Hospitality Industry
4 min read

The Rosewood Hotel Group challenge: IT innovation by EHL

Ian Millar
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As part of the Hospitality Technology Strategy elective, taught to last year students at Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne, senior IT leaders from Rosewood Hotel Group gave a thrilling challenge to students. This elective is taught by Ian Millar, manager of Institute of Business Creativity, Student Business Project (SBP) coach and senior lecturer, who has been with EHL for 20 years.

Before implementing the right tech tools

The speed at which technologies change is something the hospitality industry has had a hard time adjusting to. Sometimes, hoteliers view new technologies as a major cost without considering the benefits of adopting them. The advent of cloud computing, open APIs, artificial intelligence, voice recognition and 5G opens up new possibilities for hotels to function efficiently and provide seamless technology experiences to employees and guests alike.

For a hotel to have the right technology strategy, analysis of the  infrastructure plays a fundamental role before implementing the correct technology tools. A context needs to be provided for both individual properties as well as chained operations and geographic applications of similar technologies.

Learn more about the Student Business Project.

The Rosewood challenge

Students were challenged to find an IT/digital innovation that can move the needle “at scale”, and that could be adopted to every Rosewood hotel. The only constraint of the challenge was that the innovation could not be an “app”. Rosewood’s assignment was to come up with an idea which either enhances guest experiences or operating efficiency and/or margins, creates new lines of business related to its core, and differentiate the chain in the Ultra-Luxury Marketplace.

Mr. Friedman (Former Chief Information Officer) and Mr. Thomas (Senior Corporate Director - Property Technology) shared with the students valuable insights into the technology side of the hospitality industry, as well as the current state of the industry.

Despite only having five weeks to complete this course, students delivered thoughtful and insightful solutions to this challenge. They came up with innovative tech solutions either enhancing guest experience or improving the operating efficiency. They developed tech solutions amplifying interactions with guests and within the staff and extracting benefits from it.

To further immerse students into the reality of the tech industry, several guest speakers shared their knowledge, personal experience and advice with students. Nick Price, CEO at NetSys Technology Limited, former CIO/CTO of Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, discussed the importance of well-identifying competitors, products, and customers to the success of digital reinvention strategy. He also shared his knowledge on how to identify these fundamental elements as well as Self Sovereign Identity, soon to be a ground breaking solution for hospitality.

Phil Le-Brun, Enterprise Strategy Director at Amazon Web Services and former CIO of McDonald’s, addressed digital transformation and stressed the importance of companies recognizing the changes in their environment and being agile to survive. In his presentation, Mr. Le-Brun emphasized the fact that while technology is a critical and exciting enabler, it isn’t enough to make fundamental changes in an organization. A combination of culture, people and technology makes those changes possible.

Andrew Evers, IT Group Manager at Red Carnation, stressed how technology enables the operational people to do their job. He also explained the nuances of his position of providing technology between a London city center hotel, a castle and a safari lodge.

Florian Montag (AEHL 2017), Co-Founder & CEO of Hotelhero, Business Development Manager at Apaleo, presented his experience pursuing an entrepreneurial technological path in hospitality. He also gave insights on how to manage and optimize a digital transformation to enhance the guest experience.

Technology innovation in hotels

Timeo Kettern, Corporate Director of IT at Bierwirth & Kluth Hotel Management, explained the nuance of technology strategy based on the size and the category. He shared his approach to technology from a hotel management company’s perspective.

At the end of  this elective students gained a solid understanding of technology systems and tools that are available to improve hotel operations, reduce costs as well as introduce them to  the technologies that will be expected from the modern traveler. On successful completion of this course, students learned to:

  • develop a broad knowledge of the technologies used in modern hotel operations
  • develop and future-proof a guest facial technology strategy
  • create appropriate business cases for technology adoption to different industries stakeholders
  • evaluate the impact of different technology adoptions into a business.

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Insights of the course from students

“Theory is precious, but an opportunity to apply it in practice is priceless. During the Rosewood challenge, we were privileged to experience both. Meeting with the Rosewood Executives in the first class raised the pressure and gave us a concrete consulting project. I found the Rosewood challenge to be a perfect template to apply what we have learned before.” Svetlana Sokovykh, BOSC6 (last year) student.

“Taking place during the final bachelor semester, the Rosewood challenge was an exciting and unique opportunity to merge knowledge from previous semesters with Hotel-Tech fundamentals from the elective to create a tech-related business case, aiming at creating value for Rosewood Hotel Group. As Rosewoods top tech executives personally challenged our ideas, the feedback was specific, constructive and of great value to the students, bringing a distinctive real-life touch to the exercise.” David Gerner, BOSC6 (last year) student.

“The Rosewood challenge made us realize how exciting it is to develop projects in a professional setting. In particular, it was fascinating to see how technology can be incorporated into a high-touch hotel chain while remaining unobtrusive to guests. These weeks of intensive and time-limited work were an opportunity for us, students, to be exposed to what awaits us in the future.”  Etienne Biedermann, BOSC6 (last year) student.

“It was incredible to work for a company such as Rosewood! This experience was even more rewarding, in terms of self-confidence, when you received excellent compliments on the deliverables, which you achieved with a team you had never worked with before in such a short time. Challenges like this are a fantastic learning opportunity and a perfect example of solving a real-life problem under short time constraints in the work environment.” Constance du Réau, BOSC6 (last year) student.


Insights of the project from Rosewood Hotel Group

“Thank you for including Barry & I in your innovation program. The EHL students were bright, energetic and insightful in their solutioning. The proposed innovations would serve any luxury hotel company well.” Micah Friedman, Former Chief Information Officer (CIO), at Rosewood Hotel Group.

“Thank you to the EHL students for such great projects. It was amazing to see different areas of technology and innovation covered by the teams. I was very impressed with the level of detail which went into the research, ultimately leading the teams to great solutions which could “Move the needle at scale”. I am very excited to see what is in store for these bright leaders of the future in the hospitality technology space ”. Barry Thomas, Senior Corporate Director - Property Technology at Rosewood Hotel Group.

“I would like to thank Micah and Barry for taking the time to provide the challenge for my students, it is great to see industry executives taking time to support the learning experience of students. Also a big congratulations to the students. 5 weeks is a short time to get this done, so kudos to you!” Ian Millar, EHL.

Written by

Manager of the Institute of Business Creativity (IBC) and Senior Lecturer at EHL

Sophie Kern
Written by
Sophie Kern

Academic Assistant in Leadership & Sustainability Management at EHL

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