Japanese tech start-up offers multilingual solutions for hotels

With the pandemic heightening demand for tech-driven guest experiences, the hospitality industry has been forced to accelerate digital adoption to drive recovery. From smart room keys to AI-powered chatbot services, investments made by hoteliers into building an automated ecosystem will go a long way to future-proofing businesses.

Hotels in Japan, for instance, have been leveraging local start-up Kotozna’s tech solutions to boost their operational efficiency and enhance customer experience.

Goto: Multilingual solutions will help hotels to increase revenue from overseas travellers

The company’s SaaS solutions, Kotozna Live Chat and Kotozna In-room, are live chat and digital in-room services equipped with high-level multilingual translation features, enabling hotels to deliver high-touch customer service to their guests.

The former is a live chat widget that can be embedded in the hotel’s website, allowing visitors to start a live chat with customer assistance ahead of their trip or before making a purchasing decision.

The latter, which functions as a digital in-room concierge in the form of a QR code found in the guest’s hotel room, helps gather in-room requests in a timely and systematic fashion.

Language barriers are removed as chats are automatically translated at an accuracy rate of 80-90 per cent, higher than those of mainstream translation engines, according to Genri Goto, founder and CEO of Kotozna, Inc.

Such real-time multilingual solutions will play a more vital role in supporting hotels in the recovery phase as there will be a rise in the number of travellers from non-English speaking countries, projected Goto.

“After Covid-19, we are optimistic that international travel will come back, and travel figures may potentially transcend pre-pandemic levels. More non-English speakers will travel the world. Language barriers should be eliminated in the hospitality sector to increase revenues from overseas travellers,” he said.

Goto also highlighted how the solutions will help hotels cope with the manpower crunch. “During the pandemic, hotels were forced to cut a sizeable proportion of their staff, and rehiring will not be an easy task,” he said. “Hence, there is a need for hotels to adopt solutions such as ours, which enables hotels to have smooth and mostly automated operations despite having fewer staff on the ground.”

More than 200 hotels in Japan are currently using Kotozna In-room, which helps hotels to save costs as “they no longer need to hire multilingual staff” and also to shorten queues in their lobbies, thus reducing waiting times for guests, said Goto.

After establishing a foothold in Japan, the Tokyo-headquartered company is making advances this year into the South-east Asian market using Singapore as a gateway. Next, it is targeting hotels in Hawaii and Los Angeles.

As part of its regional expansion plan, Kotozna recently joined the fourth cohort of the Singapore Tourism Accelerator (STA) programme, an initiative by the Singapore Tourism Board to support tech companies to develop industry solutions that drive innovation in the tourism sector.

Under the programme, Kotozna partnered with Marina Bay Sands (MBS) to pilot a multilingual live chat product.

The companies are currently in the pilot phase of that initiative, due to complete by the end of March. Presently, Kotozna’s multilingual live chat widget is on the Japanese site pages of MBS, ready to receive enquiries from Japanese guests.

“MBS was impressed with our translation accuracy, and this was the main reason that they decided to do a pilot with us,” shared Goto.

Speaking of his company’s involvement in the STA programme, Goto said: “As a start-up that aspires to expand our business beyond Japan, Singapore is a strategic and conducive place for it.

“Conducting a pilot in Singapore with the support of the Singapore Tourism Board allows us to design and test our solution based on actual market needs and conditions. The programme has also given us valuable connections in Singapore’s tourism and business landscape.”

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