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  • Ryan Haynes

How Louvre Hotels uses Robotic Process Automation

We explore Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and how this is being applied to hotel tech environments to ease the administrative burden on staff, connect system data and ensure better quality use of information. We're joined by Stephen Burke, CEO & Founder, RobosizeME and Mehdi Soua, CIO, Louvre Hotels Group. Where we explore

  • What is RPA and what value does it deliver

  • How is Louvre using and exploring the use of RPA?

  • The wider significance for hoteliers and hospitality sector

  • The opportunity for immediate and effective deployment

  • The impact on the business


RobosizeME is a process automation specialist for the hospitality industry, helping companies automate operational processes. Its virtual robots help hospitality businesses automate processes and optimize human effort in all areas of hotel operations, including reservations, front of house, back office, revenue management etc.


Louvre Hotels Group has a portfolio that includes more than 1,600 hotels in 54 countries. With historic brands (Royal Tulip, Golden Tulip, Campanile, and Première Classe)


Programme Notes


Ryan Haynes:

Hello and welcome to Travel Market Life. I'm your host, Ryan Haynes, and in today's episode, we are going to be talking to Mehdo Souoa, the CIO at Louvre Hotels Group and Stephen Burke, CEO and founder at RobosizeME about robotic process automation. RobosizeME is a process automation specialist for the hospitality industry, helping companies automate operational processes using virtual robots that really help identify ways in order to optimize human effort in all areas of hotel operations. Working with Louvre Hotels Group, which is a portfolio that includes more than 1600 hotels in 54 countries with historic brands, Royal Tulip, Golden Tulip, Campanile, and Première Classe.


Ryan Haynes:

We'll find out what is RPA, why is it significant, and how lieu of hotels is implementing it within its network


Ryan Haynes:

Hello, welcome to the show. Thank you very much for joining me, Stephen and Mehdi. It's wonderful to have you here. Just to start off with Stephen, now you've been working in this field for quite some time now. Can you just summarise for us what is Robotic Process Automation?


Stephen Burke:

Yeah, thanks, Ryan. Thanks for having us on the show and great question. So robotic process automation is where we use virtual or software robots. They're not hardware robots, so we're not going to have like little R2D2s. Looking like a little motorized trash can, running around the hotels. It's really a software robot that exists on a computer that does work that normally a human could do, right? Or would do. And what this can do is basically mimic keystrokes or it can take some data from like an email or a spreadsheet and put it somewhere else and, and when you combine a lot of these things, you actually allow someone to replace some kind of really boring or very repetitive task and do something very much more interesting with their time while at the same time making the whole hotel operations more efficient.


Ryan Haynes:

Okay. So why is it so significant for hotels and the hospitality industry particularly today?


Stephen Burke:

Well, there are a few reasons. So first and foremost, hotels have what we call a lot of operationally vital, yet highly manual processes. And you can see it in every hotel that you go into. People are, you know, manually updating rates or they're manually copying data from a spreadsheet into another spreadsheet, like some of the stuff the revenue managers do every day in their reporting tasks. We also have things like the rate loading season where we get, you know, hundreds of person hours of time that's spent typing the same thing over and over again. You know, how many times do you want to retype that cancellation policy into your GDS rates for this year?


Stephen Burke:

There's every part of the operation from the back office to reservations, to revenue management, to even accounting can be, has some optimizations that can be done using process automation.


Ryan Haynes:

Okay. It sounds like it's very vast and many different ways it can be deployed now Mehdi, is that true? Are you seeing the ability to actually deploy RPA in this way across your portfolio of properties?


Mehdi Soua:

Yes. And as you said, you have a big number of hotels at Lou Hotel. We are managing everything centrally from the Paris office. So, when you need to collect all this data to set up your system for the distribution of the PMS, at one moment when you are present, software or PMs or CS does not allow you to have scripts or automate or set up. So you'll need data entry. And data entry means a lot of time, a lot of mistakes of human mistakes. So yes, we were looking for a solution to avoid these mistakes, to avoid this repetitive task and also to improve our time to market because between the day when we, we have a hotel to distribute to set up everything to set up the room, the rates and start sending them, it took weeks when it's human making data entry behind it.


Mehdi Soua:

But with the robot, it's a few hours because the robot doesn't sleep, doesn't do mistakes, and it goes very fast.


Ryan Haynes:

Did you think that it was actually going to be a software solution to this particular problem you're experiencing there at Louvre?


Mehdi Soua:

At one moment, yeah, because we need some software automation. So, you can do it by API, by bulk systems, but not all the software in the hospitality allows that. So, RPA is a good solution for it.


