One of the biggest challenges the hospitality industry faces is how to best leverage the ever-evolving technology services available. Tech-focused efforts to create brand differentiation and yield greater value are significant and ongoing, as hospitality companies compete for additional wallet share from travelling consumers.
While hospitality brands continue to investigate and evaluate the latest trends—drawing primarily from the residential market to re-create or surpass an “at-home” experience—hotel management is assessing the impacts of these technologies by asking two key questions:
- Will this technology contribute to a positive guest experience?
- Will this technology improve employee productivity?
With different perspectives on which investments will maximize returns—corporate brand leadership, franchise owners and site managers may have differing goals and objectives for the same property.
A typical hotel has multiple IT platforms to support operations and guest experience, spanning from property management systems to the guest Wi-Fi. Hotel technologists are becoming increasingly dependent on migrating—and potentially outsourcing—these systems to the cloud, as it becomes cost-prohibitive to continue staffing resources to manage on-site infrastructure.
Below are five factors influencing decision makers in the hospitality space.
- Security. Having ample high-speed bandwidth has become table stakes for most operators so the focus has shifted to security. Providing guests with an unsecure public Internet connection while on property is akin to offering a guest a room without door locks. Hospitality network administrators must look for both physical and logical network vulnerabilities—something as simple as installing secure, lockable data racks in a telecom infrastructure closet can make a big difference. Operators must also separate traffic for “front of house” and “back of house” connectivity and apply the appropriate security measures as cost-effectively as possible. Intrusion detection has become an ever-growing challenge due to network complexity and hacker sophistication. The good news is, there are plenty of managed security services—from DDoS mitigation to firewalls and compliance services—that can alleviate maintenance and ensure the hotelier always has the most current version and policy in place.
- Mobile connectivity. Mobile connectivity enables new demands based on guests’ behavior, and that demand is now dictating the way networks are designed and built. In 2019, being constantly connected is part of the expectation while travelling. Gone are the days when “good enough” wireless coverage in the guest’s room will earn a positive guest satisfaction score. When guests arrive, they want to be greeted by robust Wi-Fi in the porte-cochère, before they even get to the lobby. