The new Hyatt Place Fresno hotel has technology features such as being able to stream video from a phone to the 55-inch televisions, as well as mobile keyless check-in.

published on August 23, 2019 - 12:48 PM
Written by Frank Lopez

With new developments constantly being made in digital technology, it may come as no surprise that some of these amenities are now finding their way into the hotel industry.

According to Gaurav Deep Sethi, chief development officer for Sethi Management, Inc. in Carlsbad, these technological updates have been somewhat slower to come to the San Joaquin Valley. Little by little, however, he said they’re starting to come in —including in the two hotels his family’s company runs in Fresno.

“We’re a secondary market compared to the Silicon Valley, or L.A., or San Francisco, so I think it always starts with the big urban hubs first and kind of trickles down into mid-market, smaller mid-markets,” Sethi said.

Some of the latest high-tech features to find their ways into big city hotels include Amazon Echo and Google Voice being accessed in rooms to control the television, drapes, lights and thermostat. Another innovation at a Fairfield Inn in nearby San Marcos to catch Sethi’s eye was the use of a robot that went down the halls to deliver such amenities as towels, soap and bottled water.

Robot helpers appear to be big business for some companies, including San Jose-based Savioke, which raised $17 million in venture capital funding last year. Savioke robots are made for applications including hospitality as well as hospitals.

Sethi Management is looking into the robots, but in the meantime, they’ve been able to roll out streaming at their new Hyatt Place Fresno hotel. This development allows the guest to cast services like Netflix directly from their phone, laptop or tablet onto the room’s 55-inch television. For the last four years, they’ve also been making use of keyless check-in services.

Starting with Sethi’s Hampton Inn in Turlock, it’s now being used at Hyatt and most of their other properties. This feature lets guests check into a room on their phone the day before arrival, and they are given a 3D map from which to pick a room. A few hours before check-in time, a digital key is emailed to them onto their app, the app scans the door and the door opens.

The process not only saves guests the time of checking in at the desk and allowing them to get to their rooms straight away, but also frees up staff to focus on service.

“It opens up more time for staff to help with the hospitality aspect of it, and that’s helping them get more towels, or checking them in with food or drinks, directions — things they might need other than the kind of mundane portion of the check-in process of giving the credit card and filling the paperwork,” Sethi said.

However, not all hotels are rushing to get into hi-tech commodities. For example, the Wyndham Visalia Hotel doesn’t currently have any keyless check-in features or electronics streaming services, but this may not always be needed.

As Samantha Rummage-Mathias, Wyndham Visalia’s general manager puts it, their hotel is used by international travelers, leisure travelers and corporate and convention visitors. With a cross market, they’re diverse enough to see steady business flowing through.

“If you had a hotel that was built and designed for millennials, then yes, you would need that,” Rummage-Mathias said. “It depends on your brand and it depends on your location and what your business mix is.”

She added that not everybody is interested in the latest technology, or learning to use it, nor do they care if they have it. For example, Rummage-Mathias expressed some skepticism over keyless check-in, saying that about 5% of guests would use it, not trusting the app-based system.

However, new innovations from the big city continue to trickle down into Fresno and other midsized cities. In the future, Sethi said he expected health and fitness to find its ways into the market. Right now, they’re looking into providing bikes in their guest rooms, or fitness centers with networks to compete with each other on fitness goals. He expects this to be the new norm in the next two to four years, along with customizing orders for food and beverages before arrival.

And while some make strides to advance, others are taking their time — and the slower pace is a comfortable one.

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