Exploring the digitalisation of the region's hospitality market

ACN explores how hotel brands and vendors are working together to digitalise the guest experience

Tags: Aruba NetworksChatbotCloud computingDu (www.du.ae)
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Exploring the digitalisation of the region's hospitality market Mobile applications have gained quite a bit of traction within the hospitality industry, particularly around streamlining the check-in process.
By  Alexander Sophoclis Pieri Published  August 19, 2017

Driven by a need to differentiate themselves from the competition and to create truly authentic and personalised experiences for their customers, a great number of well-established brands within the hospitality sector have begun to explore the benefits of digital technologies.

According to Deloitte’s 2017 Travel and Hospitality Industry Outlook, a report that examined the economic, consumer and technology trends impacting travel brands from across the world, there are a number of enabling technologies currently being probed by the industry.

Mobile applications have gained quite a bit of traction within the hospitality industry, particularly around streamlining the check-in process. With its popularity expected to further increase over 2017, hotel operators have begun to explore the use of apps in helping guests personalise their travel experience.

Deloitte’s report took note of Virgin’s Lucy hotel app, which enables guests to manage the temperature of their room, access hotel services, as well as communicate with staff and other guests via an integrated messaging service.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has also begun to weave its way into hospitality, through increased adoption of concepts that typically fall under robotic process automation (RPA).

Incorporated into existing enterprise applications, such as customer relationship management (CRM) and supply chain management (SCM), these AI concepts are helping to deliver enhanced operational efficiencies.

Developers of virtual assistant and chat bots have also begun to power their applications with artificial intelligence. While not a novel idea in the realm of online and mobile travel booking, the additional benefit of AI allows virtual assistants to develop their language capabilities and critical thinking, as they interact more and more with users.

A key challenge remains however, around the issue of trust and whether users feel confident in allowing a bot to manage their travel arrangements.

Lastly, Deloitte’s report explored the potential applications of Internet-of-Things (IoT).

On the one hand, hotel operators have already deployed IoT technologies across their facilities for use in asset management and predictive maintenance.

A connected sensor network allows facilities management teams to not only manage energy and water consumption, but also monitor the deterioration of assets over time. Eventually as an asset breaks down, the team can either schedule maintenance or order a replacement.

IoT can also be utilised in the creation of premium services. Illustrating with an example, Deloitte’s report highlighted a scenario where a sensor network, combined with the hotel’s property management system (PMS), would be able to communicate directly with arrivals via their smartphones.

The PMS would then be able to check the person in and alert staff to the guest’s arrival. Once in the vicinity of their room, the network would be able to automatically unlock the door to the room, while also engaging environmental and entertainment systems according to the guest’s personal preference.

Holding a similar viewpoint on the impact of IoT, Fahad Al Hassawi, chief commercial officer at du, shares that by connecting with a guest’s mobile phone as they arrive, hotel staff are able to deliver a more personalised customer experience in real-time.

Staff would not only be alerted to the guest’s imminent arrival to the hotel itself, but once onsite, hotel employees would be able to greet the guest by name and manage their check-in process seamlessly.

“IoT is increasingly become all-pervasive when it comes to the hospitality sector. Working silently in the background, IoT now increasingly plays an important role in delivering a seamless, consistent and high-technology experience for guests and improve the overall efficiency levels of the hotel property,” comments Al Hassawi.

An active player within the hospitality market of the UAE, du’s primary offering within the hotel space lies with its Bandwidth-on-Demand service. Designed for organisations that experience fluctuating needs for internet bandwidth, the managed service solution is ideally suited for facilities, such as hotels and academic institutions.

In the case of hospitality, the prevalence of mobile devices has had a substantial impact on the Internet access networks of hotels, which have become strained against the increasing number of guests sporting multiple devices. As a result, broadband wireless Internet access has become a necessity in the industry, and businesses in the sector are being challenged in meeting that demand.

Pointing to figures from Cisco’s The Zettabyte Era: Trends and Analysis study, du’s CCO shares that total internet traffic has grown significantly over the past two decades.

According to the study, global Internet traffic reached 100GB per second (GBps) in 2002. By 2016, this figure had risen to more than 20,000GPS, and is further projected to reach 105,800GB per second by 2021.

Cisco’s study also noted the increasing number of M2M connections, which currently stands at 7.2 billion in 2017, and is projected to reach 12.2 billion by 2020.

“A service provider like du can supply bandwidth on-demand as a managed service, in a way that guarantees availability and temporarily increases bandwidth dynamically. It helps optimise the utilisation of available bandwidth, and makes sure that access services are provisioned at maximum speed to the hotel’s staff and guests at all times. Internet access can be prioritised for the right users at the right time, in accordance with specific rules set by the hotel,” explains Al Hassawi.

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