Meet the owners: Olivia Byrne of Eccleston Square Hotel, London, UK

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Eccleston Square Hotel's company director, Olivia Byrne, has something to celebrate this month. She is celebrating the hotel's one year anniversary since its opening in August of 2011, following a £6.5 million renovation. Proclaimed as Europe's most high-tech hotel, the 39-room adults-only boutique hotel, situated in one of Belgravia's most elegant squares, offers a technological edge that is unique to London's boutique hotel scene.

Following a four-year search, Olivia's family bought the property in 2010, which at the time was under another ownership operating as a budget hotel. The one year renovation period transformed the hotel with the aim of providing maximum room comfort for guests, including 3D Panasonic TVs, iPads and the 'world's best beds' by Swedish manufacturer Hästens. The hotel also has a restaurant - Bistrot on the Square - serving authentic, high-quality and affordable French cuisine.

How did the idea of becoming a 'high-tech hotel' come about?

Competition in London is very intense, so it was important for us to find a niche. We had to ask ourselves the question 'what do modern travellers want that our competitors do the least?' The idea of high-tech wasn't conceived straight away. It was more of an evolution that started with wanting to provide our guests with the best sleeping experience. Then the idea of providing the best visual experience followed. The concept of providing a technologically-enhanced guest room then fell naturally into place.

What has been your most popular in-room technology feature?

Our in-room iPad is very popular as there is every possible conceivable function on it, providing the guest with control, convenience and real-time customised content. Using ICE technology, we also have our own-branded iPad app , which acts as an effective concierge tool. As it's integrated with our PMS system, no data re-entry is required. Digitised content saves us money in printing, and most importantly, we can monitor usage, allowing us to optimise further our service offering.

After six months of opening, Eccleston Square Hotel won the 2011 "In- Room Technology Innovation" award at the European Hospitality Awards. Do you feel under any pressure in keeping up with the pace of technology?

What's important for the guest experience is not necessarily about offering the latest technology, but more how different technologies work in combination with each other. The integration of VDA's Vitrum Glassware collection and its Micromaster room automation solution for example, allows our guests to use simple keypad technology to control all types of functionality within the room. At the same time our staff can automatically set the rooms to dormant mode, or switch-off certain functions like heating/cooling. Not only is it in keeping with the high-level design and luxury throughout the hotel, but the system is also customisable so that it can lower the hotel's consumption and carbon footprint. Implementing systems that are scalable is important for us to initiate technological improvements, which can allow us to continuously increase the quality of service delivery to our guests.
Not every guest will necessarily stay at your hotel because of its technological attributes. So how do you make sure you balance out its other attributes such as location, service and brand in order not to alienate other types of client segments?

We have spent a lot of time and effort in thinking of in-room details such as the bed, the shower, the soundproofing. It's fine if the guests do not want to use the technology. On the other hand, we offer an amazing bed to sleep in and high-end finishes inside the room, to be able to give them as much comfort as possible. Yes, we do position our hotel as being high-tech, but we also place a lot of emphasis on the wellbeing aspect, and offering maximum comfort to our guests is key.
A Member of Design Hotels

Nathalie Salas is a writer for Perfect Boutique Hotel, a website dedicated to readers who have a passion for boutique and lifestyle hotels. She is a also a freelance consultant specialising in hospitality and tourism, helping small businesses improve their marketing and branding on an international level. Nathalie is British and lives in Asolo, Italy.

Follow her on Twitter: @perfectboutique



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