10 steps to maximizing ROI from an owners’ investment in audio/visual equipment, sound systems and amplification, background music systems, lighting and dimming systems, digital signage and more
By Eric Bracht
It’s been a decade since the hospitality industry emerged from the depths of the economic recession. It took some time, but today hoteliers are experiencing a strong U.S. economy coupled with one of the lowest unemployment rates in history. According to the Deloitte 2019 US Travel and Hospitality Outlook, “unprecedented growth, driven by a robust economy, rising global consumer purchasing power, and digital innovation, however, comes with strings attached.” Mounting operating costs, fuel costs, wage increases for staff, and real estate appreciation are just a few of the obstacles staring down hoteliers and putting them under immense pressure to operate leaner this year. With a downturn on the horizon, the Deloitte report is advising that hoteliers focus on operating more efficiently, saying that “creating leaner, more efficient businesses may require bolder thinking in 2019.”
How’s this for bold thinking: Be responsible with your hotel owner’s investment in AV technology systems and equipment.
The event space infrastructure is a big expense, and it’s not optional for owners who choose to buy into a major brand franchise. This expenditure includes audio amplification and sound systems, lighting and dimming systems, digital signage and display devices, control systems, infrastructure and related technologies. These technologies are a critical component of the meeting experience, but the owner’s investment also extends to the background music systems, digital signage and televisions in the lobby, lounge, spa and pool, and food & beverage outlets, and these are often forgotten until something goes wrong.
To compete effectively for meetings business today and in the future, hoteliers are requesting additional owner investment in capital funds for technology systems and infrastructure. But then it’s up to those hoteliers to ensure that the investment is responsibly managed, and to understand the return that can be brought back to the bottom line. Investment in built-in technologies can enable hoteliers to provide higher quality basic services with internal staff. A truly responsible operator will go the extra step and make sure that preventative maintenance of AV equipment and AV service contracts, repairs, and upgrades are budgeted as part of the hotel’s operating expenses.
Whose job is it anyway?
Before determining how to protect the owners’ AV investment, hoteliers first need to determine who, or which department will take on this challenge. An outside third-party AV company will not look after a hotel’s built-in, brand-required equipment or any supplemental portable equipment purchased by the hotel; their responsibility lies only with the equipment they bring to the property. Engineering doesn’t manage AV; if it’s a small property, manpower is probably an issue, even if staff knows how to run the equipment. And with today’s property technologies operating in the cloud, on-site IT staff who had once dabbled with AV now manage systems remotely – oftentimes regionally. Therefore, AV is not part of the IT realm. This means that the owner’s AV investment is being left in the hands of unsupported event setup or catering staff whose primary job responsibility is something other than managing AV.
Maximizing an owner’s ROI on their technology investment requires oversight of multiple events simultaneously and the juggling of large amounts of information dealing with meetings management, and multiple systems that track and communicate meeting needs. It requires the ability to plan meeting technology needs, manage AV equipment and resources, coordinate with vendors to order additional equipment as needed, and ensure that portable and built in equipment is serviced and repaired and that expenses are controlled. So how can hoteliers optimize their owner’s AV technology investment?
Here are 10 steps to maximizing ROI and protecting a hotel owner’s AV investment:
- Evaluate Installed System Capabilities – determine who is responsible for the equipment and if it works, needs need fixed, upgraded or replaced. Should additional equipment be purchased to complement or complete the system to meet planners’ requirements?
- Budget for Portable Equipment Inventory – develop a budget, issue an RFP, research local AV vendors and develop pre-priced packages of advanced AV services from the local vendors that complement your hotel’s systems and services.
- Develop Management Systems – Create a P&L, track costs, review performance, create SOPs for equipment set-up, operation and removal, train staff, and create collateral for pricing guides, service packages and outside provider guidelines.
- Add AV to the hotel’s Preventive Maintenance Plan – Find local AV contractors to repair installed and portable equipment; define scope of work for PM; develop and implement a tracking system for PM and break/fix service and repairs.
- Create a system to schedule and forecast equipment and resources for events.
- Create a system for identifying shortages or non-inventory requirements.
- Create a system for contracting/scheduling additional equipment and services from local vendor(s).
- Create a system for tracking costs associated with securing outside equipment and services.
- Create training for planning and operations staff on above systems and procedures; include in SOPs.
- Invest in a dedicated cloud-based event-technology platform that will conduct all AV technology activities listed above easily and affordably, enabling the hoteliers to demonstrate responsible management of the owner’s asset and optimizing a return on the owner’s AV investment.