amadria park croatia1

The CTO at Amadria Park, a 135-acre beach resort and hotel complex about 70km west and north of Split along the Dalmatian coast next to the historic city of Sibenik, is only partly joking when he quips that "the WiFi here is more critical even than the electricity, and I think the majority of the population is now more likely to know where their smartphone is than their wallet".

Zrinko Badanjak, Chief Technology Officer for the family-owned hospitality company Ugo Group which includes in its portfolio hotels in Opatija and Croatian capital Zagreb, is jointly hosting Aruba's Atmosphere conference for the networking provider's channel partners and customers.

Itself a customer of the HPE-owned company, Badanjak's team has rolled out a WiFi network covering every area of the site from the hotel lobby, rooms, new conference centre and toilets through to the pool areas, beach, and even kissing the shallowest depths of the Adriatic Sea - and for the conference they had more than a thousand power users whose connectivity demands needed satisfying.

The project has underpinned the most recent transformation at Amadria Park, a site familiar with change. It once housed Croatian refugees during the wars which characterised the break up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. It is still Croatian-owned under the Ugo Group as international investment and development has come into the region.

The CTO's starting point stems from the guest experience and naturally feedback on crowdsourced review sites - where he says having robust free internet connectivity is now as expected as hot water. Similarly, to develop its B2B business and new conference centre it would be unthinkable to provide anything other than seamless connectivity.

Guest experience

"It's difficult or impossible to quantify the intrinsic value of having excellent WiFi," he says. "We're giving maximum speeds; whatever bandwidth we have we want to give it to our guests - up to 200MB upload and download.

"It is more critical even than the electricity today - especially for the generation aged 25 and under. You cannot and should not monetise that. What you monetise is the guest experiences.

"In the hotel industry, the core business is the guest experience - it's not the technology side. The technology needs to be silent and hidden. People just want it to work, nobody needs to know what is underneath it."

But to secure the buy-in from the highest level for the project, Badanjak and his team needed a "real life proof of concept" which they installed in May 2015 at the resort's En Vogue beach club - a 1,600-person capacity poolside party Shangri-La for hip holidaymakers sharing their experiences on social media platforms with their acquaintances and followers.

Following a successful three-month trial, Badanjak said that it was a "no-brainer for management to give us green light", and they have subsequently been delighted with the results.

Scalability

The CTO said that they were able to build out the capability quite rapidly, and that the organisation was now on a learning curve of developing innovations to leverage their new platform.

"The possibilities are limitless, and every month we learn about new capabilities and how we can incorporate them to bring better a experience for our guests," he said.

Internally it has brought "peace and calm", with marketing and sales teams cited in particular as being able to use new tools to create efficiencies and drive revenue to the organisation.

Badanjak said that his current challenge is scalability - making sure all of the hospitality organisation's sites have equal capabilities. The organisation believes Amadria Park is ahead of its local competition, and with the 135-acre site covered they are in the process of rolling out the networking at other venues. In the winter they will be reconstructing a site in Opatija and the CTO says all the pieces are in place to replicate their routine.

Voice recognition

The CTO is excited about future technology innovations, and in particular sees massive potential across industries, and indeed in hospitality, in voice recognition and voice control technologies.

"I think definitely in the next 20 years where we've used PCs, laptops and keyboards, it's all going to be through voice control and voice recognition," he said, while joking about a 91-year-old relative who still does some legal work on a typewriter with carbon paper.

"I see it as beneficial for employees, it's going to be easier for them to have more time with the guests, improving that experience rather than being away from the guest in back-office operations."

Partnership

Badanjak draws a parallel between happy guests recommending Amadria Park resorts to their friends and family, with the organisation's close relationship with Aruba. And this stems from organisations being passionate about their own offerings and what they can do for their customers.

"When somebody has a great experience, they talk about it with their friends and family," he said. "Aruba is passionate of their product and we on the other side are a family-owned company and we also try to be passionate in all the things we want to deliver to our guests, to our customers.

"When you find two companies that are passionate about their products, then it's a long-term relationship where both sides are content. And both sides live for their customer like it is with us and Aruba."