Group IT Director of Aman, Archie Natividad, discusses Aman’s approach to technology amid the company’s digital transformation...
With technology transforming the way companies operate and conduct their business, it has encouraged firms worldwide to embrace technological change in order to provide an improved service to customers.
Although it is considered to be a destination that prides itself on offering a place to escape from modern life, Aman has undergone a digital transformation to deliver a luxury hotel stay where cutting-edge technology doesn’t compromise guests’ experiences. However, Group IT Director of Aman, Archie Natividad, believes that it’s important to offer guests the freedom of choice depending on the experience they seek. “Not all Aman have TVs. They're hidden in cabinets, behind a cupboard or a sliding door. Aman means peace and that's very much the essence when you arrive,” explains Natividad. “It’s important that we try and introduce the right technology. It’s always a challenge but we don't want gimmicks. Each hotel has a different style of design that is unique to each property and they all offer different experiences.”
With 33 hotels in 21 countries, Aman has expanded heavily by offering resorts in a diverse range of countries such as China, Morocco and Sri Lanka among others. Each resort provides a different experience and offers a different level of technology based on its location. Natividad affirms that while some of his companies’ guests are keen to embrace technology, he understands that there is a proportion of guests that want to immerse themselves in nature. “At Aman, we’re really looking at the environment and trying to set that harmony between the design of the property and the experience we're giving to our guests. When they come to Aman, they're not only coming because it's a nice room, they’re coming because they want to re-energise. Guests want that mind, body and spirit experience. The opportunity for us lies in exploring technology that complements the experience instead of distracting from it,” says Natividad. “The technology transformation approach is on a case-by-case basis for each hotel. In Aman Tokyo, we have technology that allows our guest access to an in-room control for the management of lighting, blinds, and climate. However, if you're somewhere like Amankora in Bhutan where our lodges are spread across 5 unique properties in breath taking natural landscape and each take up to half a day to get to; it’s more about the journey. As you can imagine, this environment technology has less an importance to this type of Aman experience.”
Forming key partnerships
In order to help achieve its success, Aman will introduce technology which allows artificial intelligence (AI) to help guests perform menial tasks such as turning lights on and off, through its collaborations with companies such as DigiValet and TRG International. Due to Aman establishing these key partnerships, Natividad believes that it has allowed the firm to accelerate its technology offering further.
“Through our work with DigiValet, we’re allowing our guests to uncover and understand the essence of the Aman experience in the guest room. This could come through creating personalised lighting and temperature ambience in the room, creating one’s own itinerary during the stay or even just relaxing in one’s own room watching Netflix and ordering in room dining. DigiValet allows guests to switch off all lights with one touch, set an alarm and wake up to soothing music along with refreshing lighting,” says Natividad. “While in the room, the guest can get all the hotel information at the touch of a button and also communicate with the front desk, spa and even make bookings at the restaurants. Of course, the user interface on the iPad is multilingual which allows the guest to choose the language of choice and the best part is that it can still get communicated to the hotel colleagues in a language they understand - leaving no scope for misunderstanding. This will allow all our employees to focus on delivering the service at the highest levels. I believe we’re definitely moving in the right direction to create that fine balance between technology and service.”
Aman’s partnership with TRG International has provided the firm with a significant support system that enables Aman to meet challenges head-on. Natividad believes the collaboration has been vital to his company’s success. “With TRG, we're undertaking a huge investment in our accounting system as they understand the many workflow processes when operating in different regions that have tax and fiscal elements to capture. TRG provide us with high level support and industry knowledge and experience” he says. “There are challenges and roadblocks but it's certainly a collaboration and a partnership that will see us be successful at the end.”
The importance of building partnerships is considered a key area for Aman. With additional partners such as Oracle, Samsotech ID, Arcserve, Sophos, Softcat, Infor and HRS International confirmed as working with Aman, Natividad points to what makes a successful collaboration work. “What really makes a great partner is their ability to take time to understand your business. You get many partners who are just looking at their bottom line and once they've hooked you, their entire customer service or approach is very different,” he explains. “I tend to find the companies that work really well for us are the ones where they take time to understand us. We're not your cookie cutter kind of hotel and we’re a leading ultra-luxury brand. When they get to work with us and understand how we operate, it becomes very mutually beneficial for both of us.”
In order to remain sustainable, Aman plans to explore new markets worldwide to gain a firmer presence in a wider variety of countries. “We've got 33 hotels today and for us, to remain sustainable it’s important to grow and expand the brand. We’re opening new markets globally,” says Natividad. “We have a strong presence in Asia, and we have plans for growth in the Americas, Europe and in the Middle East. The launch of Aman New York will further strengthen the Aman brand in the region and the development into businesses such as Aman Retail and Aman Spa & Wellness will also complement the Aman brand well.”