aspects that we wish to lay out for all to see during the conference. We have a lot to offer in the resorts space and are really excited to be able to do so.

Luis Arsuaga will be joining the Destination Roundtable on the Spanish market at the Resorts & Residential Hospitality Forum (R&R) on Tuesday 26th October.