Bringing the ethereal legend of Atlantis to life, Atlantis, The Palm is easily one of the most recognisable hotels in the Dubai skyline, if not in the world.
A record-breaking 15.8mn people visited the dynamic city of Dubai last year, but the hotel’s VP of IT Anthony Lynsdale believes that the five-star property is quickly becoming a destination in itself.
“A lot of people want to come here because they’re looking for a once-in-a-lifetime-style experience. They want to take away a memory,” Lynsdale muses. “Many of our guests choose to book Atlantis because it's a destination in itself; it's a landmark property for Dubai.
“There's lots of competition and there are lots of great hotels in the city,” he continues. “So how do we differentiate ourselves? Our motto is to blow away the customer with amazing experiences – that's what we live by and that’s what makes us unique.”
Located on the Palm Jumeirah, one of the world’s most iconic holiday destinations, and nestled within 42 acres of lush greenery, the hotel overlooks the sparkling coastline of the Arabian Gulf and offers 1,539 rooms, 23 restaurants, cafes and lounges, a luxurious spa, immersive aquarium, and an award-winning waterpark for its guests.
But with such a mammoth operation, how does Atlantis, The Palm ensure guests receive its acclaimed five-star standard treatment time and time again?
For Lynsdale, the answer is simple. Not only does the hotel consistently go the extra mile for its guests, it is also tapping into cutting-edge technologies to ensure that the resort is well-equipped for the digital age.
Practical, pragmatic IT
Digital transformation and disruption are just some of the many buzzwords that have saturated the tech sphere in recent years.
For Lynsdale, the hotel’s digital strategy is not about following trends, it's about taking pragmatic, practical steps to support the business with the very best infrastructure, to help achieve its goals.
“Our digital strategy really revolves around partnering with the business and stakeholders, identifying what their pain points are, and prioritising where we can gain efficiencies,” Lynsdale explains.
“We really want to make sure that we're fully utilising the systems that we have today. In IT, there’s often a tendency to shop around and buy systems, instead of fully optimising the systems already in place. Are we getting the very best from the current vendor, from the system? There's definitely an aspect of making sure that the systems we have today are reaching their full potential and driving efficiencies.
“It’s also about making sure that our systems are future-proof and scalable to support our other property currently under construction, The Royal Atlantis Resort and Residencies,” he adds.
Connecting IT and marketing
In our ever-connected world, where devices are endlessly at our fingertips, technology and marketing have become increasingly entwined.
The importance of this connection is something which Atlantis, The Palm doesn’t underestimate, and Lynsdale has therefore made significant efforts to elevate the business’ marketing division to bring it to new heights.
“Understanding the nature of the hotel business is key – with such a large resort, if you don't get the marketing right, whether it's digital or physical, you will miss opportunities to engage with guests,” Lynsdale comments.
“Nowadays, everything is at our fingertips. We're using mobile apps. We're using websites. We have access to a lot of information.
“We have certain traditional IT systems that need to be maintained, but I think where the real business transformation will come is our strong focus on digital marketing,” he continues. “That's something I'm conscious of and the key reason I've built a strong relationship with our marketing and sales divisions,” concludes Lynsdale.
Information at your fingertips
None of Atlantis, The Palm’s information points demonstrates this better than its interactive digital signs, which are strategically placed throughout the resort.
Brimming with world-class facilities, it could be easy for guests to miss out on some of the resort’s renowned amenities, but thanks to this marketing tool, navigating the resort can seem as easy as walking through your own home.
“Atlantis, the Palm has a huge footprint, so it was imperative for us to bring all of our information together by using a best-in-class, centralised content management system,” says Lynsdale.
“It’s about making sure we have the relevant information, at the relevant location, at the right
time so that our guests can avail of our facilities, whether it's new discounts, happy hours, or water park experiences.”
In a similar vein, the Dubai-based hotel has also focused on boosting its social media presence. Last month, the beach-side resort reached a million Facebook fans.
To celebrate this, it created ‘Atlantis Fan Suite’ – a money-can't-buy hotel experience whereby social media followers were given the chance to stay in one of the hotel’s brand-new rooms, decked out with unique social media-inspired innovations, at no cost.
