Interviews

Digital transformation in hotels and the case of Marmirada, with Damià Font

In today's hospitality industry, the digital transformation is essential for the management and long-term success of hotels. Adapting to new technologies, optimizing processes and providing a personalized guest experience are crucial factors to stand out and stay competitive in an ever-changing market. This week we talk about this topic with Damià Font: CEO of Marmirada and Director of Hotel Acapulco Lloret.

Welcome, Damià. Before we begin, tell us who you are and what you are passionate about. 

I am Damià Font, hotelier by vocation. I have been linked all my life to the hotel industry and I currently manage the hotel Acapulco Lloret. I am also the co-founder of Marmirada, a company that helps the sector to digitize hotel operations. We collaborate with training in the sector and mentor innovative projects.

What is digital transformation for you?

For me, transformation is a path, not a destination. By this I mean that you are never 100% 'transformed', there can always be room for improvement, but yes, I am convinced that for me transformation means that machines do the routine jobs, and that what really adds value to the sector are the people.

How is digital transformation applied in hotels?

We are mistaken if we think that digitization is changing from an A4 sheet to a PDF. It goes beyond that. We are talking about housekeeping teams being able to do their work more efficiently with a cell phone or PC, just as they can see and execute changes at the reception desk or in maintenance.

Where it has a lot of application is in the handling and management of a multitude of data. In Revenue, for example, we must segment customers, analyze the competition, see the evolution of demand, and in this sense, applications and AI are of great help.

What are the benefits of digital transformation in hotels?

The transformation has a direct impact on better efficiency of the time spent on a task, better customer service, more information and enhancing the more hospitable 'human' part of our teams.

In this regard, how do we improve customer service? For example, this year we have developed with ChatGPT an assistant at the reception where you can facilitate the onboarding of new people in the team. This ChatGPT is on a cell phone where you can attend to a Finnish customer in their language and respond almost instantly. This is an improvement over traditional customer service.

For me, transformation is a journey, not a destination. By this I mean that you are never 100% 'transformed', but that there can always be room for improvement.

Another example is in data management: a hotel generates lots of data, usually disorganized. If we move it from PMS to CRM we can individualize our customer segments, personalize the experience and communicate with our guest before, during and after the trip.

The digital labeling part of the restaurant has allowed us to digitize the menu wheel. For example, now, when the buffet waiter has to 'place' the different platters/trays, he already knows their location and there is no doubt about it. It allows you to be more efficient in the work and also for the customer, it allows us to give the information of the dish in several languages and with all allergens identified, as well as we have added a pairing option for each dish according to the offer of the hotel's wine cellar.

What procedures or operations can be digitized in a hotel? 

Virtually every department in the hotel can be digitized. In front and back office we hardly use paper. We can say that we have eliminated it by 98%, in catering with the use of commanders or electronic labels, in purchasing with the mobile management of the receipt of orders and delivery notes. As for housekeeping and maintenance, they are operational with the cell phone.

Tell us about your experience with digital transformation. How was Marmirada born and how has it helped companies in the sector to go digital?

Marmirada was born in April 2021 as a result of the experience of the Acapulco Lloret hotel, it can be considered a 'spin off' and also helps to maintain a team of people 12 months of the year.

Marmirada currently has 4 areas of activity:

  1. We help to digitize the routine operations of the hotel, everything that is repetitive and does not add value to the work, let the machines do it. For example, do you know any waiter who likes to take inventories, or a receptionist who likes to pass on ID card or passport data? Not me, none.
  2. We help to enhance direct sales through different tools that are part of the Marmirada ecosystem. We provide hotels with different tools such as CRM, booking engine, channel manager, chatbots...
  3. We organize professional conferences, collaborate with study centers, universities (CETT, TecnoCampus, Universitat de Girona, Escola Hosteleria de Lloret...) as well as organize conferences and technological events. In the last one we did in April we had an attendance of more than 100 people and many others connected online. There were different speeches about solutions and start-ups and at the end of the session there was a round table to talk about Revenue and the application of dynamic pricing in restaurants.
  4. Mentoring and investment in projects. We collaborate with CETT Fundació and Barcelona Travel Hub as mentors of different projects and solutions in the travel tech world.

The claim we have in Marmirada is that we connect with companies and people through technology. With this and our help, we want to bring technology closer to accommodations and destinations in a very close way. In the end, in Marmirada we are hoteliers and the problem or challenge you may face is probably also mine and that's why we can help you.

The transformation has a direct impact on better efficiency of the time spent on a task, better customer service, more information and enhancing the more hospitable 'human' part of our teams.

How have you applied all this knowledge to help hotels go digital? Or even with the hotel you manage.

Actually, it is a very natural process, because the changes we applied in the hotel, we have been 'replicating' and adapting them to other client hotels. Right now, from Marmirada we provide service to more than 17 hotels that represent more than 2,500 rooms. We have held face-to-face conferences for the sector, we collaborate with guilds, associations... We collaborate with 3 universities, where we have created a virtual hotel and the students in the classroom are confronted with real use cases. The hotel school of Lloret, and lately we also train as mentors of CETT and Barcelona travel hub in collaboration with the Gremi d'hotels de Barcelona.

Finally, what advice would you give to hotels that have not yet started this digital transformation process?

It is never too late to start doing things right. I like this phrase very much, but it is also important to note that the sector is one of the most digitized. The pandemic was the springboard for this type of solution. It is true that not all companies are at the same level of maturity and that there is a long way to go, but when you start, more and more use cases are appearing. AI will only enhance this change.

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