in the 21st Century
|This article is from Hospitality Upgrade magazine. To view more articles covering technology for the hospitality industry please visit the Hospitality Upgrade Web site or to request a free publication please call (678) 802-5303 or e-mail.|
|by Geoff Griswold
No matter what telecommunications strategy a property takes, one thing is for certain, it needs to be a different one from the past.
The early 1980s marked the beginning of an era of profitable hotel telephone departments. The advent of call accounting systems (thanks to deregulation) enabled hoteliers to easily mark up calls to a profitable (some say too profitable) level. Guests had little choice back then but to use the guestroom phone and grumble about the cost.
This era has come to an end. With few exceptions, most hotels
have seen between a 15 percent and 25 percent drop in telephone revenues
over the last five years. The main reason for this decrease is guest
choice. The guest now has a variety of choices for communicating
including fax over the Internet, e-mail, cell phones, calling cards and
now even Internet-based phones. All these alternatives offer a less
expensive means of communicating than using the traditional hotel guestroom
phone and other services such as fax.
While some hotels continue to enjoy a reasonable revenue stream, others have reported declines in revenue. E-mail and Internet faxing have contributed to the drop in usage.
Calling cards have led the shift from 0+ to 1-800 dialing. This shift not only has depleted revenue from commissions but also ties up much needed trunk lines.
Modem calls are also another source of PBX congestion, but contrary to popular belief, not as much as calling cards.
Cellular phones have become so widely used that some cell phone providers have had trouble keeping up with the demand. AT&Tís one-rate plan was so successful that for a time subscribers were unable to complete calls in certain areas. These problems have now been addressed for the most part.
What is of concern to hoteliers attempting to eke out a profit in telecom is the proliferation of nationwide cell phone plans that include no roaming or long-distance charges and nights and weekends free.
A typical example is the all-digital plan from Sprint, which includes 600 anytime minutes, e-mail and Internet access (limited), and 5,400 night and weekend minutes (nights begin at 9 p.m.). The cost of this plan is $60 per month.
A guest on such a plan has an average cost of about 5 cents per minute for long distance, depending on the mix of anytime vs. night and weekend. Assuming that the wireless reception quality is acceptable, it is very difficult for the hotel to compete on a cost basis.
High-speed Internet access (HSIA) is fast becoming an expected amenity. With more guests carrying laptops than ever before and Internet business activity rapidly increasing, the guest must have the best connection available. HSIA also relieves the congestion on the PBX caused by modem calls.
While some revenue-sharing business models have proven unsuccessful, there are realistic approaches to installing and providing HSIA on at least a break-even basis, if not generating a small profit.
The Self-Contained Guest
Another concern among hoteliers is what can be termed the self-contained
guest. Typically, this guest carries a notebook computer, a small
printer, a cell phone and perhaps a pager. The guest has spare batteries
for the phone, an antenna booster that enhances reception and the ability
to connect to the Internet wirelessly. The guest sends and receives
faxes over the Internet or with a direct dial wireless connection.
The phone receives voicemail messages when in use or turned off during
charging. Theoretically, the self-contained guest needs no hotel
|Geoff Griswold is a hardware and wiring specialist for the Omni Group in Atlanta, Ga. The company assists clients in all phases of technology including telecommunications. Geoff can be reached at (888) 960-8787 or email@example.com.|
©Hospitality Upgrade, 2003. No reproduction or transmission without written permission.
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