“Technology must always serve hospitality”

Chen Arets has ‘hospitality’ in his DNA. He is also a tech enthusiast. It is no surprise that these qualities meet in his position as Chief Operating Officer at Freetime Hospitality, which has been a pioneer in hotel technology for decades. Nor is it surprising that he is constantly looking for the balance between state of the art tech applications and old-fashioned hospitality. For according to him, this balance will also determine the success of the hotel owner in the future. “The hotel owners of the future must provide technical solutions for the benefit of hospitality.”

Chen Aret’s career has been dominated by hospitality from the start. After studying Tourism & Leisure Management, he worked for various hotel chains in the Netherlands and abroad. In between, he took a short trip to the ICT sector, but the hotel industry continued to attract. “Over the course of my career, I have gained a lot of experience in hotel technology and have seen the emergence of Property Management Systems (PMS) up close,” he recalls. To immediately explain his personal vision of hotel technology. “Nice to see how automation can also make a huge contribution to the hotel industry; whether it is a modest, local hotel or a hotel chain. But I quickly realized that automation is not always the best solution. At least not if, as we fortunately still see in many Dutch hotels, you want a personal approach to the guests. It is tempting to use all possible technical solutions, but one must know if the guest also benefits from it. The technology must always benefit the hospitality, otherwise you might as well start a capsule hotel based on the Japanese model. ”

Tailor-made solutions

Arets’ career in the hotel industry almost followed the growth of Freetime Hospitality. He started working there in 2018, and four years later the current COO describes ‘his’ organization as a ‘local hero’; pioneering in hotel technology for over thirty years, but still firmly rooted in the Dutch hospitality industry. There, but also in the events sector and at various Dutch educational institutions, the Property Management System VIPS in the 1980s and the web-based system VIPS CloudPMS (suitable for all types of hotels; from large to small and with or without meeting facilities) launched by Arets and colleagues a well-known name. “The Netherlands has always been progressive in terms of technology. We are happy to work with other local partners in areas such as apps, channel managers and accounting and cash register systems. This gives us a solid foundation in the Netherlands.”
What makes the benefits of Freetime hospitality ‘different’ is that almost all employees – around forty in all – have worked in hotels or in a few cases still do. “So I’m not the only one who has hospitality in their DNA,” laughs Arets. “If you want to offer technical solutions, you have to know what is going on in a hotel. And you must realize that a guest has different requirements for a hotel in Veluwe than for a hotel in the big city. We can use that knowledge and experience to support other hospitality professionals with tailor-made solutions. Not necessarily a complex, comprehensive system, but a system tailored to the hotel that really eases the burden and always puts the guest first. ”

Look up

With the current technology, it is possible to offer the guest a fantastic stay without them – or the hotel owner himself – going through all sorts of complicated technical procedures. Arets and colleagues looked up to see the first evidence in the aviation industry. “A flight is increasingly becoming a personal experience. Apart from the route, the traveler himself can compose almost his entire journey; from the choice of place and meal to the drink he or she would like at a time of his or her choice. This is also possible with current technology, and we are seeing this more and more in the hotel industry. The guest can personalize – sometimes even from the palm of his hand; all the way down to bedding choices. These are wonderful developments, but applying all these technical possibilities should never become an end in itself. “

The heart of the hotel

The technical aspects of each personal ‘guest trip’ can be integrated into a PMS, but Arets stresses that it remains important for today’s hotel owners to realize what ‘hospitality’ means. Arets: “Sales, check-in, channel management, OBE, MICE … Data is the key, and any PMS generally does the same. You can make such a system as comprehensive as you want, but you should never forget to integrate manual processes and personal contact. Once you know and understand the hotel’s processes, you can truly make PMS the heart of the hotel. ”

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