The multi-million pound project, in partnership with IT services business SCC, will take place over a five-year period.
The long-term goal of the investment is to enhance the guest experience through the introduction of location-based technology.
Fibre optic wifi will be installed across all hotels, providing guests with unlimited downloads and helping to meet conference demand.
Part of the investment will involve outsourcing the hotels' internal IT helpdesks to SCC. The Opera property management system, which checks guests in and out, will be moved to the MICROS data centre in Frankfurt.
Macdonald Hotels & Resorts IT director Stuart Garrick told BigHospitality: “[Outsourcing] reduces headcount but the primary reason is performance – we are able to offer a quicker turnaround time for the staff at reception who need to deal with a customer. If there’s an issue in a room with a piece of technology that a member of staff needs to fix then that service is there to help the internal colleagues.”
As part of the digital development the hotel group is looking to introduce ‘queue busting’ self check in technology at city centre locations from May 2015.
Plans for a hotel app, which will alert guests to the availability of spa treatments and restaurant tables on property, are also in development.
Limits to technology
Despite the trend for hotels becoming increasingly technology based, Garrick is doubtful that hotels will ever become entirely digital.
He said: “There’ll always be the guests that want that interactive, personal experience. From my perspective there will always be the need for staff, but ideally I’d like the staff to look after the customers’ needs rather than processing routine stuff.
“Personally, when I’m travelling on business I quite like to just be anonymous, when I get to a room I’d like that to be automated, I’d like to get in to my room and order my food in an automated fashion.
“In some ways it’s not too dissimilar to a lot of airlines; it’s on the individual to process a lot of mundane information while the staff is there to look after any outsourced needs.”
Macdonald Hotels digital investment comes after its £2m restaurant refurbishment in 2014.
The investment follows a reported continuation of improvement in the group’s trading performance and financial position, with group turnover up 5 per cent to £145.5m for the year ended 27 March 2014.