Ryan Haynes:

We’ve been talking in the industry for so long about having decent integrations about having these open APIs and there's a huge amount of cost involved and as you say, such a big tech stack and I guess you can't have a, you can't have the same tech stack across all your 1600 properties surely. So that must be an additional challenge that you have there. How are you sort of addressing RPA across some of your tech stack? Are you actually concentrating on a particular area at the moment?


Mehdi Soua:

For the moment we are focusing on the hospitality part. So set up a motel on the CRS and the PMs. We are also working with our supplier to ask them for I APIs and all disintegration that we need. But as it took, it is taking time. We need to have l p for the moment to accelerate this operation. But it also, even when we will have API we'll still identify repetitive tasks that the central team will need to do. And you can continue using LPI for that.


Ryan Haynes:

Right? Yes, I mean as you say, Stephen, you started off by real sort of listing numerous ways in which that IPA can be deployed. And I guess working across your, your customers there, you're seeing different ways in which they're harnessing this. How and where are you seeing beyond how Louvre is using it that other hoteliers and the industry are, are really used to harnessing RPA for that immediate impact on the business?


Stephen Burke:

Very good questions. So, I would say that of all the people that I've talked with, everybody's approaching their RPA journey from a slightly different angle. So, some hoteliers are using it for dealing with large amounts of data updates. Some of them are using it to help migrate data from their legacy tech stack to their news tech stack. Those are kind of like one-time uses. But then we're also seeing people that are using the RPA to work around incomplete integrations in the industry. So, for example, if you have a CRS that sends 99% of the data fields or 98% of the data fields that you want to the PMs, but some key data isn't there, you can build a robot that simply goes and grabs the data for that.


Stephen Burke:

We're seeing robots that you can go and grab the data from the revenue production systems, get the data downloaded, and then insert it into your Power BI database. That's a common use case there in the payments flow, for example, especially like accounts payable, we're seeing that being used quite heavily because you can combine RPA with OCR and analyse, you know, if, if your seafood supplier normally bills you between 2000 and 3000 euros per month and it's, you know, 2,500 euro bill comes in, you can automate that all the way up to the creation of the payment order and then the controller just has to approve it.


Stephen Burke:

But if you get a bill for 15,000 euros, then obviously that has to go to some, some checks. So lots of opportunities to streamline the processes and, basically help hoteliers do more with less. I mean, we've been talking a lot with the last year of staffing shortages, and now we're talking in about different ways of doing, trying to reduce costs during a period of uncertainty. So, there are a lot of ways that RPA can help.


Ryan Haynes:

But is this only a short term solution? I mean, we're talking about the fact that we're going to have all, all these integrations in place and they're trying to make all these seamless connections. It sounds like this is just, you know a bridge until we can get to that point. Is that the case? But then Mehdi said there's a huge number of other ways in which they're identifying new ways of deploying RPA. So where does it sit between being a short term solution and sort of a longer term investment for hospitality companies? Stephen?


Stephen Burke:

Well, depending on which consultant you ask, hotels have between 20 and 60 different IT systems in them, right? I've been in the industry for more than two decades and most of that time has been spent doing systems integration. Somebody once asked me, if you're so into systems integration and building things that have API connectivity, aren't you a bit admitting defeat by focusing on RPA? And I had to agree that yeah that is true. You know, I was involved with open travel and HTNG 20 years ago, 17 years ago when we were writing these first standards. And I would say that the connectivity or the integration in the industry is about at the same level that it was before.


Stephen Burke:

You know, but these systems need to share data. You need to have also the massive amount of training that comes with having the hotels use this, these are all areas that can be improved by RPA. So, I would say that some of the solutions that we're talking about are short term maybe just to fill in until the product roadmaps of the technology vendors catch up. But at the same time there's always a lot of manual work to be done and any way that the robot can help with this and reduce the dependency on the human means that humans can focus on the guest experience or some other activity that's giving more value.


Ryan Haynes:

Absolutely. I mean Mehdi, you mentioned particularly about the impact it has seasonally for you guys when it comes to updating rates, but also ensuring that all the data is clear and the impact it has when there are human errors with that data. So, what are, what's the benefits you're seeing for the business by using R P A and what's the impact it's also having on your staff


Mehdi Soua:

Today when for all this work of data entry companies, what they're doing, they're outsourcing, okay, so they are sourcing with the external company in other countries where they do not really have the experience or the management of your hospitality system. So it's a job that does not have high value, how say IT transformation, high value operation. And as we are outsourcing, it's really far from the expert from the staff. So, using RPA, it's getting back this job near the expert.


