Technology in Hospitality

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Technology in the hotel industry seems disparate at best. Although
it’s not uncommon to hear about your preferred hotel chain having
a Web site or being able to search for and find a hotel online at
another travel supplier’s Web site, it seems the use of technology in
the everyday workflow of running a hotel is sparse. In my job, I’ve
worked with many hotels that don’t even have e-mail access for
their employees. When I meet hotel staff that let me know that they
do not have this most basic form. of new communication tool, I sarcastically
ask if their managers would like me to call them on their
rotary phone and try to sell them my 8-track collection.
For hoteliers, the technology needs for their company can be
broken down into two major components that encompass every person
they will contact: their employees and their customers. Not only
is access to up-to-date technology imperative, but adequate training
on the use of these systems and resources as well. The front desk of
a hotel should at the very least have access to all major computer
user assets, including but not limited to mainstream office software
titles, e-mail, and Internet access. This not only enables them to
more effectively communicate with coworkers and upper management,
but also with their customers and corporate clients. Many
times I have requested information from a hotel, so that I can update
their Web page or other marketing materials, only to discover that
they cannot send me a file in a preferred format or open a file I may
send to them. This type of resource and information allows the front
desk staff to quickly alert me to changes in their service offerings,
updates to their property, as well as the availability of last minute
purchase deals and rebates for our respective clients.
In pushing the limits of how a property could use technology
to equip its staff to more effectively handle the requests of customers,
imagine a housekeeping staff equipped with remote contact
devices that would locate the closest employee to the guest in need
and communicate that need without any direct human communication
or contact. This same system could also be used to send inventory
requests back to a central location to be filled and delivered at
the next room cleaning, or more urgently if requested.
The most obvious use of technology that a hotel should make
use of is those areas that directly impact a prospective customer’s
contact or communication with the hotel. As stated earlier, many
hotels have great Web sites that allow from the most obvious of
services, booking a reservation, to lesser-known services like finding
an appropriate restaurant for a business dinner within walking
distance to your hotel, or taking a virtual tour of the property.
However, a Web site shouldn’t just be another way to make a reservation.
It must be a form. of dialogue between supplier and customer
that cannot be more efficiently shared in any other way. By
this I mean that if every customer knew exactly what was wanted
and where, we could just make a phone call to the hotel’s 800 number
and be done with our reservation.
Personally, when I visit a Web site, I want to get information
from that Web site that cannot be received in any other single location.
I want information on rates (standard and specials), weather,
location, room amenities, maps, distance, directions, points of interest,
hotel ratings, restaurants, nearby corporate facilities, and more.
And not only would I like for you to tell me what other sister properties
you may have in the area if my first choice is sold out, let me
know about a competitor’s property across the street. You want
another chance at my business? Give me a discount to use at another
property on my next stay.
As a guest, not only do I want information available to me on
the Web before I make the reservation, I want high-speed access
once I’m in my room. I believe hotels should make corporate agreements
with nationwide Internet service providers (ISPs) that would
allow me to use high-speed Internet connections at your hotel free
if I’m already a member of that ISP, at the very least a competitive
rate. If I’m a true road warrior, I more than likely have a preferred
hotel company I choose to give my regular patronage to. I should be
able to sign up to a hotel’s frequent guest program and use my
“points” for free access at any of your properties. I should be able to
order room service online, access messages online, check out, make
dinner reservations at local restaurants, and confirm ground transportation
needs during my stay and upon my departure. With the
exponential growth of wireless devices, allow me to make download
directions to local points of interest from your property as well.
Somewhat in conjunction with online services, a hotel needs
to make sure they are using one of the global distribution systems
(Amadeus, Apollo, Galileo, or Sabre to name a few) to most effectively
market property agencies. There is a great need of understanding
in a hotel’s sales office, how their agency clients use these
systems to book their properties. There are many limitations to
finding or selling hotels through these systems. Many will shirk the
responsibility on the GDS’s, but I believe hoteliers need to be
proactive in their involvement with insisting change in some of
these systems. Many of these systems are now integrated with corporate
preferred and managed online booking systems. Limitations
in the GDS’s directly inhibit the ability and ease of business travelers
to find the properties desired.
Closely related to this problem of finding the preferred property
is also now booking the preferred rate. It’s regularly becoming
a problem of making sure contracted, negotiated rates are available
to be booked directly through the system, without the need for a
phone call to verify a rate. Most travel agents agree, unless a client
specifically asked for a property and for them to contact the hotel
directly to verify a rate or availability, they would be more likely to
try and sell a hotel they knew they could book through the system
without any problems. If your hotel is sold out, do NOT display
your property in my system as having availability, only to let me
know to search for one of your other properties in the area.
Also, hotels need to be aware of how their listing a GDS can
affect the ability for someone to find the property desired. If you’re
closer to one airport in a multiairport city, do not list your property
as being closer to the larger, busier airport. Join your property
search function to all airports in the city. Use standard naming conventions
in all your property’s listings. As stated before, because of
the way a hotel’s name is listed in one GDS, our customer can’t
search for a hotel by the actual brand name of the property.
These are just some of the ways technology can directly affect
the bottom line of making the all-important dollar. Use technology
to make it easier for agencies to find and sell your hotel, for your
employees to service guests as quickly and most efficiently as possible,
as well as provide services to guests that will keep them loyal
customers for years to come. Something I’ve learned recently in my
experience in the industry: It’s not necessarily the free tickets travelers
are interested in for their frequent flyer points, it’s the way
they are treated for being recognized as an important customer to
the company.

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