Urban Living Webinar: Developers Changing the Game with Technology

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This week’s webinar focused on how developers in the serviced apartment, student accommodation and buy to let spheres are using technology to improve their offerings and increase revenues for businesses.

Joining Sell in the discussion were:

  • Murtaza Bukhari, General Manager, Strategic Partnerships, Samsung
  • Fred Lerche-Lerchenborg, CEO, Lavanda
  • Gina McMorran, Managing Director, Sales & Marketing - Europe, CA Management Services
  • Brian Welsh, CEO, Nido Student

Sell kicked off the discussion by asking a double barreled question, inquiring how technology has changed the experience for both customers and operators.

Speaking to the operator experience, McMorran said: “I think the first place to look is internally- our staff, our training, to see how we can act more efficiently. One of the ways we do that is spending a lot of time and money on our analytics suite; we have very comprehensive detailed reports that allow us to know how an asset is performing.”

Welsh added: “With the current pandemic we’re living in, we had to lean even further into our technology. We started doing virtual reality, the odd Skype tour for somebody who couldn’t attend the residence, now almost everyone sees a Skype tour.”

“Our 2020 vintage of residences has locks you can open with your mobile phone in case you lose your key card. And we’ve had huge engagements with our virtual events programme.”

Sell followed this up asking how the expected level of tech in a new build has changed in the past, and how will be going forward.

Bukhari responded: “We all talk about IoT (Internet of Things) and that’s playing a massive part within buildings now. We are seeing much more adoption towards IoT from developers and construction organisations.

“There are two facets to it. There is of course a consumer facet to it, as it is an interesting way of interacting with your devices that gives you complete control over your house, but the commercial story is quite different and centres on preventative maintenance.”   

Sell then took note of the preponderance of multi-use developments and asked of how operators can use technology to better transition between these different functions.

Lerche-Lerchenborg replied: “Our toolkit allows that flexible switching between short, medium and long-term depending on the rental income at that specific time, and alleviates certain issues. You may have a team that’s great at long term and meeting with students and events and everything else, but how do they deal with 24/7 desk comms when you have an American family inquiring on a platform at 3 am UK time. We wrap around things like revenue management, 24/7 desk comms, to plug these gaps so the facilitator can bring around these high-yielding use cases.” 

Responding to a question about how technology can help monitor staff and guest wellbeing, Bukhari said: “Technology allows operators to also monitor, and I use that word carefully, the activity of how much a customer’s interaction with a TV, the door, etc. It allows you to track, wellbeing wise, whether or not the person is OK, if they are isolating themselves when they don’t need to be, which allows you to then reach out to those people.

“That said a human aspect is still needed. Technology can help, but it cannot replace human interaction.” 

Sell then asked how important energy saving technology was to student housing organisations at the moment.

McMorran said: “There’s only one way we’re going to be able to get carbon emissions under control, and that’s if we make people more aware of their consumption. In student accommodation buildings, rooms aren’t individually metered, which we are trying to implement so we can create fair usage policies and create positive gamification strategies around consumption.”

Welsh added: “I think the win is that we’ve got access to a load of young people who want to be sustainable, and we want to be super sustainable. What we’re trying to do is nudge people along the journey through education and providing sustainable amenities.”

Sell concluded the video asking the various panellists what the two most profound ways they believed technology would impact their sectors over the next five years.   

To watch a full video, click here.  

Next week’s webinar, guest hosted by Boutique Hotel News Reporter Eloise Hanson, will ask whether or not OTAs will be able to bounce back from the pandemic. Providing their opinions will be:  

  • Ryan Haynes, Director, Haynes MarComs
  • Michael McCartan, Principal, mccartan.tech
  • Na'im Anis Payman, Chief revolutionary, Zeevou
  • Michael De Jongh, CCO, Avvio.com

To register, click the link here.

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