PrepAIr

A look inside the kitchen of… Postillion Hotels

Emma and Joeri from Team PrepAIr visited Erik-Jan Ginjaar, General Manager of Postillion Hotels, last week for coffee.

Emma and Joeri from Team PrepAIr visited Erik-Jan Ginjaar, General Manager of Postillion Hotels, last week for coffee.

Over the past few months, we have primarily focused on interviewing financial service providers, so we thought it would be interesting to seek inspiration in a different industry.

But why the hotel industry? Compared to the financial sector, isn’t the impact of AI on the hotel industry much smaller? Well, as our German neighbors would say, ‘Jain’. In banks and insurance companies, the sensitivity around fraud prevention and risk management is much higher than in hotels, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t significant developments in the hotel industry. Think, for example, of smart rooms, virtual assistants, and interactive robots that can guide guests to their rooms, assist with check-ins, and even clean rooms.

Erik-Jan Ginjaar is not a fan of the latter. At Postillion Hotels, there is a strong commitment to the mantra that customer experience comes first. Admittedly, there are self-check-in desks in the lobby, but they are not meant to replace their receptionists; it’s because some guests are accustomed to them, sometimes even preferring them. It’s not a trick to save on payroll costs.

Postillion Hotels’ vision on AI is crystal clear: AI will be used to take over the ‘menial chores’ of their teams, so there is more focus on the guest. That’s what really matters in this industry.

A perfect example of this is Michiel. Michiel is an independent AI employee responsible for processing reservations for hotel stays, meetings, and conferences that come in via email. This concept was born after a Google Design Sprint, where Postillion employees worked with an external partner to develop a system that can flawlessly handle emails.

The result is that the reservation team members could focus more on personal customer contact, where their passion actually lies. According to Erik-Jan, “nobody goes to hotel school to end up entering reservations into a system all day.” As a former Hotello, I can wholeheartedly agree with this! (Joeri-Editor)

For years, Postillion has been seen as a pioneer in innovation within the hotel industry, but they are going one step further: The goal is to ultimately become an ‘office-less organization’. Erik-Jan himself hasn’t had an office for years, as he likes to be among the guests and his teams. Through this daily contact, Erik-Jan gets a clear picture of the opportunities and challenges of the operation and can switch gears quickly. If AI could take over certain administrative ‘chores’, it would also create room for other employees to focus more on customer experience.

For Postillion, implementing AI initiatives is not an end in itself, but a means to achieve strategic goals.

Additionally, it’s quite unusual in the hotel industry to have an innovation department at the headquarters. Problems are viewed pragmatically; how can we solve problem A for user B in a cost-efficient yet high-quality manner? For each project, a business case is prepared, and it’s determined whether it can be handled internally or if an external party needs to be involved.

Erik-Jan was surprised that some financial sector organizations can rationalize having a 20 FTE innovation team. “Are they all busy with pure innovation all day?” In the change portfolio of hotel chains, the focus is mainly on improvement and renewal, and much less on radical change. This seems like an interesting topic for a podcast or panel discussion. To be continued..

We want to have more of these kinds of conversations in the future, so if you, as a reader, know someone who would like to have a coffee with us, we would love to hear from you! Responses, questions, or comments about this article are also very welcome.

We would like to thank Erik-Jan Ginjaar for his time and the nice coffee, and we look forward to next time!

On behalf of Team PrepAIr, Joeri van der Wees and Emma van Garderen

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