By Larry and Adam Mogelonsky | January 4, 2024
Hotel luxury is a moving target. Of course, the visibility of design trends makes decade-over-decade changes in décor and furnishing relatively easy to call attention to as the engine of this continuous evolution. But let us not forget the underlying “invisibility” that powerful technologies play in reinforcing the five-star hotel experience.
Frictionless, properly integrated, highly personalized, and fully supportive of the well-oiled on-site teams, there’s now a complex web of hardware and software that’s integral to 21st century luxury, all in order to meet guests’ diverse needs via whichever channel or method they prefer. And to make the guest-facing side totally uncomplicated and uncluttered, the in-room tablet has assumed an increasingly vital role.
To further unpack this, a fundamental requirement of the guest experience becomes convenience and expediency, together interpreted as “time saved” and “no stress whatsoever,” or what we hoteliers would classically define as “great service.” Luxury customers are discerning, after all; they value their time above all else. Moreover, they have options when it comes to their accommodations, not just within localized comp sets but in global destination choice. For this reason, hotels in this category must be exceedingly vigilant with their tech stack innovation in order to facilitate a superior degree of convenience for every point of interaction.
Bringing this principle into focus is the guest room experience. Luxury rooms and suites require a lot of tech, but all of it must now be seamlessly embedded into the environment so that there are only a few universal touchpoints for guests to quickly attain whatever they want in an intuitive and stress-free manner. Hence, it’s the guest room tablet that provides immediate access to every on-site service, amenity, and room controls.
To demonstrate exactly how the tablet supports the luxury hotel experience, we sat down with Gaurav Dutta, the general manager for The Hazelton Hotel in Toronto, Canada, to discuss how his hotel stays on the forefront of hospitality.
About The Hazelton Hotel
The two of us have often mentioned in past articles that we’re both from Toronto, so it’s with tremendous pride that we get to fawn over an example of the Great White North leading the way in worldwide hospitality. Nestled in the elegant midtown enclave of Yorkville, The Hazelton opened in 2007 with 77 rooms and suites alongside the adjoining signature dining outlet, ONE Restaurant. The Hazelton is also a member of Leading Hotels of the World and verified by Forbes Travel Guide. For transparency, we mention that the tablet provider for The Hazelton in this case is Intelity, which also powers Leading Hotels of the World’s mobile app and has been named as the official guest/staff engagement platform by Forbes.
Other integral hotel amenities include the Spa by Valmont, which also houses a heated saltwater pool, and the Norman Jewison Cinema, capable of seating up to 25 guests and famous for its private events during the annual Toronto International Film Festival. And as a side note on our familiarity with this gem, one of us (Larry) even served as MOD for the property back in the early 2010s.
Bespoke, boutique, and artfully appointed at every turn, this property is quintessential urban ultraluxury. While you are allowed to have your favorites, The Hazelton is quantifiably the best property in the nation, as measured by its top spot on TripAdvisor for the city wherein its reviews are unwaveringly stellar, as well as its placement as the #1 hotel in Canada and #5 in the world for Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards 2023.
“As any veteran hotelier knows, achieving this frequency of positive reviews while ensuring our product and services are at the highest levels requires a mountain of work behind the scenes to make every aspect of the stay absolutely perfect,” stated Dutta. “It’s always in the details, and the coordination of those details always comes back to how well the teams work together. Specifically, we’ve set out to make The Hazelton an oasis in the heart of the city, fulfilling all manner of guest requests flawlessly while also showcasing the best that Toronto has to offer.”
Challenges Solved by the Tablet
It’s this operating thesis of teams working well together to deliver flawless service that brought the tablet into the picture. Specifically, here are The Hazelton’s requirements that had to be met in order for each tablet to effectively convey modern luxury:
- The platform’s guest interface must carry the same brand standards and level of sophistication as other digital and physical touchpoints — for instance, by having a direct two-way texting system with one of the property’s three Clefs d’Or concierges.
- The platform must act as a one-stop shop, showcasing every service befitting an ultraluxury hotel, from booking spa treatments, accessing the pillow menu, viewing menus, and calling up a bellhop to arranging for event tickets, bringing flowers to the room, and scheduling a babysitter.
- The software must sync with the hotel’s guest experience management system (GEMS) so that requests can be anticipated and addressed with a hyper-personalized touch.
- The software should offer support with back-of-house operations to tighten lines of communication and guarantee quality service, either through internal modules that teams can use or through integrations with the PMS (Opera) and the ops platform (HotSOS).
- A guest’s privacy must be maintained at all times, both in how the platform uses data and in how service orders are relayed and then dispatched.
- To reach guests at any point in the customer journey, it should connect with the mobile app, in this case the one provided by Leading Hotels of the World.
- It should help the hotel support its core value of sustainability by actively working to reduce paper and energy usage (the latter being on the roadmap as more integrations are developed).
- It must declutter the guestroom by connecting various devices and services — for instance, by offering a portal to PressReader so that guests no longer need physical newspapers (which also fits with the hotel’s sustainability goals).
With Great Tablet Comes Great Responsibility
As should be clear from these eight points, there’s a lot that can be channeled into the tablet to provide the essence of modern luxury, but also a lot that can go wrong by introducing points of guest frustration when something isn’t as seamless as it should be. Tablet interfaces are, after all, a reflection of the brand, and a poor experience here can result in a non-returning guest or one who ventures offsite instead of spending more onsite — a characteristic that’s doubly true for the discerning luxury traveler.
As Dutta cheekily remarked, he and his team are also “hospitality nerds.” Not only do they marvel at the latest five-star hotel openings around the world, but they also relished the opportunity to source a capable vendor in order to surpass these challenges and ensure that the tablet worked to reinforce The Hazelton’s reputation as the best hotel in the city.
Thinking big picture, the case study of The Hazelton’s deployment of a strong in-room tablet solution supports our thesis that this piece of technology is now indispensable for modern luxury. Whether it’s Toronto, elsewhere in the Americas, EMEA, or APAC, the trends of decluttered, sophisticated, and exceedingly convenient hotel experiences are here for good, and that’s something every hotel brand should look to pursue.