Every element of the suite is linked to Facebook, whether it's unlocking your door with your Facebook login, to ‘poking’ your personal butler if you need assistance.
“They furnished it with a little bit of technology, so for instance, it has an interactive mirror that shows your Facebook feed when you check in,” notes Lyndsale. “It's something quirky, but again, it also shows our continuous innovation and our drive to blow away the customer with every interaction.”
Mobile technology is quickly changing the hospitality game and this is something which Atlantis, The Palm has undoubtedly tapped into.
Recently, the luxury hotel resort partnered with Wi-Q to develop an intuitive web app that allows guests to order food and drink from the comfort of their sunbeds.
“We're pushing the menu to them so that they can order items and get them delivered to where they're located,” explains Lynsdale.
“Guests are using more devices, more frequently. Mobility on the guests' side is increasing and so Atlantis is now working on attracting guests using mobile technology,” he continues.
“We want to begin their journey before they arrive by creating an app where they can engage and discuss opportunities and activities that they would like to do when they get here. Mobile connectivity is definitely something that we're keen on bringing to life.”
This snowballing effect of mobile technology isn’t just transforming the customer experience, it’s also helping to transform Atlantis, The Palm’s back of house operations.
By equipping housekeeping staff, bell service, and front desk staff with mobile devices, the luxury hotel ensures that employees can respond to requests at the touch of a button.
“With a resort of this size, we have a lot of staff that are using mobile technology, whether it's to manage guest requests, or to help manage the hotel’s day-to-day tasks,” notes Lyndale.
“We use a system called HotSOS to do this, and housekeeping uses a module of this called REX to manage the rooms. We've given our employees more than 200 smart devices, and now they're operating pretty much in a paperless environment.”
Managing a 1,539-bedroom hotel is no easy task, especially when it comes to checking in. Looking at simple ways to try and speed up the process, Atlantis, The Palm has also collaborated with Samsotech and Oracle Hospitality to create a passport check-in system that Lynsdale says is the “first system of its kind” in Dubai.
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A solid IT foundation
Yet not all of Atlantis, The Palm’s innovations are future-facing. Some integral digital initiatives have involved tirelessly tinkering away to update legacy systems and creating a hyper-converged infrastructure.
“What we’re doing with our infrastructure is a stepping stone for two reasons: one is the ability it gives us to have a disaster recovery site, and secondly it is building the platform for our yet-to-launch sister hotel in Dubai, The Royal Atlantis Resort and Residences,” notes Lynsdale.
“We will have a very scalable infrastructure platform going forward. Our team is always looking out for something new, and the business is demanding more from the IT function. They're pushing us and always looking and searching for the next big thing.”
Imparting a lasting travel experience, Atlantis, The Palm has earned its stripes as a five-star hotel and a must-see destination in Dubai, but for Lynsdale, it is technology which has played an integral role in ensuring that guests always receive the best-in-class service it has become renowned for.
“IT needs to be the centre of almost everything,” he reflects. “It's about making sure that we're continuously improving the guest experience.
“We have around 3,000 employees but we can have up to 15,000 guests at any one time, depending on what's going on in the resort.
“Technology has played a key role in the way we manage the business, whether it’s the data that we review, analyse and make decisions on, or how guests consume our services. For us, technology is paramount.”
Atlantis, The Palm has seen a root-and-branch transformation of its digital function and although technology has played a pivotal role, Lynsdale says that this is all thanks to his team’s hard work and perseverance. “Without a dedicated team of technology professionals this all of this wouldn’t be possible” he says, candidly. By all accounts, it seems that at Atlantis, The Palm, the company’s staff are its greatest assets.
It’s an exciting time for the Atlantis brand – the hotelier is opening a succession of new hotels including Atlantis Sanya in the South China Sea and is exploring expansion opportunities in tourist hotspots such as Hawaii.
Amidst this, Atlantis, The Palm hasn’t forgotten the fundamentals of a successful hotel digitisation strategy, and it is this pragmatic thinking which is helping the hotel provide a guest experience like no other.