The hospitality boom

Does a boom in the hospitality industry signal unlocked budgets for IT departments within the sector?

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The hospitality boom IT services have become increasingly important to the hospitality sector to differentiate with competitors and increase guest satisfaction.
By  Tom Paye Published  February 29, 2016

“There are simply too many stakeholders per property in the hospitality industry; CIOs or IT executives find themselves at the crossroads of compromise all the time. The operator has certain standards and expects to provide a certain level of service to their guests, the owners are approached by various vendors and consultants and have a budget already allocated to IT, project managers and consultants are doing their best to satisfy both parties, all along focusing on their own bottom lines. Ultimately CIOs find themselves having to cut corners due to budget limitations and succumb to the pressures of what I like to refer to as the ‘the too many stakeholders syndrome,’” he says.

On top of this, Foroozandé adds that, despite the hospitality sector booming in the Middle East, IT departments in the vertical are not seeing the same gains as other areas of business are. He says that this is because IT does not significantly contribute directly to the revenues of the hospitality industry. He claims that owners typically prefer a lavish looking property over one that could potentially address the many requirements of their guests.

“By the time technology is a topic of conversation, most of the budget is spent and most of the emergency or contingency budget is tapped into due to delays and other construction related challenges,” he says.

However, not everyone agrees with Foroozandé. According to Samiksh Aggarwal, assistant vice president for Sales Data Networks at Elitecore Technologies, IT departments are indeed getting increased investment as a result of the hospitality boom. He adds that this is due to the fact that forward-thinking hospitality organisations recognise IT as an important driver in guest growth.

“IT is an integral part of the hospitality industry which works in synch with the evolving times. With the growth of hospitality industry, constant flow of guests exponential growth of smart devices and the demand by the guests to stay connected almost 24-7 and advanced available solutions in the market, the IT departments are benefiting by constantly being at the forefront of identifying and implementing change – evolving technologies and its management is keeping IT busier than ever before,” he says.

“Any segment with a robust IT network can help in enhancing the services, especially for the hospitality industry which is totally a service industry. IT plays a vital role in its enhancement. IT departments can design and build a robust network, which will help the hotel properties to provide advanced services to their guests, travelling from across the corners of the world to the others and thereby increasing the need to be well connected.”

That said, it could be argued that only the most forward-thinking hospitality organisations are really investing in IT. According to Focus Softnet’s Tejura, budgets in the industry are still slim, with many businesses adopting a mantra of providing IT with ‘need to have’ tools, as opposed to ‘nice to have’ ones. However, he points out that IT departments in the industry can do something about this.

“IT departments can continually raise their organisation’s awareness of the IT tools available in today’s era, and also showcase tools that the competition has deployed, thereby ensuring that the right information is passed to the critical stakeholders within their organisations. Awareness is always the first step to the creation of a need, sanctioning of budgets, and finally deployment of these systems altogether,” he says.

The best advice, however, turns out to be for IT to prove how it can help improve the guest experience. After all, positive guest experiences really do affect the business, and help to drum up loyalty among visitors. Avaya’s Sabty says that any CIO struggling with his or her IT strategy in the hospitality sector should simply work out what sort of experiences the guest should be provided with, and then work on building those capabilities out.

“It is essential to connect all customer engagements across their digital journey. For instance, the most commonly reported customer frustration is that they must repeat themselves. Customers looking for information on a web site or starting on their mobile, want to be able to click to chat, or call, or video, with all touch points connected. Performance management tools like advanced reporting, workforce optimisation, analytics, and survey capabilities help to contextualise interactions and derive value from them,” he says.

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