Expert Talk: Timo Kettern, IT Director, Westbridge Europe: "Guests Bring Upto 7 Gadgets To Rooms"
Information Technology is playing a key role in the success of a hotel. IT can either make or break a hotel brand. We had the opportunity to discuss with Timo E. Kettern, a 16+ years experienced Hotel Technology Professional, currently IT Director, Westbridge Europe and Hotel IT Advisory Board Member, Hospitality Technology EXPO (HTE). Westbridge Europe is a hospitality industry investment fund managed by the Westmont Hospitality Group, one of the largest privately owned organisations of its type in the world. Timo speaks about the role of IT in hospitality sector and what are the IT-led innovations (this is truly innovative, trust us) in Westbridge. Interview below.
Tell us few lines about your role at Westbridge Europe, what does a typical day in the life of Timo at Westbridge look like?
I am responsible for all aspects of information technology at hotel and corporate level. I am also responsible for all guest-facing technologies at hotels and all back-of-the-house systems. I look after the corporate networks including their security.
Most of my time is spent integrating newly acquired hotels into the Westbridge IT infrastructure. I also serve at the EAME IT Sub Committee of the IHG Owners Association.
Is ‘IT’ considered a strategic arm at Westbridge or it is looked up as a support function?
At Westbridge, IT is considered both a strategic arm and a support function – it is the enabler to all other areas of the operation.
What are the key challenges you face while integrating a new hotel into Westbridge’s IT infrastructure?
Each hotel is looked at individually, meaning that out of an acquisition of five hotels there are five different strategies that could result in five different brand conversions.
Nowadays, guests expect a lot more gadgets in their room ie: tablets, all-in-one integrated high tech televisions, etc. How is the hospitality technology industry responding to this ever changing consumer behaviour?
First and foremost the guest requires a reliable and quality connection to the internet to connect to their own devices (some guests bring up to seven devices into the hotel room). Quality (wireless) internet access is now more important than gadgets as very trendy gadgets have the tendency to become yesterday’s technology all too quickly.
Tell us about a few innovations that you have rolled out from your IT department at Westbridge.
At Westbridge, we’ve made some very smart decision of being ‘early followers’ when it comes to adopting new technologies. Currently, we are running a proof of concept with BMW, Vingcard and Micros-Fidelio using the BMW car key as a key to open hotel bedrooms. The concept sounds simple, however it requires a good deal of interaction with the many parties involved. The below clip will give you a good idea of the technologies we’re dealing with.
The key challenge is that there are so many stakeholders involved in running a hotel: owner, asset manager, operator, franchisor, etc. As everyone has different priorities, sometimes it can be a challenge to get everyone to agree on the same thing. Often times it’s a case of ‘too many cooks in the kitchen’.
Hotels are increasingly moving towards offering personalised services to guests. How is IT helping to address this trend?
This is a key area we are currently pushing franchisors to come up with in the technology strategies. In my belief, a personalised experience via a guest’s tablet or smartphone app is extremely important.
Author: Karthick Prabu