February 20th, 2007, Alexandria, VA - At the recent ISHC Annual Conference
in Miami, Florida, ISHC members held a series of roundtable discussions
to identify the ISHC Top Ten Issues in the Hospitality Industry for 2007.
The debate reviewed over 100 different topics in depth, and "Technology"
was identified as #3 of the Top
Ten Issues expected to have the greatest impact on the hospitality
industry for 2007.
Although the challenge of keeping up with technological change was nominated
as the most important single issue, the discussions identified several
other significant aspects of technology's impact. Following the conference,
ISHC members with specialty technology expertise convened to review these
topics further, and have developed them into the following ISHC Top Ten
Technology Issues for 2007.
1. Need to Move Off Legacy Systems
Many properties continue to hamper their operations by clinging to
obsolete systems in an attempt to wring the maximum amortization from their
original investment. However, doing so prevents them from taking
advantage of modern features that have a major impact on revenue, such
as Internet booking and guest profile-based targeted marketing.
2. Data and System Security
Today’s greater sensitivity to the security of guest profile data and
to the accuracy of financial data mandates higher levels of system security
than many properties are used to applying. To avoid potential liability
hoteliers must ensure that their systems are kept up to date with all necessary
security patches, anti-virus and anti-spyware tools, and that user access
is managed securely. Few individual properties or small management
groups have or can afford the expertise to do this professionally, opening
the way to the adoption of third party services and of remotely-hosted
3. Need For Still Tighter Integration
Despite the increase in functionality of modern systems and the availability
of much-improved interface techniques to link them, many properties (especially
resorts) still have considerable amounts of useful data in isolated (usually
older) systems. Effective marketing and repeat-business management
require as complete a view as possible of guests’ activities throughout
the property, increasing the pressure for tighter integration between all
4. Software on Demand Increasingly Attractive
As a result of the above trends it is becoming more attractive for
properties to adopt remotely-hosted and –supported software, either at
a corporate site or a third party provider. This allows each property
to have access to the most up-to-date version of the software, maintained
and secured to a certifiably higher professional standard and requiring
fewer interfaces, all factors that offset its monthly access cost.
5. Making Data Mining and BI Effective Amidst Data Overload
Growing interest in data-driven decision making is expanding use of
data analysis and business intelligence tools, at a time when hotels are
collecting far more data about their guests and operations than ever before.
This mandates extra care to ensure that all data collected is consistent.
It also intensifies the need for more intuitive, graphics-based tools that
highlight the exceptions requiring attention among the great mass of background,
6. Better User Interfaces, Ease Of Use
Associated with the above, hospitality systems now offer more functions
in greater depth than ever, yet the rate of turnover among staff (especially
at the guest-critical front desk) continues to be high even as the time
available for training them in all important features diminishes.
As a consequence, many vendors are paying increasing attention to making
their systems easier to learn and more intuitive to use. There’s
still great room for improvement, however.
Guestroom technology is also too often hard to understand and operate,
a major challenge when guests range from tech-savvy teenagers to retirees.
Care must be taken to provide enough to be useful without being confusing.
7. Impact of Mobile Devices
The widespread adoption of mobile technology – cell phones, PDAs, game
stations and the many combinations of all of these – is impacting both
guestroom and management technology. Cell phones minimize the need
for a guestroom phone – especially a two-line phone – although at least
a one-line phone is still necessary to be able to call for help in the
event of a power outage. Guests are bringing their own entertainment
technology with them, either directly in the form of MP3/video players
and game consoles or by accessing video programming on the Internet and
on their own digital recorders at home. Some are also using IP-based
phones, by-passing the room phone to make calls over the Internet connection.
The wireless networks being installed to meet guests’ apparently insatiable
demand for untethered Internet access can also be usefully productive for
management tasks. These include roaming check-in, housekeeping and
engineering functions, as well as general management access to key operational
and guest information.
Both guest and management usage of wireless networks is expected to
expand significantly in the next few years, creating a major demand for
increased bandwidth on both internal and external networks. This
is also fueling a parallel demand for bandwidth management to ensure Quality
8. Impact of Growing Use of Rich Media
The growing use of rich media on hotel Web sites – video clips, 360-degree
images, downloaded movies, IP telephony, etc. – also increases the need
for high-bandwidth connections for both management and guests.
While investment in hospitality technology continues to be essential
to maintain competitiveness, the financial payback for investing in it
is seldom addressed formally. Return on investment is too often poorly
defined and defended. This is frustrating to many franchisees who
feel they are asked to invest in the next upgrade to meet a new brand standard
before they’ve had a chance to cover the cost of the previous one.
Nevertheless, this is often the price of staying in business; failure to
keep a property’s Website and guestroom technology, in particular, current
with guests’ demands will directly impact bookings.
Many more properties are now realizing the operational value of investing
to keep their systems current, secure and reliable, given that they contain
all their guest and operational data.
10. Appropriate Use and Level of Technology
Hotels still often select technology that is either too simple or too
complex for their real-world needs. Every system is not appropriate
for every customer. A more realistic appraisal of their actual requirements
(and individual systems’ ability to effectively – and cost effectively
- address them) would help many properties find a better fit. The
situation is compounded by constantly-changing brand standards for technology,
especially in the guestrooms. The level of technology must be high
enough to be useful to the target market segment, but not overdone to the
point where much of it is irrelevant to the average guest or becomes obsolete