Who doesn't dream of arriving at a hotel and everything goes smoothly and is dealt with efficiently? This holds true especially for business travelers, to which time is often of essence. However, Christian Dorow, owner and managing director of Hotel Prinz in Munich, also believes that this approach is slightly flawed: "What a lot of people miss these days is being treated as a person." And this is exactly what a cloud-based hotel management platform can help to address! In the interview with Elke Tonscheidt below, Christian Dorow explains how that might be possible.
Close to the city center and yet set in a quiet and peaceful location high above the river Isar, hotel Prinz, which is privately owned, is just a couple of minutes walk from Munich city center. It makes a perfect base for anybody wanting to explore the Bavarian Capital, but also and primarily targets business travelers. So, what exactly does Christian Dorow (52), who has been managing the independent hotel since 1993, offer this particular target group? For one thing, this in particular: Thanks to the use of the right technology, he has been able to free up his staff, which means they now have their hands and heads free to fully attend - and by that, Dorow means "with integrity and genuinely" – to the needs of the hotel's guests.
Mr. Dorow, in 2013, you basically said something along the lines of: "Our ambition is to consistently deliver on the standards we set." What does that mean in practical terms for your customers?
Christian Dorow: Our hotel primarily targets business travelers that travel a lot and frequently. To these kinds of guests, it’s absolutely vital that everything in a hotel runs smoothly and is dealt with professionally and discreetly. This applies in particular to the routines involved in checking in and out, and when making a reservation. Our guests really appreciate the speed and discretion with which we deal with things, and the respect and genuine courtesy we bring to our interactions with them.
In 2013, you were the first Munich hotel director to make the switch to the cloud. What has changed for you since the switch?
CD: We have not only moved our hotel management program, but also all of our data and documents to the cloud. Even our restaurant's payment system is now based online. Since the switch, we have become a lot more flexible, both with regard to the hardware we use, as well as how we use our staff. One example of this, for instance, is that our reception desk manager can now 'remotely' support our temporary staff.
That our reception desk manager can now access all relevant information at any time and from any place - i.e. from any device with Internet access - and so support staff on site at all times. The benefit: This allows us to employ semi-skilled staff at our front desk and to quickly train them to become skilled and valuable team members. In these cases, it's not the technical understanding of the details, but staffs' soft skills that matter. What's important for us is that a person fits into the team and makes a valuable contact for our guests.
What are the advantages of using a cloud-based hotel management system?
Well, there are actually four advantages: 1. We no longer have to invest in hardware; 2. We no longer have to worry about backing up data; 3. Our software is regularly updated without us having to perform any installations and 4. We can access all of the hotel's data without actually having to be in the hotel.
You spent many years traveling the world as a business traveler yourself. What does it take to feel at home in a hotel?
There are a couple of really fundamental things like cleanliness, good food and a comfortable bed that are pretty much expected as standard by guests. Above and beyond those, it is also really important to be treated as a person as opposed to 'just another guest'. Especially so if you want a hotel feel like a second home! And by that, I mean that guests need to be attended to with genuine and sincere interest, as opposed to artificial politeness and routine friendliness.
What does it take to survive as an independent city hotel?
In contrast to before, small hotels are now actually able to create significant advantages for themselves over large hotel chains through clever online marketing. If you google 'hotel' and 'Munich', you will find that your first results page will be full of independent, private hotels. The same applies for booking portals such as HRS and booking.com. However, it is only possible to achieve these advantages by making use of the opportunities presented by the Internet.
A lot of people today would like to have more time. How can hotels help on that front?
Guests appreciate simple and uncomplicated processes. So, if a brief call "...to let you know that I'll be arriving at the hotel again tonight..." is enough for a guest to "find everything as always" when they get there in the evening, their main concern is not really just saving time.
I recently stayed in Vienna in the new Ruby, and in Berlin in the 25hours. Two hotels that are setting new trends in their own way in a world of new generation hotels. Are you having similar plans?
These hotels were targeted at and designed right from the start to appeal to a certain type of guest. A hotel that has been established for some time has to be a little more careful about the ways it changes to avoid putting off its regular guests during the transition phase. At the moment, we are only planning to offer services such as a self check in and check out system using smartphones - although, initially, this service will be offered alongside our existing traditional check in and out routines. However, we are also planning to turn our slightly formal restaurant into more of a relaxed and lounge-type space.
Apart from technology, I know that you are also interested in art. What are your plans for 2015?
Another one of my main interests is aviation. A good friend of mine has been successfully working as a photographer in this area for many years now. So, we are now planning to exhibit some of his best photographs at the hotel - and I'm not allowed to tell you any more about this at this stage...
This interview was conducted by Elke Tonscheidt, a freelance journalist and blogger (www.ohfamoos.com) from Düsseldorf.