What I Learned About Modern Hotels from 1960s Hawaiian Resorts

I recently took a trip to the Filoli house, a 654-acre historic country estate located 30 miles south of San Francisco in Woodside, California. This fantastic property–noted for its 16-acre formal garden–appears on the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and is open to the public. The home itself, built in 1917, features exquisite architecture and details right out of fairytales.

Source: Wikimedia

Source: Wikimedia

While I had a great time touring the estate, I ended up walking away with–of all things–insights into the hospitality industry. In 1937, Filoli was purchased by the Roth family, which famously created the Royal Hawaiian Hotel (the first resort in Waikiki) and the Matson luxury cruise line to transport guests to the resort. The hospitality industry was integral to the success of the family and was instrumental in the creation of the Filoli house you see today.

Filoli House

While touring the house, I noticed many artifacts from the cruise lines and hotels. I also noticed that the kitchen and staff quarters operated on modern hotel principles, while using 1930s- to 1960s-era technology.

I had an interesting conversation with the tour guide about how the Filoli estate and the cruise ships/hotels operated in the 1960s. While certain challenges hoteliers face today are new, many guest services issues haven’t changed much at all.

  • There were servant quarters at Filoli, and it took 16 household staff–chefs, butlers, groundskeepers and maids–to serve the Roth family. That’s not very different than operating a modern lodging business, in terms of the employee-to-guest staff management ratio.
  • Guests at Filoli could push a ‘room service’ button by their beds, which would light up an indicator board in the butler’s room. Today, room service is ordered through multiple means–through the phone, in-room tablets and even smartphone apps.
  • The Matson cruise line was the first to hire artists such as Frank McIntosh, Eugene Savage, John Kelly and Louis Macouillard to create commercial art for resort advertisements (I included an example above). Hotels today also use commercial artwork to build their brand image.
  • Guests got newspapers in the morning as part of breakfast service. Today, hotels offer Wi-Fi, so guests can read the news on their mobile devices.
  • To generate demand for the resort, Matson built a cruise line from the West Coast of the U.S. to Hawaii. Today, hotels invest in their own infrastructure to attract guests, notably contact centers that leverage email, Web and social media to market their properties to customers.

It was refreshing to look at how the hospitality industry operated in the past, and the ways technology changed the guest experience.


One last note. I took a photo of Filoli’s kitchen stove because it stuck out as unique to the era. Turns out, it was an industrial stove from one of the Matson cruise ships. It’s electric (which was rare back then), and is mildly magnetized while powered, so that the pots and pans wouldn’t spill while the cruise ship was in motion. I thought that was an ingenious way of addressing cooking on a cruise ship before modern stabilization measures.

Avaya will be at the Hotel Industry Technology Expo and Convention (HITEC) next month in Los Angeles, June 23-26, where you will learn how Avaya helps modern hotels and resort address various guest and operations needs. I hope to see you there!

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Avaya Showcasing Latest Hospitality Technology Solutions at HITEC 2015

Positive guest experiences are the top criteria travelers use to select hotels, far outweighing price and location. Improving the guest experience is profitable, too: Customers who report having positive guest experiences spend 140 percent more than those who had poor experiences.

Hoteliers are increasingly embracing technology to differentiate the guest experience, and Avaya is at the forefront of developing the technology (and the network) to power positive guest experiences.

Next week, Avaya will showcase its hotel solutions at HITEC 2015, the largest hospitality technology tradeshow in the world. Join us at booth #752.

Let’s take a look at two ways Avaya can help improve the guest experience.

Communication-Enabling Apps and Websites

Nearly every hotel in the world today has a website. Most major hotel chains have either launched an official mobile app, or are actively developing one. These self-service websites and apps are designed to help guests book a room, and connect with the hotel before arriving.

Forward-thinking hoteliers are building interactive tools to help enhance their guests’ experience during their stay: indoor maps, spa and restaurant reservations, room service and suggested day trips through partners.

At HITEC 2015, we’re exhibiting the Avaya Engagement Development Platform, a software development kit that makes it easy to communication-enable websites and mobile apps. With just a few steps, developers can add “click to call” buttons inside any app, instantly connecting the guest with the front desk, concierge, onsite restaurant, and more.

Flexible engagement modules, called Snap-ins, are capable of enabling a range of communication-enabled experiences. For example, a hotel might use Snap-ins to build location-aware beacons that identify VIP guests and notify hotel staff to greet them personally.

Hotel app developers are exploring time- and location-aware notifications to, for example, encourage people to book restaurant reservations during slow times, or push relevant information about the property as the guest walks past.

Avaya built EDP to be platform-agnostic—it’s designed to communication-enable any app, working with disparate content management systems, programming languages and competing silos of information.

Flexible, Virtual Networking

A flexible, virtual network is critical to a successful hotel experience. Avaya SDN Fx is an IEEE standard Ethernet architecture based on Shortest-Path Bridging that makes it simpler for hotels to provision new services and reconfigure networks on the fly.

Consider the Dubai World Trade Center, one of the world’s largest convention centers. It would sometimes take days to reconfigure the network between major tradeshows. As exhibitors showed up, technicians would invariably spend the day manually provisioning services, making changes to the network and troubleshooting errors.

