One question we often ask hoteliers here at is how they personally define luxury, and the answers almost inevitably involve people. We hear a lot about perfectly trained staff with a natural affinity for service, seamlessly delivering the personal touch in anticipation of their guests’ every need. What we don’t hear about, however, is technology, which might seem a little strange given the relentless stream of innovation permeating every aspect of hospitality. Hoteliers are more than happy to talk about technology in the context of efficiency, automation, and cost-savings – but not when it comes to luxury.

Of course, it stands to reason that in an industry where the human touch defines the highest standards, people will question whether technology can ever play a significant role at the interface with guests. This is something we’ve often asked, but the evidence from a number of leading luxury hotels gives the lie to these doubts, as we recently discovered. Four exquisite properties renowned for the unique human aspect of their service have taken the five-star guest experience to the next level with the introduction of Portier Phones.

Representing The Siam Hotel, Bangkok, GM Nick Downing spoke for many in the industry when he stated that “it is important for a hotel such as ours not to remove the human element; technology should enhance the human touch.” This sentiment actually sits very well with the concept of the Portier Phone – a white-labeled Samsung phone which is provided free of charge for guests to use as they please throughout their stay, including free international calls and unlimited 4G data, with city guides, customized hotel content, and direct links to all hotel departments, all in multiple languages. “There was concern among some staff that this would remove us from the guests but I assured them that it was more of a communications tool that would enrich our communication and engagement with guests,” explained Nick.

Achieving better guest engagement seems to be one of Portier’s main strengths: guests who have real-time information about what’s going on in and around the hotel are likely to find their experience greatly enhanced, while from the hotelier’s perspective, engaged guests have been shown to increase their spending substantially. Conor O’Leary, GM at The Pavilions Hotel, Phuket, has long prioritized the guest experience. “We believe Portier to be right for our guests so that they're connected while on holiday, and so we create an experience beyond expectations,” he said. Meanwhile, Portier CRO, Mike Pope, highlighted that individual and distinctive hotels could readily adopt the Portier platform, adapting the technology to fit their own unique characteristics. “At Portier Technologies, our job is to enhance the already excellent abilities of hotel staff members,” explained Mike. “Working closely with The Pavilions Phuket gives us an opportunity to deliver a world-class guest experience via the resort’s own world-class guest experiences team.

Guest engagement needn’t end when the guest ventures beyond the confines of the hotel. The beauty of the Portier Phone is that in the right hands, it serves as a destination guide and trusted companion, offering convenience to guests while cementing the relationship with the hotel brand. Christian Hoehn, GM at W Paris-Opera is well aware that visitors to Paris want to spend their time exploring the city, which rather limits the potential for traditional guest interactions. “Travelers visiting cities like Paris spend very little time at the hotel, but engagement with them is crucial. With Portier, our W Insider (concierge) travels across Paris in the palms of our guests’ hands! This enables us not only to promote our brand but also to ensure that our very personal touch extends far beyond the limits of our property,” he said. “With Portier at our disposal, we’ve been able to significantly increase our engagement with guests.”

Refining service standards to the level provided by 137 Pillars Suites & Residences, Bangkok, requires the efforts of a highly skilled team of butlers, but even these experienced professionals can benefit from the technological revolution. While the Portier Phone allows the hotel to provide information to the guest, communication is a two-way street, and analysis of the data can be used to identify behavioral patterns and anticipate guests’ requirements, helping staff to stay on top of their game. Bjorn Richardson, 137 Pillars GM, described Portier as “a great fit with our focus on providing curated personal services and experiences with an emphasis on traditional hospitality delivery that we offer our guests.”

In short, all of these five-star hotels have come to realize that technology can enhance the personal touch by facilitating engagement and improving the responsiveness of customer service. The information derived from such a system can further optimize operations, leaving staff with the time to offer genuine hospitality. Interactions can be guided and informed by the Portier Portal, so that staff are given access to the insights they need in order to make the guest experience so much more memorable, while Portier’s Concierge Connect allows guests to make their own wishes known.

For hoteliers, the advantages are numerous – but the five-star experience is all about the guests, so they are the ones whose opinion counts. To date the feedback has been very positive, with the average guest spending around 50 minutes per day on their Portier phone according to the company. The technology is reassuringly familiar to anyone who has ever used a smartphone, and with free data, free calls, and a free platform shared with the hotel, it would appear that the potential to enhance the guest relationship for a truly great experience has never been better.