The hotel technology landscape constantly is changing, and those without a keen eye on the terrain likely are to trip and fall. That’s why it’s crucial for owners to understand the tech-related issues that keep their GMs up at night. A panel of experts attempted to light the road ahead by covering seven such issues during a breakout session at the American Hotel & Lodging Association Hospitality Leadership Forum, held in conjunction with the International Hotel, Motel + Restaurant Show.
Convergence represents the merging of previously separate technologies into integrated platforms. Mark Ozawa, managing director of the Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort in St. Lucia in the West Indies , said to think of it as a triple-play meshing of Internet, phone and TV. The process typically involves an IP-based solution, which allows operators to leverage existing infrastructure. Converged systems also are easier to manage (i.e., one platform instead of multiple) and result in cost savings. Switching over to a converged network requires an upfront investment, however, especially if a hotel doesn’t have the necessary wiring in place to handle the increased bandwidth requirements.
Ozawa was faced with that very challenge at the 30-year-old Windjammer in St. Lucia. One option was to rewire the entire property with fiber optic cabling, which are thinner and allow for an easier transfer of data. But with an estimated price tag of more than US$1.5 million, Ozawa opted for a more affordable, high-bit digital subscriber line that could utilize the hotel’s existing Category 3, or Cat-3 wiring for approximately US$300,000.
2. Reputation management and review tracking
“I spend a lot of time trying to keep track of all the things people are saying about (the property), both good and bad,” Ozawa said, adding he’s found a few free and easy solutions to help him do so.
• Google Alerts
• Social Mention
Ozawa also listed two “actionable and robust” platforms that come at a cost:
“Bandwidth needs are going to increase substantially,” said Darrin Pinkham, VP of information technology for Benchmark Hospitality International, a The Woodlands, Texas-based hospitality management company. The average guest now travels with three bandwidth-reliant devices, such as smartphones, laptops and tablet computers, he added. Pinkham offered the following matrix to help operators determine circuit and bandwidth requirements by hotel room size:
Property size Megabyte requirement Cabling required
<100 rooms 20 MB Fiber, Cable, DS3
100-200 rooms 20-50 MB Fiber, Cable, DS3
201-350 50-75 MB Fiber
350+ rooms 75-100+ MB Fiber
Fortunately, costs for bandwidth have decreased considerably and will continue to do so, Pinkham said, but hoteliers might want to offset high-priced systems by charging guests using a tiered bandwidth model.
He suggested the following breakdown as an example:
• US$5: 756Kbps to 1.5MBps Internet per day
• US$10: 1.5Kbps to 2.5MBps Internet per day
• US$15: 2.5Kbps to 5MBps dedicated Internet per day
“At the end of the day whether you charge for (Internet) or not, the guest has the expectation that you have it, and it’s good,” Pinkham said.
4. PCI compliance
Pinkham also covered the topic of Payment Card Industry compliance by outlining PCI Data Security Standards requirements and security assessment procedures, which can be accessed at www.pcisecuritystandards.org.
A few key pieces of advice:
• Do not use vendor-supplied default system passwords or other security parameters.
• Encrypt transmission of cardholder data across open public networks.
• Regularly monitor and test networks.
• Maintain separation of guest and employee networks.
• Ensure there are anti-virus subscriptions on all computers and that they are current.
• Be alert for skimmers and keystroke loggers.
• Be alert for rogue software PCs and wireless or USB devices.
• Use laptops or smartphones to scan for rogue devices.
5. In-room technology
Hoteliers have to strike a balance between technology and costs, said Bill Folkerts, a hotel owner who also founded Watertown, South Dakota-based Venerts Hotel Management. That often means taking a common-sense approach to investment in in-room technology. Electrical outlets, for example, are an important feature that should be easy to access. “Kind of low tech, but very important to the guest,” he said. “As we’ve learned, this is one area where guests get very frustrated.”
The alarm clock, likewise, should be easy to set up, regardless of whether it comes with an iPod docking station, Folkerts said. And for something as simple as the remote control, it’s more important the device is clean than high tech with a cool LCD interface, he said.
6. Technology and ADA
Stephen Wahrlich, owner of the Best Western Plus ClockTower Inn in Billings, Montana, presented the good, the bad and the ugly of the intersection between technology and recent updates to the Americans with Disabilities Act. “The ugly part of all of this is that it’s here. We’re exposed to it. It’s cost us a lot of money,” he said. “The bad is that it’s not going to go away. It’s here. You’re stuck with it.”
And the good?
“The good is the rules and regulations that are going into place are here. I don’t think any are coming down the pike that will be a shock.”
Operators must conduct an audit to make sure the technology at their properties still mesh with new provisions to the ADA. Some things are minute and require a careful line-by-line examination of the law; others are more practical, Wahrlich said. For example, he and his management team rented a wheelchair and did a test-stay at his ClockTower Inn. Only then did they realize thermostats were mounted way too high on the wall and were impossible to use for guests in wheelchairs.
“ADA is going to be around,” Wahrlich said. “Either embrace it and start making a marketing opportunity, or you’ll constantly be going, ‘It’s a pain in the rear.’”
Source : Hotel news now
Researcher : Bonnie
Filed Under: Technology
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