With Avaya SDN Fx, provisioning time at the Dubai World Trade Center is 50- to 60 percent faster, and technicians have been able to effectively eliminate manual provisioning.

Avaya SDN Fx allows hotels to run all of their applications on one network, securely, with built-in resiliency. There’s no need to have separate networks for all hotel services. If a networking switch goes down, Avaya SDN Fx automatically routes traffic to the remaining switches.

That means guests enjoy uninterrupted WiFi. Hotels lower their IT costs by managing a single network virtually. Hotels control the applications on their networks—for example, limiting video streaming on the lobby WiFi, so that it doesn’t affect network performance for other guests.

Avaya guest engagement and simplified networks solutions help hotels deliver differentiated guest experiences. Join us as we showcase both at HITEC 2015, booth #752, from June 16-18 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas. Listen to our latest healthcare solutions podcast: Innovating the Hospitality Marketplace.

5 Ways Las Vegas Delivers the Ultimate Guest Experience

Las Vegas is arguably the entertainment capital of the world, and is constantly adapting to industry trends and the demographics of its visitors to remain successful.

Over the years, I have seen a lot of interesting innovations in the hospitality industry on display in Las Vegas. After a recent trip, the city continues to surprise me.

Here are five ways that Las Vegas manages to deliver the ultimate guest experience for its 39 million+ visitors each year:

#1: Appealing to Shifting Demographics

Popeye Statue Wynn Hotel

Las Vegas continues to reposition itself to adjust to a changing environment. Originally created as a gambling destination in the desert, its expanded into drawing business travelers for conventions, entertainment with big-name celebrities and musicians, fine dining and shopping. The city also offers different experiences for different price points–from the ultra-luxurious Wynn to affordable properties off the strip.

#2: Communicating Across All Channels

My Las Vegas hotel emailed me before my arrival with weather alerts and transportation options. All of the city’s major properties currently engage with guests across social media, email, Web, phone and text message. Promotional text message alerts are particularly popular in Vegas; the proactive nature of the interactions spur instant action, without the need to download standalone mobile apps.

#3: Proving a Rich Experience Wherever Your Guests Are

Las Vegas is definitely a city where “thinking outside the box” is encouraged, in terms of providing services and selling opportunities. At the day club at the Cosmopolitan Hotel, there are temporary gaming tables across from the entrance, just during opening hours. At the airport, Johnny Walker offered free (small) product samples in front of the duty free shop.

Johnny Walker Las Vegas Airport

Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport was one of the few duty free shops I have been to that allow non-international travelers to shop there; they just have a different price.

#4: Leverage History and Traditions While Delivering the Future

Elvis Statue Westgate Las Vegas

Many of the hotels in Las Vegas have a long history that they maintain, even as they renew their image. The use of the Elvis statue at the Westgate (previously LVH and Las Vegas Hilton, where Elvis performed) ties the property to the past.

The recently reopened SLS (previously Sahara Hotel) also featured pieces of the old hotel, such as the jeweled S door handles, now part of the lighting fixtures. Bits of history and tradition help give the properties character and provide fodder for conversation and differentiation.

#5: Leveraging Technology for Productivity (and Customer Service)

Las Vegas Hotel Self-Service Kiosks

Las Vegas is all about service, and technology is used everywhere to help improve the standard of service.

It seems like technology is being baked into every aspect of the customer experience–from automated checkout via in-room technology, sending the folio to the guest through email, video surveillance to protect guests on the property, and self-service kiosks for various services–ranging from redemption of gaming winning to ordering a cake.

Las Vegas also excels at the non-technical aspects of hospitality. Every staff member at every property I visited–from the janitors to the hotel executives–can give clear directions to every aspect of the property without hestitation. That’s the best definition of hospitality: a great experience for the guest before, during and after their visit.

For more information on Avaya’s work in the hospitality industry, please visit http://www.avaya.com/hospitality.

Join Avaya at the Hotel Industry Technology Expo Next Week

Next week, join Avaya at HITEC, the largest hospitality technology show on the planet, being held this year from June 23-26 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Avaya will present at the Technology Showcase session, which starts before the exhibit hall opens on June 23rd, from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.

Frederick Sabty, Avaya’s Director of Hospitality and Emerging Products, will share lessons learned during the 2014 Winter Olympic Games (every Olympic hotel in Sochi used Avaya technology) that will help hotels deliver “gold medal” guest experiences. All attendees will receive a Sochi 2014 Olympic collectible item.

When the exhibit hall opens, head to booth #252, where Avaya will be demonstrating:

  • Collaboration Cloud for hospitality: An OPEX-based offer designed specifically for hotels.
  • Avaya Guest Assist: A smartphone app that serves as a guest’s ““>virtual concierge,” demonstrating how hotels can deliver connected guest experiences.
  • IP Video Surveillance: Made easy with Avaya’s virtual network architecture.
  • Media stations: Avaya’s all-in-one media stations combine an in-room telephone and smartphone docking station with a range of other features that hotels can customize to fit their needs.

We will also host a dinner on Tuesday, June 24th for customers, partners  and consultants. Come visit us at booth #252, and register for an opportunity to win an Apple TV.

Learn more about Avaya’s Hospitality Solutions.