In the run up to Arena International’s 7th annual International Hotel Technology Forum (IHTF) in London, we talk to IT company Agilysys Hospitality Solutions group’s senior vice president and general manager Tina Stehle. She tells hotelmanagement-network.com about the latest and most cutting-edge technology available to hotel managers to streamline services and gain a competitive advantage across this fast evolving industry.
hotelmanagement-network.com: Which new technologies in particular should hotel managers keep their eye out for this year?
TS: Property management systems that utilise Services-Oriented Architecture (SOA) will make a big impact this year, because they allow maximum flexibility. Likewise, property management systems that offer full integration from guest room and guest management into other solutions – such as point-of-sale, dining room management, Web bookings, sales and catering, spa operations and golf management – will increase in popularity.
Can you give examples of areas of guest-specific technology?
Guest-centric technology that enables hotels to realise a competitive advantage will also continue to gain momentum. Products and applications that address the guest experience — whether it’s a property management system, business intelligence solution, mobile application or other technology — will be in demand.
What about generally available areas of technology – what impact will these make?
The enabling of mobile devices is another hot industry trend, both on the server and self-service sides. In fact, we see mobile technology as one of the biggest growth areas for the coming year and expect to see more vendors integrating these applications into their product lines.
Business intelligence will also continue to make a big impact on the industry. Guests increasingly expect personalised service, and business intelligence solutions enable hotels to deliver it by gathering up-to-the-minute information on guest trends and behaviours. Hotel managers can then use that information to improve guest satisfaction and increase profitability.
Which areas of IT and technology will managers of large hotel chains be looking at next?
When evaluating property management systems, hotel chains should look at solutions that utilise Services-Oriented Architecture (SOA), which is not only highly scalable and flexible but also enables easy integration with other software products.
Hotel chains should also make sure that any property management solution they purchase incorporates guest-centric technology.
What is missing across the hotel industry in terms of technology, and in particular, strategic IT?
The hospitality industry, for all its merits, lags behind many other market sectors in information technology management. One of the primary reasons is a lack of industry-wide standards-based interoperability.
Often, hotel operators purchase certain applications because they provide necessary functionality; yet, in order to share information, the only option these customers may have is to use proprietary interfaces running against data stored and communicated in proprietary formats. This is not the most efficient way to work — for customers or vendors.
We need standards-based interoperability that enables hotels to streamline operations and allows suppliers to serve customers in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible.
When making investments for the future, what factors must hotel managers take into account?
Today’s hotel technology purchases must be able to improve the bottom line — in terms of cost savings, improved staff productivity or an enhanced guest experience (which equates to revenue in the long-run). Technology purchases should also be based on the quickest return on investment (ROI) for the system that most closely matches the requirements of the property.
Even in this softer market, hotels should prepare for changes in demand down the road. When the economy does improve, there will be competition. Hotels that invest in new technology now will be ready when the market turns, instead of playing catch-up.
IHTF takes places on 15-18 April, in London, UK.