Interview – Olivier Gippet of Locatel
We recently sat down and spoke with Olivier Gippet, Vice President of International Development at Locatel, a leading provider of IT and interactive solutions for the hospitality, health care, marine oil and gas sectors. Founded in 1962, Locatel is a multinational corporation (MNC) specialized in providing innovative multimedia services and solutions for hotels and resorts. Its cutting edge technology is deployed in over 100,000 hotel rooms globally.
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Olivier Gippet, Vice President International Development
ViMi – Today, in-room hotel entertainment is expected wherever you travel. What was your inspiration for the idea?
Olivier – In-room entertainment is an old concept and that became in-room interactive systems. “Entertainment” is a service delivered to guests, but “interactive” refers to how hoteliers can easily engage with their guests by providing personalization, information, and by enhancing guest relations.
Entertainment is the icing on the cake. We aim to bring to a hotel room whatever a guest can find at home. Guests’ behavior in hotels has changed. People go out more, they look for city guides, hints on good spots for dinner, for example. Locatel delivers all of that with E-Concierge. Guests are spending equal or more time on the internet than on TV. Interactive systems take all this into consideration and are closely linked to the hotel infrastructure network.
If this has become a must have service in 4 & 5 star hotels and brands across Europe and the Middle East, then hoteliers must be educated about these interactive systems. They are usually confused about its purpose, how it is deployed and how to use it properly. I am often amazed to see how much money is spent inefficiently on newspapers or paper for lobby and room information. A lot of industries migrated a long time ago to avoid waste; guests and customers now expect that experience.
V – Locatel has been in business for over 50 years now. Has the original business model changed? How?
O – Good question. Locatel was originally in the B2C business renting or leasing consumer electronic equipment. As our world began to adapt to new technologies, hotels, hospitals and enterprises began demanding these services to avoid capital expenditure (Capex). That’s how we grew up.
Beyond equipment, Locatel is now involved in hotel network infrastructure, internet services, and cloud-based software services with a blend of fixed and mobile offerings. The cloud offers a fantastic opportunity to leverage and share common infrastructure in operational expenditure (Opex) mode. That is really key to future success.
V – How do you keep up with new technologies like connected TV and mobile apps?
O – In fact, these are two excellent examples of technology that Locatel adopted some time ago. Eclipse Connected emerged about two years ago. We worked closely with TV vendors to define how a network can manage a TV. We began deploying in hotels and hospitals before the market even existed. We also work closely with telecommunications companies and broadcasters in various countries who drive innovation for consumers. In-home over-the-top content (broadband delivery of video and audio without a multiple system operator) is really a key market for them. That definitely helped optimize solutions for hoteliers and hospitals. Connected TV is simple, efficient, ubiquitous and flexible in the integration of hoteliers’ back end.
Mobile apps are a natural extension of the support that guests expect, allowing search functionality, guidance, entertainment, and the possibility to share experiences in their social networks.
We used to read maps and airplane magazines to research our options: what are the activities my hotel suggests? Where I can get a haircut or massage? I had to scroll through every TV channel to find something I liked (if at all). I listened to music on my walkman and took pictures that I could only show when I got back home.
Today, not only is all of the above available in a single digital device and format, but it has become a global, live show! Whatever you experience can be shared within a minute to the whole world. It is critical not only for hoteliers but all service industries to monitor and use digital tools in a positive and collaborative manner with their clients. This is where the revolution starts and why it is still ahead of us.
Locatel’s mobile apps develop convergent services in hotels to share its content in the room such as photos, mail and documents, and do it with a guest services approach with close integration of hotels’ back-ends. Shopping, F&B, service requests and modern hotel tools help both hoteliers and their guests increase efficiency and productivity.
V – Locatel has considerable presence in Europe and the Middle East. What are the plans for Southeast Asia?
O – Our presence is not merely in Southeast Asia, but throughout all of Asia. For the last 7 years we have had an indirect model in Asia through integrators. We decided to support their efforts and increase our presence with a regional hub to address SEA and China.
Major accounts began requesting a direct presence in the region. That, along with the dynamic construction of new hotels in the continent, are the two main factors that motivated the operations hub in Singapore. We have done a fantastic job in the Middle East. A lot is yet to come in Qatar, for example. The hotel technology and services adoption there is probably the most developed in the world and set the standard for us. Asia is in a very similar mindset; top brands want to set new standards for the industry and owners and investors are supporting them.
V – What does in-house R&D mean for your customers?
O -This is key for them. This is a guarantee of technological sustainability, that their ideas and vision can materialize in technology ownership. They are not beholden to choices made by others. We have developed very specific features for brands who request exclusivity and these are unique in the market.
V – Locatel provides resources for travelers and it also serves hotels with their own mobile apps. Can you tell us about Serviator?
O -Serviator is a butler app and hotel workflow optimization software combined. This directly improves efficiency in the service delivery of our clients, enables them to pay attention to detail and prioritize tasks for their staff. As a cloud solution it is flexible for engagement and withdrawal. There is no obligation for hoteliers – and this is what they expect. In Asia, various solutions operate with only some of the features. Their solutions do not integrate all the functions Serviator has. Serviator is an excellent hospitality tool for resorts or urban properties that have a high number of rooms and turnover. Workflow optimization is key to profitability and services.
V – What is the future of hotel in-room entertainment?
O – I would first personally like to see the past catching up and see high-quality video in hotels where I stay in Asia. A lot of countries do not offer digital signals to be broadcasted efficiently in hotels. More seriously, the future is ready for adoption; it is a mix of in-room interactive systems in a cloud-based architecture using connected TV with in-room TV protocols that enable content sharing, convergence between mobile devices, room equipment and social media networks. It is flexible for hoteliers, simple to implement and operate, cost effective & brings revenues to operators.