MIAMI—When visiting a new destination, most travelers don’t want to do anything besides focus on relaxing, exploring and maybe even learning a thing or two. However, with travel comes new time zones, new currencies and, perhaps, new languages. Miscommunication among travelers and locals is surely something that can get in the way of a smooth transition and relaxing experience, but a boutique Florida property may have a solution.
In Miami’s Art Deco district where cultures are converging on pedestrian-only Española Way, El Paseo Hotel is making the connection between people stronger and clearer than ever. The boutique hotel offers Emilia, a handheld device that verbally translates for guests, breaking language barriers between locals, tourists and employees alike.
“South Beach is an international destination and 30% of our guests are international visitors,” said Luis Soto, general manager of El Paseo Hotel. “In our continuous efforts to improve the guests’ experiences, not only in our hotel, but while visiting our city, we set out to obtain a translation device.”
About the size of a cellphone, Emilia is both convenient for travel and easy to use for any guest, regardless of his or her experience with technology. According to Soto, it takes about two minutes to train employees on how to use the WiFi-enabled device, which then they teach to guests.
Guests select their native language, then choose the language they wish to translate it to; they speak normally into the device and the device then “talks” back in the selected language.
Emilia’s reception has been positive thus far, with guests wanting to purchase Emilia for personal use as well, Soto said.
“Although the hotel team members speak Spanish, Italian, English and Portuguese, it’s a bit disappointing to not be able to communicate fluently in French, Chinese, Russian, German and Japanese,” Soto said. “On any given day, we see hundreds of visitors from all over the world on our unique European street.”
Soto explained that the device is most helpful during the registration process and when the hotel details its policies—and is especially useful when giving the guest vital payment and deposit information. Processes such as these, along with dealing with international credit institutions, leaves very little room for error.
Emilia is also handy when hotels discuss amenities with guests, such as going over WiFi login information, beach club access and food and beverage options, as well as when they provide tourist information like driving directions and sightseeing opportunities.
The device also assists guestroom attendants in replying promptly to guests in real time, such as cleaning times or amenity requests. “Our employees are always eager to exceed our guests’ needs and expectations, so this has become a faithful assistant,” Soto said.
Using technology to enhance the guest experience isn’t anything new for El Paseo Hotel. The property is currently the only Miami hotel to offer “Spectacles,” a technology that lets guests share their experiences via the Snapchat-linked glasses. With the push of a button, guests can take pictures with the tiny camera implanted in the glasses and then share on social media. “We wanted to go the extra mile and really impress our guests,” Soto said.
The hotel also has plans for the future, with technology again leading the way to heighten the guest experience in South Beach. Soto said that the hotel is in the process of researching in-room, voice-activated devices, enabling guests to activate or deactivate devices on command, like turning lights on/off, unlocking doors, setting the room temperature, powering TVs, changing channels, setting wake-up calls, making calls on command, playing music and retrieving messages, etc., Soto explained.
“With new and rapidly changing technology, it takes a big investment to strategically stay current, but travelers’ needs and expectations also change, and guests come to expect easier, faster and more personalized service. We need to stay current and engaged,” Soto said.
Soto acknowledged, however, that it’s the personal touches and interactions that keep guests coming back. He said attentive service remains the standard for El Paseo Hotel, with thoughtful additions that a loyal guest appreciates throughout the length of his or her stay.
“Our service experience starts during the reservations process. It’s not limited to the actual stay. We engage our guests prior to arrival via emails with a welcome letter and concierge services to plan their visit,” Soto said. “During their stay, we’re in continuous contact via text messages or one-on-one; and the engagement doesn’t end there—we follow up with thank you notes and feedback. We also remember special events like birthdays and anniversaries. We build long-term relationships with our guests.”
Emilia is just an extension of that service and the multicultural Miami landscape—and a way to make the El Paseo Hotel experience more seamless. This way, guests can focus on enjoying their time in South Beach and its sights without having to worry about any language constraints, and can even create stronger cultural bonds in the process.
“When we travel, we do it to experience different cultures, learn and listen. We don’t travel just to sightsee and take pictures anymore. We travel to connect with locals and experience various cuisines, music, art, opinions, hobbies, share stories, etc.,” Soto said. “With that in mind, Emilia allows us to break the communication gap by facilitating an easy flow of information, thoughts and opinions. It allows us to connect on a more personal level with international travelers. It allows us to showcase our city, our favorite local spots and share our Latin American culture, which makes Miami like no other destination.” HB