The Serengeti Plains in Tanzania are an eight-hour drive from the nearest city and fiber internet connection, but you can always find WiFi at the Meliá Hotels’ Serengeti Lodge to post pictures of the sunrise right from your room.
Meliá Hotels International, based in Mallorca, Spain, operates 374 hotels on four continents. Tomeu Fiol is the IT Director for Meliá Hotels EMEA. He and his 10-person team are the masterminds behind WiFi and all other technology at 85 hotels across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. The Serengeti Lodge is the latest jewel in their crown.
Technology plays an important role in the Meliá hotel experience, and in the chain’s growth. The staff’s point-of-sale terminals and computers for check-in are essential, and guests have come to expect great connectivity during their stay too.
”A hotel without good, free WiFi will lose business,“ says Tomeu. ”And if they don’t have a proper webpage and app for handling direct reservations, you are not able to reduce the commission you pay per reservation. Well-set-up IT saves money and helps grow the business by providing a better guest experience from reservation through their stay.“
For instance, the TVs in Meliá rooms have shows, movies, and services; digital signs around the hotels advertise events; their website promotes the MeliáRewards program. They’re even working on special apps and features, like an in-room tablet to control blinds, lights, and A/C.
Tomeu’s team is responsible for maintaining the systems in their 85 EMEA hotels, responding to one-off requests from their staffs, and opening five to seven new hotels every year across EMEA with the proper technology. The catch? They do it remotely, because 95% of Meliá hotels don’t have an IT manager on site.
Tomeu’s team works remotely from London, Dusseldorf, Munich, Madrid, Dubai, Paris, Tenerife, and Mallorca, and they travel to hotels around the world. Their main challenge, with all that distance and movement, is to stay coordinated and aware of what individual team members are working on, as well as the status of open tasks.
“Whether we’re setting up IT infrastructure for new hotels or keeping the systems up and running at our 85+ hotels across Europe, with Asana our team knows in real time what’s happening and what needs to be done.”
Most of their projects are very complex. Take, for example, the opening of a new hotel. This takes one and a half years of remote IT design work and culminates in an intense four- to five-week installation at the hotel site, during which 80% of the tasks are actually completed. When the Serengeti Lodge opened, they needed to fly and drive IT equipment to the distant site, set up a satellite internet connection (because they didn’t have their usual fiber access), consider energy consumption and the availability of solar power, and set up a training program for the local hotel staff.
”It’s a very complex type of project due to the location, country, and the number of suppliers and team members we need to take into account,“ says Tomeu.
Tomeu and his team were using MS Excel and MS Project to track tasks, and they’d print out reports on paper. But that meant they couldn’t always see the latest project status. So they transitioned all projects to Asana, where they now assign responsibilities, track progress, and get instant updates on completed tasks.
”I love taking a ‘divide and conquer’ mindset to get things done. Asana helps us assign every task on every project to a team member so we can tackle it together,“ says Tomeu. ”It’s a really collaborative tool that’s fantastic for teams that are not in the same office. We used to use Microsoft Project, and the main difference is that Asana is in real-time, offers mobile, and is user friendly.“
Tomeu’s team now has a templated process in Asana for new hotel openings. Every hotel is custom, so they adjust the template as they go.
The template has three sections corresponding to the three phases of opening a new hotel:
Teammates complete tasks and update their status remotely. ”With Asana, all our team members know exactly what they need to do at any moment of the project,“ says Tomeu. ”We have clarity on all the processes we need to execute on to design, prepare, and open a hotel.“
Another complicated issue is the growing number of requests Tomeu’s team receives from staff at the 85 open hotels, such as restarting the server or WiFi. Asana helps here too. ”We take requests through various channels, like email, phone calls, and on-site feedback, and then we put them into Asana to make sure they get done,“ says Tomeu.
Requests go into an Asana project called ”Demands“ and are organized in different sections based on their status: Open, Analysis, Execution, or Closed.
”It’s easy to create tags and custom fields,“ says Tomeu, and these hold information about each request:
Using Asana as a control center for incoming requests helps the team stay efficient and gives them a big-picture view of the status of an issue and who’s responsible for resolving it.
Tomeu’s IT team supported the opening of 6 beautiful new hotels in 2017 and managed rollouts of new systems at 85 hotels in EMEA. The chain is growing. ”We are making great progress and expanding as a hospitality company,“ says Tomeu. Meliá has seen a company-wide revenue increase and an increase in MeliáRewards program members through their systems. ”We are proud to be part of it and to contribute to its growth.“
And don’t forget: the Serengeti Lodge is open for reservations.
Using Asana wall-to-wall has been crucial in helping Hack Reactor scale. As Hack Reactor CEO Tony Phillips puts it, ”We’ve cut our operations costs in half because we’re able to execute more efficiently with the processes we’ve set up in Asana.“ And as costs go down, the quality class experience—and the post graduation experience— goes up. Graduates from Hack Reactor are hired at a 98% rate.