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Annual Technology Rock Stars Riko van Santen Kempinski Hotels

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March 16, 2023
Technology Leaders
Fran Worrall

2023 Technology Rock Stars:

Riko van Santen is chief information officer at Kempinski Hotels, a Geneva-based luxuryhotel management company that operates 82 five-star hotels and residences in more than 35 countries. He architects the strategic direction of the company’s technology and data systems and oversees information technology on a global level, including distribution, guest intelligence and digital platforms. He joined Kempinski in 2012 as vice president of digital strategy and distribution after serving in management positions at Louvre Hotels Group, Golden Tulip Hotels, NH Hotels and Pegasus Solutions. He sits on the advisory board of the global non-profit organization Hospitality Technology Next Generation (HTNG).

Admittedly always looking for the next big thing, van Santen says he is most interested in using technology to drive the hotel business. One of his earliest initiatives at Kempinski was to centralize its systems and harness guest data. “We were using legacy solutions in some areas, where data was limited and segregated,” he said. “We needed modern technology and a single golden record that touched on all points along the guest journey.”

He and his team successfully upgraded the distribution system, launched the brand’s first responsive website and brand app, and conceptualized a web-based business and guest intelligence solution with integrated online reputation and guest feedback indexing. “It was exciting to be a part of these projects,” he said. “Each one helped us achieve greater market growth.”

He relies on supplier partnerships to achieve his goals. “I have a great team – the specialists and experts – but we’re not a tech company, so we depend on strategic partnerships,” van Santen explained. He has maintained long-term relationships with Oracle and Sabre as well as with Concilio Labs, a boutique digital agency that was instrumental in the deployment of Kempinski’s guest intelligence platform, website and employee app.
The latter was recently rolled out by van Santen and his team to more than 20,000 staff members world-wide. The solution, which operates on smartphone technology, supplements the company’s cloud-based email collaboration tool. “Now, everyone is connected, from front desk staff to housekeeping teams,” he said. Staff can access checklists, reports and forms and get information about everything from employee benefits to company announcements. The app also has a chat function, which has enhanced staff teamwork across geographical regions.
The app even includes a digital business card. "The app turns into a QR code, and up pops the business card. From a human resources perspective, this solution has been an enormous success,” he concluded. “It has improved company-wide communication, and employees are very excited about it.”


  • Family: Married with two sons.
  • Hobbies: Football (soccer for Americans) and riding and racing motorcycles.
  • Go-To Periodical or Website: BBC News, Wired.com and Dutch football apps.
  • Book: The Facebook Effect by David Kirkpatrick. “I enjoy reading about the inner workings of technology companies.”
  • Music: 80s and 90s rock. “I particularly like ACDC, Guns N’ Roses and Dire Straits.
  • Travel Destination: Japan. “I was born there, and it’s like a second home to me.”
  • Advice to Young People: “Be open-minded, and don’t worry that the first job you choose is the one you’ll have to stay in forever. Career paths open in many ways.”
  • Dinner With: "My father, who passed away 16 years ago. I’d like to have more time with him, especially now that I’m a dad and my children are growing older. I would love to get his advice.”



“Coming out of the pandemic, there’s a huge challenge around staffing,” HE SAID. "RPA will take some of the mundane tasks away from employees so they can focus on providing quality service, especially in the luxury niche.”

THERE WILL BE MORE INTEGRATION BETWEEN SYSTEMS. “The big tech companies are already moving toward interoperable plug-and-play solutions," VAN SANTEN SAID. "We’ll still have different vendors, but there will be an ability to connect and collaborate with the best in class.”

WEB 3.0 IS COMING. “Web 3.0, in which people operate on decentralized and quasi-anonymous platforms and use blockchain-based technologies, is not going away,” HE SAID, NOTING THAT AS THE TECHNOLOGY PROGRESSES THE PRICE WILL DROP. "It will provide tremendous opportunities for the hospitality sector. Blockchain is great for engaging loyalty, and NFTs will be used in interesting ways.”

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