Radha Arora, a resident of Los Angeles, brings 30 years’ luxury hospitality leadership experience to his role as President of Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, a luxury chain owned by the Hong Kong-based company, New World Development. In our interview, Arora describes how Rosewood has a long established tradition of providing guests with a sense of place and how the hotel uses technology to help bring it to life.
LM: Do you think it’s important for luxury hotels to maintain a modern image and do you believe technology can help them do that?
RA: The evolution of technology and how consumers incorporate technology into their day to day lives has brought about major changes within the travel industry, especially with regards to travelers’ online research, planning and booking. It’s no longer the case that a guest’s journey begins when they arrive at the property. As such, Rosewood devotes considerable time and resources to our digital presence, including the launch of a dedicated travel and lifestyle digital travel hub, "Rosewood Conversations", which provides editorially-driven content on our destinations around the world in a format that is easily (and publicly) readable online for both Rosewood guests and future guests alike.
Beyond our own content, user-generated content is becoming increasingly important on social media. Recommendations from peers have influenced the process of booking travel as today’s travelers are focused on finding unique and exciting experiences that they can share on their social media channels. These posts help increase brand awareness organically and also reach a new audience that may not respond to traditional media.
Operationally, we have been thoughtful in trying to find the best ways to integrate the many technological advancements and preferences of our guests in a way that enhances the guest experience, rather than distracting from it. Staying true to Rosewood’s A Sense of Place® philosophy, Rosewood incorporates the latest technological advances only when they can make an experience truer to a particular destination, while recognizing that there are some experiences that technology cannot replace.
"Recommendations from peers have influenced the process of booking travel as today’s travelers are focused on finding unique and exciting experiences that they can share on their social media channels."
LM: Do you believe front-line staff can deliver a better experience when they make use of technology and data to inform themselves about guests?
RA: At Rosewood, we strive to learn guests’ preferences, wishes and desires better than they know themselves, ensuring that every stay is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Our associates use technology to communicate guest requests much more efficiently with the use of hand-held devices providing immediate action. What truly meets customers’ demands and expectations is highly personalized service and unwavering attention to detail that enhances the guest’s stay and make their trip a little more memorable. Our associates go beyond what’s expected to delight our guests.
LM: As Rosewood continues its expansion, how does the brand share information between properties? Is the guest experience continuous between visits at different properties?
RA: As I mentioned, Rosewood’s guiding philosophy since its inception has been A Sense of Place®. This means that we tap into the culture and heritage of the destination as the inspiration for all aspects of our properties, and this sets us apart from others. As we grow the brand, we are extremely thoughtful in our approach so as to stay true to this philosophy and create one-of-a-kind hotels, resorts and experiences that are truly different and authentic. Every property offers a refined, intuitive and engaging style of service, and we personalize this approach in creative ways also by ensuring consistency across different property experiences where we closely monitor special preferences and ensure those preferences are seamlessly expressed at each property around the world.
LM: What is the best way for hotels to overcome cultural barriers in dealing with guests? Is it harder to find out about how the guest experience is going when they do not speak the local language?
RA: At Rosewood, we believe in fostering close and long-term relationships with guests, communities and associates, and this translates to a genuinely warm and sincere style of service. It is thoughtful and bespoke to each individual and that keeps our guests coming back year after year. No matter the destination, this personalization has long been a key element of the Rosewood brand, and we aim to create opportunities for people to experience travel in a meaningful way that works for them and enables them to truly connect with new cultures and destinations around the world. For example, at Rosewood Mayakoba, our executive team has engaged with the local community by creating a school for the local children. Guests are encouraged to participate by visiting the school and learning more about the destination’s local culture.
"Travelers shift their desires and expectations faster than ever before, but brands can also respond faster than ever before."
LM: Are you noticing more guests preferring to communicate with hotel staff through their own devices – such as through messaging services or social media?
RA: In our daily lives we communicate more and more by text or email, and so it has become essential that our staff has the ability to communicate with guests in whichever way best suits the guests, whether that is Twitter, Facebook, email, text, telephone, a personal visit or all of the above. Further, we have started to introduce user friendly apps that are intuitive and to the benefit of the guest. For example, Rosewood Mayakoba and Las Ventanas al Paraiso, A Rosewood Resort, recently introduced an app which allows guests to communicate in real time with their butler wherever they are. Guests can now request a chilled bottle of champagne to be waiting in their villa or a dinner reservation with just a short text message while lying on the beach. We’re currently piloting new technology which also allows us to communicate with the guest in their preferred channel whether it be text, iMessage, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or WeChat.
LM: Is there a place for the automation of services within luxury, if it means saving time or resources while enhancing the guest experience?
RA: The constant influx of new technology and ways of communicating over the past few years has been remarkable and impossible to ignore. It’s an interesting time for the hospitality industry as all sectors work to incorporate new technologies into various facets of the luxury travel experience. At Rosewood, we are thoughtful and deliberate in our approach – we want to make sure that new technology is introduced in a way that is seamless, interactive and enhances the luxury experience, rather than detracting or distracting from it. At the same time, we recognize the value of a special personal touch. Whether it’s a passionate chef or an insightful concierge, so often it’s the thoughtful connection with a hotel associate, not a high-tech gadget, that elevates a travel experience to a truly unparalleled luxury moment.
LM: How important is it for hotels to be able to capture information in real-time about a guest and how their stay is going?
RA: Given the ultra-connected, tech-immersed culture we live in, travelers shift their desires and expectations faster than ever before, but brands can also respond faster than ever before. This makes it both an exciting and challenging time for the industry. With the advent of social media, we are now also able to respond to guest feedback both online and in person, however it still doesn’t replace the importance of getting to know our guests on a more personal level during their stay. We have developed creative ways of receiving “live” feedback from guests, especially from our butlers who glean invaluable information in an thoughtful and discreet manner.
Read interviews with other luxury hoteliers on the subject of technology in our ebook, Technology and the Guest Experience.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to collecting customer feedback. However, it's not impossible to avoid the pitfalls of anonymous responses. Choosing a customer feedback tool that allows identifiable feedback in a supportive manner will greatly aid your support teams and improve the overall customer experience.