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STB to draw up tech road map to make hotels 'smarter'


FACING changing consumer demands and technological disruption in the sector, the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) has announced a plan to identify technology that hotels can adopt, such as facial recognition at check-in and the use of e-payment wallets.

Work on this road map to help hotels become "smarter" will begin late next year.

It will serve as a common framework for hotel owners and operators to embark on technological transformation, said the tourism board in a statement on Thursday.

Called the Smart Hotel Technology Roadmap, it will be charted by STB and the Hotel Innovation Committee, led by the Singapore Hotel Association (SHA).

SHA president Albert Teo said: "The hotel industry must continue to innovate and transform itself to keep up with emerging trends in businesses and technologies, as well as consumers' changing preferences."

A key component of the road map will be the Smart Hotel Core Technology listing, which is a register of solutions providers that can help hotels in their transformation.

Some innovations that STB hopes more hotels can adopt were showcased at an annual conference organised by STB on Thursday; on show, for example, was an egg machine that can make omelettes.

Other technology on display at the event at the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre included chatbot software to facilitate guest interaction, a luggage-tracking system and delivery robots.

The tourism board also gave an update on the Hotel Industry Transformation Map, which outlines strategies to enable hotels to adopt technology and address the manpower crunch, among other goals. This was launched in December 2016 as one among 23 industry transformation maps under the Industry Transformation Programme unveiled by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat during Budget 2016.

One highlight of the plan so far is the Hotel Innovation Challenge held in May this year; this aimed to crowd-source innovative solutions to raise productivity and enhance customer experience.

The challenge yielded more than 15 awarded solutions, with more than 30 participating hotels agreeing to pilot these solutions in areas such as artificial intelligence and robotics.

Another initiative was the three-year Hotel Careers Campaign in July to raise awareness of the range of jobs and careers in the sector.

STB chief executive Lionel Yeo said: "We strongly encourage hotels to participate in the Hotel Industry Transformation Map's initiatives and to push ahead together with us on this journey of transformation to meet guests' evolving needs in an era of change and disruption."

STB will also work with a hotel operator at the group level for the first time in this way, through a partnership with Far East Hospitality Management in a four-year commitment to implement a programme across the entire hotel group.

The plan will cover three new properties slated to open in Sentosa in 2019.

Some of the ideas being explored with the operator include the use of smart technology and artificial intelligence in hotel operations, self-check-in processes and an in-house talent grooming programme.