In 2010, 22 year-old Olivia Byrne was studying in the prestigious L’Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne, one of the most renowned hospitality management schools in the world.
As the daughter of a Parisian hotel owner, she knew from an early age that she wanted to be a world-class hotelier. In-between internships at the Hotel Hermitage Monaco and the Michelin-rated Joël Robuchon, she took part in the reconstruction and refurbishment of a dilapidated budget hotel in Central London.
After graduating in 2011, Olivia turned this once-forgotten property into the luxurious Eccleston Square Hotel, becoming one of the youngest persons ever to open and manage a hotel in London.
The property itself dates back to 1835, exuding classic English charm and elegance. It was once the home of Princess Victoria, and is only two doors down from a former residence of Winston Churchill. Guests describe Eccleston Square Hotel as a classic London townhome, with luxurious amenities and excellent service. The hotel is attached to a private residential garden square, complete with hidden pathways, a tennis court, and ample areas for picnicking. Located less than a five-minute walk away from the busy London Victoria station, the property offers a blissful and calm oasis away from the hustle-and-bustle of central London.
But Eccleston Square Hotel is more than just a simple boutique hotel, it is also one of the most technologically advanced properties in Europe, winning numerous international hospitality awards. These include the European Hospitality Award’s In-Room Technology Innovation Award, and CEO Today Magazine’s Corporate Travel Awards for Boutique Hotel of the Year 2020. They also were featured in Conde Nast Traveler’s Top Ten Boutique in London, 2018, among many other awards.
The hotel owes its success in large part to Byrne’s own passion for service. She repeatedly encourages her colleagues to always be forward-thinking and never to fall into complacency. “In an industry like travel which is forever innovating,” she said, “it is imperative to never be complacent.”
Eccleston Square Hotel uses advanced technology and high-touch service to enable the staff to adapt to the emotional and intellectual needs of each individual guest. This commitment to individualized attention lies at the heart of Olivia’s drive to reimagine the guest experience: “We pride ourselves most on our efforts to offer each guest their own version of a perfect, personalized service.”
Sophisticated Technology Embedded in Classic English Design
Behind the classic English accoutrements and tasteful interior flourishes of Eccleston Square Hotel’s decor, lies an added layer of sleek technological sophistication. Byrne and her team designed their hotel by taking inspiration from the yachting community. They examined how leading high-end ship designers incorporated space-saving and multi-functional technology into their boats, and decided to use those techniques in Eccleston Square Hotel. The hotel features advanced technology discretely embedded into walls, glass doors which turn opaque at the flick of a switch, and televisions hidden behind the bathroom mirrors that suddenly become visible when turned on.
In May 2019, Eccleston Square Hotel completed its first major technological upgrade—the culmination of over two years of research, design work and implementation. According to Byrne, “We integrated a number of intelligent, and A.I. cloud-based technology systems as part of our smart strategy to automate much of the business.” While many hoteliers mistakenly see a disconnect between a focus on A.I. and high-touch luxury service, Olivia sees only potential. “A.I. used well can be as beneficial to the guest as to our team members,” she explains,
Byrne attempts to automate processes whenever possible, allowing her staff to focus on improving the guest experience: “We receive numerous daily requests from potential guests through our website chat and social media channels, so we invested considerable time and energy into ensuring that our A.I. on these bots are efficient and responsive. The result was an immediate increase in guest convenience, as well as a dramatic reduction in the administrative demands on our staff.
Perfect, Personalized Service Backed by Integrated Tech
In 2018, Eccleston Square Hotel switched to a cloud-based PMS—a significant upgrade from their previous, on-premise model. This change proved to be nothing short of revolutionary for Eccleston Square Hotel, allowing them increased flexibility in terms of technological updates, connectivity, and improvements to the guest experience.
The hotel’s A.I. infrastructure connects with applications for guest information, revenue management, and entertainment, as well as with the hotel’s chatbot, which allows all requests and guest data to be collected, organized, and available in one place. The A.I. infrastructure also integrates with Bowo, a comprehensive, fully-loaded tablet application that functions as a service catalogue and inroom concierge for guests. Bowo lets guests browse local restaurants, read recommendations, and make their own bookings directly and automatically request the hotel’s previously negotiated value-adds and offers. Ultimately, this leads to a more high-touch guest experience because, as Olivia elaborates, “The staff at Eccleston Square are spending less time behind a computer processing data. They are free to enjoy more time face-to-face with guests who prefer to liaise in person, rather than through technology.”
The high level of technological integration within Eccleston Square Hotel lets guests completely personalize their stay. Personalization begins even before check-in, with pre-arrival emails that are tailored to the specific needs of individual guests. Byrne explains:
Eccleston Square Hotel lets travelers choose how and when to interact with staff, through communication channels such as WhatsApp, tablet, television, telephone, or email. All of the guest’s options are intelligently collated and presented so they can see all of their options at a glance, and make requests or adjustments at the touch of a button. Of course, traditional person-to-person communication will always be available, enhanced by the hotel’s powerful operational technology. The hotel notes all of the personal preferences of their guests, but Olivia also understands that preferences and circumstances change: “We never presume – we listen, we anticipate, we serve, whichever way the guest intimates.”
An Elegant and Luxurious Home-Away-From-Home
Eccleston Square Hotel is also pushing the boundaries of guest-facing technology. They were one of the first hotels to develop a smartphone concierge app, and were quick to offer guests a complimentary smartphone during their stay. Partnering with Handy Phone, the hotel provided guests with mobile phones bundled with free UK and international calls, as well as a concierge app and virtual butler service, enabling guests to be in contact with the hotel whenever needed. Upon its opening, Eccleston Square was one of the first hotels offering 3D LED TVs in all of its rooms; today the hotel offers an even higher grade Smart LED 4K Samsung TV paired with SONOS soundbars, so guests have access to an unparalleled visual and sound experience. The current LED Smart Samsung TVs come with Google 4K Chromecast which enables guests to easily mirror whatever they’re watching from their own device.
But technologically advanced luxury is not only about in-room entertainment. Guests can also control every facet of their room—from access, to lighting, to temperature—through a sleek, touch-sensitive glass control pad from VDA’s Vitrum collection. And because the platform interfaces with the hotel’s building management system, staff can automatically save energy by shutting off unnecessary items in vacant rooms.
Each room also features a handcrafted Swedish Hästens massage bed, wrapped in fine Italian sheets and hypoallergenic bedding. These worldrenowned beds are electronically adjustable to control head and foot positions, as well as massage functions, and are known to be some of the most comfortable in the world. “We are providing amenities that hotel guests in London simply cannot get anywhere else,” Byrne says. “Hästens manufactures some of the best beds in the world and offer the most luxurious night’s sleep that money can buy.”
Olivia attributes the hotel’s commitment to innovative technology and high-touch service as the secret to its exceptional guest experience: “[Eccleston Square Hotel] feels like a large, glamorous London home and that’s what keeps so many guests returning. Guests can opt into using the technology, and many do. Equally, many enjoy our hospitality so much, they pick up the phone or pop down to our beautiful reception to interact in person.” From a great-night’s sleep to the feeling of a home-away-from-home, Eccleston Square Hotel uses advanced technology and personalized service to leave guests feeling better than they did when they arrived.
After all, Olivia remarks, “Isn’t that exactly what a hotel should be offering?”
This article was originally written by the GX Spotlight team. It has been moved here as part of the Shiji Group family of hospitality technology brands.