17 Mar Access control: hotels
The hospitality sector in Dubai is serious about investing in more efficient operations, as tourism rebounds from the pandemic doldrums. We speak to Lee Copland, MD at Maxxess EMEA, to find out how they’re working with Hotel RIU, Dubai, to achieve this with better access control measures.
For the Emirate’s leading hotels, a key strategy is a renewed focus on access management, with front-runners implementing solutions that make it faster and easier for guests to check-in on arrival, and to use their rooms and other facilities throughout their stay, while discretely maintaining the highest levels of security.
There is also a determination in this competitive, fast-developing arena to set new benchmarks for service and efficiency. And the timing of current investments is all-important. Globally, international tourism arrivals were up 60% last year, and are expected to rise a further 30% in 2023 to 1.6bn. In terms of volume, this is less than the pre-pandemic 1.8bn level, but tourism receipts are still expected to reach or exceed the 2019 high of US$1.4trn.
Limiting factors remain, including the ongoing war in Ukraine and the fact that Chinese tourist numbers are expected to be far below the 155m 2019 level. An S&P Global Dubai Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) survey points to some softening sentiment for the upcoming year, as the effects of tighter monetary policy and slower global growth weigh on the sector. But even taking these into account, hotels today are in a much stronger position than many previously feared. People are happy to be exploring again and want to make the most of their time.
We see this particularly strongly in Dubai. The Emirate played host to 11.4 million overnight international visitors during the first 10 months of 2022, up 134% on the previous year, according to government figures. Hotel occupancy through the year rose to 71.5 percent, and revenue per available room was at its highest recorded level. Not surprisingly – and regardless of global headwinds – the Emirate is confident about the coming decade. In December, a new national tourism strategy was announced, with a declared aim of hosting 40 million hotel guests by2031 and pushing tourism’s contribution to GDP up to US$122.5 billion.
So, this is one of the most go-ahead hospitality markets where Maxxess currently operates, with exciting technology applications that reflect the country’s wider ambitions. And we are working with a long list of hotels that are investing in advanced integrated systems and infrastructure. They want to stay ahead of international competitors when it comes to guest experiences, and they want to embed more efficient operations, both back-of-house and front-of-house.
Solutions typically encompass multiple guest doors – rooms and penthouses– and external access for private villas, staff entrances, gatehouses, car parks, and goods-in areas. And integration with leading technologies including ASSAABLOY Hospitality benefits guests with the latest contactless digital key functionality, allowing them to use traditional credentials or personal smartphones to access hotel rooms and safety deposit boxes.
Case study: Hotel RIU, Dubai
Hotels are sometimes linked with the wider developments going on around them. The 750-room all-inclusive Hotel RIU, Dubai, is a case in point. The newest addition to the international RIU Hotels and Resorts family, the hotel is one of the first facilities to open on Dubai Islands in Deira, a landmark development that will cover 17sqkm across five isles. The eco-conscious islands already feature one of the city’s hottest shopping destinations, the Souk Al Marfa, an indoor Arabian bazaar that’s home to over 400 stores and waterfront restaurants – and Maxxess is providing the integrated security and safety backbone across the islands. The hotel, set among upscale beachfront real estate, is at the heart of a busy visitor destination, and that makes efficient, smooth but secure access control is a must-have.
Dubai developer Nakheel wanted a flexible technology that would combine secure access control with unified site management of the entire development. They also needed to ensure that front-and back-of-house hotel operations run smoothly, with a fully integrated solution.
Contractor Telematics, which specialises in major ICT and ELV projects in government and commercial sectors, including landmark hospitality developments, recommended Maxxess eFusion technology to deliver on multiple requirements, including: integration of front-of-house and back-of-house functions; integrated control of all access room management, surveillance, fire detection and building control functions; simple HVAC integration to ensure optimised energy consumption; plus system flexibility, with ease of use for busy staff, and a unified platform enabling a single situational view.
The eFusion solution implemented by Telematics enables this seamless integration of security and building systems, plus front-of-house services. The access control software enables efficient operation of all the hotel’s systems, including video surveillance, fire, intruder and other security, safety and site-specific applications and hardware. Streamlining door access at Hotel RIU, eFusion uses over 20 Mercury door controllers to integrate with ASSA ABLOY Hospitality electronic locks and readers, blending with the location’s aesthetics. This gives guests the option to use traditional RFID key cards or their personal cell phones for access to rooms and safety deposit boxes. Guests using mobile access not only benefit from smoother check-in and greater convenience but also reduced exposure to hygiene risks from touching surfaces.
Key management is also optimised, and guests benefit from more efficient housekeeping. From the eFusion interface operators can see the real-time status of each door, and occupancy status foreach room, so if a guest room door goes off-line, or a battery needs replacing, maintenance is provided more promptly. Five workstations are integrated, with more than 32 back-of-house readers, and a Diester Key Management system, allowing staff to work more efficiently. Integration of Hanwha Wisenet®VMS into eFusion integrates nearly 300cameras to give visibility of the hotel’s interior and external areas including a private beach, five swimming pools, and the Splash Water World Park and slides.
And with this access control platform, building services and environmental systems are also integrated, using the BACnet™ protocol. This allows operators to respond to alerts, and control the heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and lighting according to occupancy levels and building usage. It’s a facility that supports reduced carbon emissions and energy costs, in line with the UAE environment framework regulations, which aim to preserve natural resources through sustainable development, and to improve the UAE’s ranking in global environmental indices. At Hotel RIU, eFusion access control software also handles alarms and notifications to provide a security backbone, driving service efficiency by removing the need for operators to continually switch between systems. For example, whenever an access event occurs, such as a forced door or a door left ajar, eFusion automatically brings up the nearest high-definition camera view, allowing a response with minimal delay.
Through off-the-shelf integration, eFusion also cost-effectively streamlines and connects front-of-house and back-of-house services, allowing staff to be directed from a single, easy-to-use interface. Guest services and housekeeping can be delivered more efficiently as a result.
Looking ahead, as the Dubai Islands projects in Deira continue to roll-out, eFusion’s modular approach will allow new facilities and new tenants to be accommodated. With access control as the foundation, further capabilities and functions can beaded too, thanks to flexible and scalable deployment options that will extend to the entire development. The same flexibility and scalability will be in high demand across the UAE hospitality sector, as hotels rise to the challenge of the new government’s flagship growth strategy. Advanced access control and guest visitor management solutions will be at the forefront of these developments.