New Mobile Guest Service digital solution from NH Hotel Group is example of changing ways in which guests are now interacting with hotels and services

16 November, 2020

The current COVID-19 crisis has forced changes in traveller habits and the industry is continuing to adjust to the situation. The majority of companies are expected to increase their spending on digital transformation as they look to deliver innovative solutions, or simply keep up with others.

One example is NH Hotel Group, which has launched a new digital platform that allows guests to access hotel services from a mobile phone, tablet or laptop, one of a number of accommodation groups that are seeing the value in investing in their technology and digitalisation strategies.

Mobile Guest Service has been designed to change the way in which guests interact with the NH's hotels and services, improving their experience and prioritising safety. It is a system that offers guests full control of their hotel stay from any electronic device, whether that's a mobile phone, tablet, or laptop.

The platform provides practical information about the hotel, access to main services such as room service, spa, gym and restaurant reservations, the option to request extra amenities and the ability to order products from the now virtual minibar. In addition, Mobile Guest Service offers guests useful information about the destination, including tips for visiting tourist hot spots alongside access to the daily international press.

Posters in reception, lobbies and rooms of the Group's properties will give users access to the content through a QR code. The system is already available in 293 of the 350 hotels that the company manages internationally.

"Innovation is a priority for NH Hotel Group. We believe that the best way to improve our guests' stay is to offer them a different, agile and simple service, as today's life requires," explains Isidoro Martínez de la Escalera, chief marketing officer, NH Hotel Group.

"Mobile Guest Service adds to our digital commitment with which we intend to make the final guest experience even more satisfactory. Furthermore, this platform reinforces the customer's perception of security, since they are able to interact with all the hotel services using only their own device," he adds.

NH has already made previous strides in incorporating technology. At the end of 2018 it launched FASTPASS, an application that combined three services from an online application for the first time - check-in, check-out and choose your room. Not only did this allow guests to select room types but also to use a floorplan view to select a specific room whether that is to be located close to the elevator to minimise walking distance or to be housed on a lower or higher storey.

NH is convinced that its flexible operating and financial structure will allow it to overcome the challenges faced in the near term and take advantage from its brand recognition, property locations and strong market positioning when the recovery gains traction in Europe in the medium term.

The swift reopening of hotels during the third quarter, with 75% of the portfolio open as of the end of Sep-2020 certainly enabled the group to capture domestic demand across its key European destinations in 3Q 2020, so that revenue climbed from EUR30 million in the second quarter to EUR148 million in the third quarter. Average monthly occupancy across the open hotels surpassed 40%. In the first nine months of the year, revenue amounted to EUR458 million, down 63.6% compared to the same period of 2019, when the Group posted record revenue.

But market conditions have now deteriorated as the second wave of the pandemic and the various health measures and mobility restrictions rolled out in Europe have obliged the Group to postpone the reopening of hotels initially slated for Sep-2020 and Oct-2020. A number of hotels have been closed since last month and additional closures are planned for the weeks to come.

The group's revenue amounted to EUR457.7 million in the first nine months of the year, down 63.6% from the EUR1.26 billion reported in the same period of 2019. This decline continues to be shaped by the ultra-low levels of demand observed since Mar-2020, marked by a LFL revenue drop of -64.8% at the European level.

By business unit, those contractions amounted to -59.0% in Central Europe, -62.8% in Benelux, -66.2% in Spain and -73.0% in Italy. Average occupancy declined by -61.3% in the first nine months of the year to 27.7% at consolidated level. The Group reported a recurring EBITDA loss of EUR11 million and an overall net loss of EUR295 million in the first nine months (compared to a net profit of EUR66 million in 9M 2019).