The rise of smarts hotels
Some of the Middle East’s top IT hospitality decision-makers joined CNME and experts from Alcatel Lucent Enterprise at Emirates Towers for an engaging discussion on the future of technology in hotels.
Of all the industries that now necessitate excellent IT and Internet services, hospitality arguably has the most demanding customers. Hotel guests have come to expect a level of service in the quality of IT that is becoming very difficult for hotels to match. As the saying goes in the hospitality industry “When things are fine, guests say nothing, but when there is a problem, you will definitely know.”
A selection of some of the Middle East’s top hospitality industry CIOs joined representatives from Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise and CNME for a roundtable discussion on the ‘rise of Smart hotels’. One of the top topics of the day was the prospect of IT departments delivering a converged network in order to provide enhanced services for the guests. The discussion was split into two parts – the operations side of IT in hospitality, and the importance of the guest experience.
Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise’s regional director for travel, hospitality and leisure Xavier Mongin set the tone of the discussion by highlighting some stats regarding IT consumption in hotels today. “Around 75 percent of guests travel with two mobile devices, and 40 percent go with three or more,” he said. “Meanwhile, 32 percent of travelers today are part of Generation Y, but this number will hit 50 percent by 2025.”
Joseph Fayad, IT Director, Time Hotels Management, said that converged solutions had fantastic potential, swerve a range of challenges to be truly successful. “It is important that we consider these options property by property, and project by project,” he said. “In many cases, IT decision-makers try to combine things under one umbrella, but it all depends on systems and brands.”
Roy Verrips, Director of IT, Hyatt Hotels Dubai, said that pricing structures were his main concern with potential solutions. “We are not keen on paying upfront costs,” he said. “There is no longer the option of providers managing the solution and taking a share of the revenue – now we have to build IT costs into the price of our rooms.” Verrips went on to underline his concerns around short, demanding technology lifecycles that necessitate frequent updates. “If I have to reinvest every two to three years, my spending doesn’t look like CAPEX to key stakeholders,” he said. The bigger challenge, however, comes in having to spend $1 million more on applications and switches, then needing to ask for further investment dollars five years down the line.”
The discussion moved on to the importance of the guest experience with technology in hotels, and Ajay Rathi, Director of IT, Meraas Holding, highlighted an important issue that could require converged IT services. “Information has to flow everywhere; the customer should only have to ask once and that request should be constantly distributed across hotels and facilities,” he said. “This means that visiting different hotels across the same brand necessitates the reporting of a problem, and a centralized database. There needs to be personalization in the experience.”
Jeroen Wisse, IT Director, Accor Hotel Services Middle East, echoed this sentiment, saying that the importance of recording guest attitudes – and distributing this information across an organization – would be key in driving better service. “You have to catch customer sentiment whenever possible,” he said. A problem is a challenge, and the reaction to it is key.”