“The main challenge will be to successfully blend the personal aspect and the technical skills, and take it to a higher level.”
Patrick Nestl is Manager of the Spa & Relax Hotel Erika located in Dorf Tirol, South Tyrol, Italy. The hotel has been under the ownership of the Nestl family since 1960 and has evolved from a small guesthouse to an upscale 5-star hotel, with a strong emphasis on fine dining and wellness.
Hotel Erika is a well-known brand in the tourist region of South Tyrol: What does Hotel stand for and what is the company's vision for the medium and long term?
Our establishment's philosophy is to cultivate and spread genuine warmth and hospitality. We place a strong emphasis on personal interaction and put our all into our role as hosts. Our staff is trained to embody this cordiality and make it a core part of their work. Adhering to our goal of being "distinct from others," our staff training focuses not just on technical skills, but also on making the guest experience enjoyable.
What are your specific areas of responsibility at Hotel Erika?
What are my tasks at the hotel? I am clearly a caretaker (laughs). My responsibilities are varied and encompass many areas. I am dedicated to giving 100% in all aspects of my job and I am always available to assist my staff and guests with any issues that may arise. I am a problem-solver, seeking out solutions for even the most difficult tasks and challenges. My role requires me to be highly adaptable and to be present throughout the hotel, ensuring that everything is running smoothly. So, you can find me everywhere in the hotel, always ready to lend a hand and ensure a pleasant experience for all of our guests.
The classic daily routine in the back office and traditional marketing tasks cannot be gleaned from this. Why is that?
I do not see my main areas of responsibility as solely focused on back-office tasks and traditional marketing. As previously mentioned, my daily responsibilities involve a lot of unexpected and varied tasks that require my attention. Therefore, I may not have enough time to devote to marketing tasks. To address this, I delegate these tasks to my staff, which can be challenging but is ultimately beneficial as it motivates my team members to take on more responsibility and use their own knowledge and skills to contribute to the hotel's success. However, it also requires me to continuously educate myself and stay current in my knowledge in order to effectively communicate and collaborate with my staff on new ideas and initiatives.
Your family has been running the hotel since the 1960s and has thus been at the forefront of the digital transformation in the hotel industry. How long have you been actively working in the business?
I originally returned to the hotel to help out with staffing issues, but that temporary assistance has now turned into a tenure of 24 years. Later on, my brother also joined the business. Our parents were supportive of our involvement and this allowed us to eventually take over the hotel.
In recent years, we have made significant strides in digitalization. I have been witness to the emergence of the internet in the tourism industry. In your opinion, where do you see the greatest potential for future digitalization in the hotel industry?
In terms of future digitalization, I see a lot of potential in the areas of automation and personalization.
By using advanced technology, we can streamline our operations and provide a more personalized experience for our guests.
Additionally, I believe that data protection and targeted marketing can coexist and that it's important to find a balance between these two areas. This will be one of the biggest challenges for the hotel industry in the future, but it is also an opportunity to provide an even better experience for our guests.
Which of the above advancements in digitalization have had the greatest impact on you or the company?
The greatest impact on me and the company has been the ability to reach a wider audience through online marketing and the ability to drive direct bookings, which has allowed us to maintain control over our pricing and guest relationships. It has also allowed us to better target specific demographics and tailor our marketing efforts to better suit the needs of our guests. Overall, it has greatly impacted our ability to compete in the industry and grow our business.
Where do you see the greatest opportunities for future digitalization in the hotel industry?
The biggest challenge for the future will be to seamlessly integrate technology with the personal touch of hospitality. We must find a way to use technology to enhance our understanding of guests' preferences and needs, while still maintaining a strong focus on personal interaction and providing a personalized service. The key is to strike a balance between the two, and to use technology to enhance the guest experience rather than replacing it.
What difficulties are currently still holding back tourism professionals in the area of digitalization?
Another difficulty that tourism professionals face in the area of digitalization is the fast pace of technological advancements. Keeping up with the latest trends and advancements can be challenging for those who are not familiar with technology or do not have the resources to invest in training and updating their systems. Additionally, many small and medium-sized businesses may not have the financial resources to invest in expensive digitalization projects and software. Furthermore, many tourism professionals still struggle with the integration of technology into their day-to-day operations and may lack the necessary technical expertise to fully utilize digital tools and platforms.
How has your experience been working with ADDITIVE's marketing automation software since its implementation in 2020? What results have you seen from using this software?
As previously mentioned, our focus is on reaching our desired guests. To achieve this, we implemented ADDITIVE+ MARKETING AUTOMATION, a marketing automation software specifically designed for hotels.
This software allows us to target specific guests at the appropriate time while maintaining a personalized experience for them. Furthermore, it ensures compliance with data protection regulations.
I am impressed with the ongoing advancements of the product and believe that there is potential for it to become even more personalized in the future, which is a goal we strive for.
What are some specific, repetitive (marketing) tasks that hotels could automate in the future to make their daily operations more efficient?
I see a lot of potential in customer-oriented content delivery. Of course, the content has to be created first - but the big challenge now is to deliver it more targeted to my guests. For example, I know through the existing data in my hotel software that my guest is interested in wine. At the same time, I am playing this information to that same guest: We have a great wine tour. This way, I can probably impress my guest.
The art is therefore to create good and especially relevant content, to bring it to the right target group and to stand out from the competition through content.
What other repetitive processes in the hotel industry could potentially be automated in the future, such as check-in procedures?
No, not at all, check-in must be done in person. What I mean is that the transfer of guest information, such as passport details, can be done through password scanners or other digital means. However, the initial interaction with the guest should be done in person to create a positive experience from the start of their stay.In terms of automation, I believe there is potential for streamlining task management for hotel staff through the use of apps, training videos, and onboarding materials. The product should be tailored to the needs of the hotel industry and take into account the unique characteristics of individual businesses in the tourism industry.
What does the perfect marketing mix look like for you as a hotelier?
As I have previously mentioned, print media no longer plays a significant role in our marketing strategy. We focus primarily on online marketing and the key is to effectively coordinate our online channels to achieve the desired return on investment and conversions. It is crucial for us to use the appropriate platforms and present the right content. Measuring the effectiveness of our marketing efforts is one of the biggest challenges we face.
What strategies would you recommend for hoteliers who are heavily reliant on online travel agents and booking platforms to increase their direct bookings?
It is crucial to first determine whether you wish to handle your own marketing or if you prefer to delegate it to online travel agents. It is essential to stay informed, educate yourself, and frequently discuss online marketing strategies with other industry professionals, as sharing knowledge and ideas can benefit everyone.
Is there a figure in the tourist industry you have always wanted to meet? Or perhaps someone from another sector? Who would that be and what would be your central question to them?
I believe that every person is unique and interesting in their own way. I value every conversation and take the time to truly listen to what each person has to say. I am always open to learning new things from everyone, and often I think that the most valuable insights come from unexpected conversations.