Mehdi Soua:

Okay. So, they will focus on monitoring or setting up these robots. So, we are changing a little bit their job, but to focus on high value operations and to get back the work at home, if I can say it. So, it's something that's really good for the PE for the employee and they are appreciating it and not saying that it is taking their job.


Ryan Haynes:

I mean this is a thing, isn't it? It's like you've got to make jobs in hospitality more attractive now. Exactly. I think we all remember the days in our early twenties when we started working in an office environment and our job was data input and that just ground on us. It was not exciting to go to work and you had four spreadsheets, several systems, open copy, paste, click, click, click, click here, there and everywhere. I mean we got to learn how to move our fingers very fast and learn how to almost, you know, speed data input. But I guess that also led to those errors at the same time. But I guess by utilizing this technology, you are bringing better enjoyment, and a better experience for your staff at the same time


Mehdi Soua:

And working on innovating staff. So, it is attractive. And today we will not stop this with the hospitality system. We will look from the financial one, to the human resources one and we will always find use cases to optimize the war.


Ryan Haynes:

Excellent. I mean it sounds like there have so many different ways in which it can be applied and I guess these are things that you are starting to uncover Stephen as you go through this process, because you only really found RobosizeME I believe, at the beginning of this year, and you've already been recognized as an award winner and you've got three incredible backers as part of your advisory board. Could you just tell us a bit about that, please?


Stephen Burke:

Right, yeah, so we're excited about the advisory board. We tried to put together people from different aspects of the industry. So having Doug Rice join, he was the first person to join the advisory board. Doug is best known for founding HT and g and D driving that and improving the visibility of that to be a global hotel technology organization. Ricoh from Kaminski Hotels gives us insight into a different class of hotels that, you know, the luxury segment for example, and some of the challenges that they face and ways that they can benefit from automation.


Stephen Burke:

And then also we've got Simone Port on board and Simone is coming from a totally different angle. You know, he's got that experience being a hotel GM as well as a futurist and he was one of the first people to speak about RPA, I believe it was about five years ago. He was quoted as talking about the impact of RPA on the hospitality industry. So those people can help us by giving us, you know, kind of insights and acting as a sounding board as to some of the ideas that we have. Really excited about that. And generally, you know, looking at some of the things that we're expecting to do in, in the next years, it's is really talking with the hotels about the areas where they see the impacts from, you know, whether it's people changing jobs more regularly now we see that since the pandemic, the 10 years in the hospitality space are becoming shorter and shorter.


Stephen Burke:

So it's down to like six or seven months from what we're being told. And people will tell us that if I have a, you know, head of departments will say if I have a four person team, it's kind basically two people are always training. I'm always looking for one of those people and one of those people is a, is a new hire. So, it's really impacting them operationally so we can try to see what we can, you know, automate for them there. And another one is errors. So we did some tests in house where we had, it was kind of fun for the first like one hour, everyone copying spreadsheets back and forth from one monitor to the next and moving data kind of manually.


Stephen Burke:

And after about an hour, definitely, after three hours, the accuracy just falls off a cliff. And we had one GM of a city centre kind of business class hotel in Berlin that told us that he estimates somewhere between 50 to a hundred thousand euros in lost revenue per year due to data entry errors. So that's also an area that we really want to focus on this year is just eliminating the data entry areas and helping that improve the balance sheet for the hotels.


Ryan Haynes:

Wonderful, thank you very much, Stephen. Now Mehdi, I mean it just seems like hospitality's becoming an incredibly challenging, difficult industry to work in. Are you still happy working in the hospitality industry after all this?


Mehdi Soua:

I think yes, because we have a lot to do and finally some big suppliers are moving to new gen technology. So yeah, I think we have a lot of work and so it's a good adventure to follow.


Ryan Haynes:

It keeps it exciting and interesting, doesn't it? Exactly. And meta you and I met at the International Hotel Technology Forum 2022, just early this year. Will you be attending again next year?


Mehdi Soua:

Normally yes, it is in Vienna, I think


Ryan Haynes:

It is. It is in Vienna. And I'm also going to be chairing again that event. So, I look forward to catching up with you in person there maybe even sooner. But Mehdi, thank you ever so much for giving your insight today on how you're using RPA at Lou Hotels. Thank you. And Stephen, thanks ever so much also for giving that insight into how hotels are using RPA.


Stephen Burke:

Thanks Ryan. And thanks Mehdi.


Ryan Haynes:

So check out all the other episodes as we explore the new technologies that hotels are utilizing and transforming hotels through digitalization. You can check that out on Travel market.Life or followers on LinkedIn, where you get all the latest episodes and content that we are sharing as specialists in travel and hospitality technology. I'm your host, Ryan Haynes. Thanks for listening.

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