Start-up provides hotels with customised phones for guests

Tech April 09, 2017 08:29

By ASINA PORNWASIN
THE NATION

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PORTIER TECHNOLOGIES, a new tech start-up focused on the hospitality sector, has brought its interesting business model to Bangkok.

Deniz Tekerek, co-founder of the company, said Portier Technologies was a provider of mobile-device services for guests in luxury hotels. 

The service was launched after its founders observed that every hotel has a different mobile application, which means if you stay in five hotels you have to download five apps on to your phone. On top of that, when tourists come to Thailand, the big issue is that they need a local SIM card or have to pay high roaming fees. 

The company solves these issues by placing a customised mobile phone in the hotel room that is available for guests to use once they arrive. The phone is already equipped with useful information, including the hotel's services. 

The phone is for guests to use as they want. They can connect to the hotel with it while travelling around Bangkok. They can use the city guide and can also call the concierge at the hotel if they get lost. 

"Our development team in Europe do the customisation," Tekerek said. "The hotel provides us all the information from the hotel's side such as on spas and restaurants. Guests can access everything that the hotel has and the city has." 

The company has a team of editors in Bangkok to write up content, which they update every day. 

"The way we designed the app is to be like a newspaper. We call it 'radar', which is updated every day. The idea is that the team comes up with ideas every morning on the best things to do on that day and in the next five days. If guests come to Bangkok and stay for a couple of days of a week, they will know exactly what they need to do," Tekerek said.

To use the system, the hotels have to log on to it. The hotel can send messages to its guests, for example to alert them that there is a protest in some part of the city so do they should stay away, or advise them that a taxi is waiting for them, or inform them of a discount at the hotel's spa.

The hotel can provide these services for a single guest, a single room, a selected guest, or a group of guests - it is up to the hotel. The guest does not need to do anything - just pick up the device and use it.

Guests will be happy since they do no need to download anything, pay roaming charges, or buy a local SIM card. This is free for the guests, who can also use the device as a Wi-Fi hot spot to connect their own phones to the Internet. 

Everything is available including a fourth-generation connection and local phone calling, so they do not spend any money for basic items. They can also make international phone calls, but charges apply.

"For us the biggest role is the editorial [service]. That is the most important thing for us because we think that we present Bangkok in a way that is very unique and [with a] very local feel. You will experience Bangkok like someone from Bangkok," Tekerek said. 

Hotels benefit from using this solution because their guests' satisfaction increases, since hotels depend very strongly now on customers' reviews. This can give the hotel one extra thing that not many of their competitors have. 

It also can help the hotel generate additional income by being able to display all of its services and promotions right on the guest's customised phone.

The Siam Hotel is Portier Technologies' first customer in Bangkok. The 39-room hotel started using the system late last year. It began generating additional income only three days after implementing the service, such as by attracting guests to its spa or to use room service. 

Another benefit is cost saving. Printing can cost hotels a lot, but with this solution, they can cut their printing costs by 80 per cent, the firm says. Every time the hotel makes a menu change, for example, it has to print a new menu for every room, but with this system, it can make a menu change in only minutes without needing to print it out.

The cost of the solution varies. In Bangkok the firm charges between US$30 and $40 (Bt1,000-Bt1,385) per month, depending on the hotel's size. "They pay a licence fee monthly without an initial or set-up cost, all things included. No additional cost will be charged," Tekerek said.

In three months it expects to implement the system in a total of 1,000 rooms in Thailand. It aims to have 3,000 rooms in Bangkok by the end of this year and targets 15,000 rooms within 30 months. It also plans to start offering the service in Chiang Mai in June or July, where it expects to implement it in 500 rooms before the end of the year.

Portier Technologies rolled out the business in two cities at the same time, Barcelona and Bangkok. The company has a dedicated team to take care of each market. It has set up company representatives in both Spain and Thailand. In Spain, it plans to be serving Madrid as well as Barcelona before the end of the year. In Barcelona, the Claris Hotel implemented the system early this year. The company plans to have 2,000 to 3,000 rooms in that city by the end of this year, and between 1,500 and 2,000 rooms in Madrid.

Why Spain and Thailand? The main criteria included a lot of international tourist arrivals. Spain last year saw strong growth in tourism. Barcelona alone welcomed 30 per cent more tourists than in 2015. The two Spanish cities strongly focus on culture, so there is a lot of to cover by Portier's editors. 

"Every time we choose the cities, the cities must be interesting for editors," Tekerek said.

Next might be New York, Los Angeles, or Hong Kong. He said the company wanted to be operating in a total of around seven cities by the end of the year. 

He thinks the Southeast Asia region is very interesting, and his company is looking at Laos' Luang Prabang and Vientiane, Cambodia's Siem Reap, and Myanmar. It also plans to step into Indonesia's Bali. 

"We want to use the company we set up in Thailand to oversee the whole region. We want to create the largest team in Bangkok as the centre for the SEA region," Tekerek said.

On the technical side, the company tries to keep its system simple, using technologies that hotels can adopt very quickly. 

The company's revenue stream comes from its hotel clients. He said advertising was not the right solution as it could conflict with the hotel's own advertising, and could reduce the quality of the app's content. 

"I do not think advertising is the long-term marketing [solution] for this kind of business. We do not work with brands for now," he said. 

The company is planning to introduce different products for hotels. 

"This is the initial product for us. We are looking at the technologies that will enhance the hotel experience. So we want to work closely with the hotels at least for the next two to three years," Tekerek said.

Portier Technologies Corpora-tion has raised some investment in seed rounds from Silicon Valley; a company called Plug and Play is the lead investor. 

Portier continues to raise more funding. It is working with Plug and Play in China to introduce its product in that country. "Everybody wants to become a unicorn start-up. I am confident, and it is possible, that we have the ability to become a unicorn. 

"But the very important [thing] for me and for the co-founders is that we want to get there on real terms. We want to be a company that generates interest and income [by] doing the right thing for customers. We want to be a respected company from our customers' point of view," Tekerek said.