by Patrick Quek
Among U.S. lodging managers, the Internet holds an abundance of promise as a valuable management tool for the future. However, given the current level of usage, a lot more training, time, and resources need to be allocated to the Internet if the industry is to take full advantage of this new tool.
PKF Consulting, in conjunction with the Hospitality Information Technology Association, recently conducted its fourth annual survey of technology use within the U.S. lodging industry. This year’s survey concentrated on the perceived importance of the Internet to a hotel’s operation. In total, 454 hotel managers responded to the survey.
The following paragraphs summarize the results of the survey.
Overall, the respondents to the survey were most impressed with what the Internet could do as a marketing and advertising tool. The feature of the Internet most frequently used to market the property was a presence on the World Wide Web. Two thirds (66.4 percent) of the respondents stated their property had a Web Page. The most common features of the Web Pages were photographs and information on the surrounding area. While only 29.2 percent of the respondents provide information on availability, 56.8 percent did say that their Web Pages allowed guests to make reservations.
Ranking lowest in effectiveness was the use of the Internet as a training tool. In fact, the survey participants clearly wanted to limit the exposure of their employees to the Internet. The hotel managers in our survey rated the need for management to be “Internet literate” as important, but were neutral on the need for their employees to posses Internet skills.
A Communication Tool
In addition to Web Pages, E-Mail is the other most commonly used feature of the Internet. Seventy percent of the survey participants stated that their properties use E-Mail. Once again, the use of the Internet for E-Mail appears to be dominated by management. Communication with the corporate office (40.7 percent) and other hotels (30.2 percent) were cited as the most frequent uses of E-Mail by management. At the other end of the spectrum, managers used E-Mail to communicate with other managers on property only 26.5 percent of the time, and even less frequently to communicate with their staff (10.5 percent).
Externally, E-Mail was used 29.6 percent of the time to communicate with guests and customers. E-Mail was not considered an important tool to communicate with vendors or suppliers.
Size and Experience Counts
As might be expected, managers in the larger full-service properties attached significantly more importance to the Internet than did their peers at smaller limited-service hotels. The extent of use of E-Mail and Web Pages increased in direct proportion with the size and extent of facilities and services offered at a hotel.
Another factor that influenced responses was the degree of current use of the Internet. The respondents who stated they were already active on the Internet rated its effectiveness as a training and reservations tool significantly lower than the managers who were not currently using the Internet. On the other hand, respondents with an Internet presence rated its future importance significantly higher than managers who were not yet on the Internet.
The most important perceived drawback to the Internet was the time and cost involved in creating an Internet presence. (21.7 percent). Additional drawbacks cited were security and confidentiality of data (11.2 percent), maintenance and site update (11.2 percent), and unauthorized use and wasted time by employees (7.4 percent). The survey did find that 9.4 percent of the respondents could not identify any drawbacks to using the Internet.
What The Future Holds
While today’s hotel management frequently uses E-Mail and Web Pages, the influence of the Internet on the lodging industry should be much greater in the future. Look for the Internet to have a significant effect on which services are offered and how they are delivered. In addition, it will reshape organizational structures and alter the relationship between hotels and their customers and suppliers. You don’t have to be a wide-eyed futurist to believe that in-room technology will become the single most sought-after guest room amenity.
Today, America’s lodging managers are climbing onto the Internet bandwagon. In the future, those who are not on the cyberwagon will be left plodding along the dusty shoulder of the information super highway.
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