Hotels

Why a bad hotel experience has Ovolo’s CEO steering clear of mobile keys (for now)

Huntley Mitchell

Huntley Mitchell

While more accommodation providers may look to adopt keyless technology in an attempt to become more COVID-safe, don’t expect to see it introduced at any of Ovolo Hotels’ properties anytime soon.

Speaking recently to Travel Weekly, the company’s founder and CEO, Girish Jhunjhnuwala, said a bad hotel experience has put him off adopting mobile keys across Ovolo’s portfolio.

“I stayed in a hotel in London where they asked me to use my mobile phone to ‘tap’ open my door,” he explained.

“My room was in a corner where the internet signal was really weak, and I couldn’t open my damn door, so I had to go downstairs and get a physical key so I could open my door.

“There are limitations around these things and how they work. If the WiFi is strong throughout your hotel, then yes, it could possibly work. And yes, it could be a feature we look at going forward in the future.”

“The option will always be there for you to get a key at Ovolo, and our keys are really cool – they’re collectable keycards. They have a piece of artwork from our hotel on every keycard, which I think is something that’s nice for guests to keep – and an extra incentive not to lose it.”

However, it isn’t just the dud experience that has Jhunjhnuwala hesitant to adopt keyless technology.

Ovolo’s leading man has built his hospitality empire on being human-led and human-facing, and he doesn’t want to lose that quality from his brand by introducing technology “just for the sake of technology”.

“This keyless entry thing … yeah, it’s great to have, but I also think it’s great to be able to greet guests at the front desk so they know who you are, find out their likes and dislikes, and inform them on what’s going at the hotel before they go up to their room,” Jhunjhnuwala said.

“On every single reception desk is a CEO email address that goes direct to me, so guests can write to me and say what they liked and what they hated.

“We’ve always taken care of the customer – they are not a room number to us – that’s why we’ve always had a very strong number of return customers.”

It’s this laser focus on customer service that has seen Ovolo launch a number of initiatives since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, including an updated flexible check-in policy, customisable ‘staycation’ packages and a ‘Restaurant in Room’ offer.

The group is also set to open new properties in Melbourne’s South Yarra and Bali in the coming months, and Jhunjhnuwala has Perth and New Zealand in his sights.

Mamaka by Ovolo is set to open in Bali next month (image source: Ovolo Hotels)

“We are very keen on looking at Perth in Western Australia, which would be a good feeder market to Bali for us as well,” he said.

“And, of course, New Zealand. We have to look at New Zealand … Auckland, Queenstown.

“We’re hoping in the next two years we can tie up at least another two or three properties within these regions.

“We just have to get the banks to start releasing some money to us so we can buy more hotels. I don’t think that’s going to happen in the short-run, but we are very keen on that.”

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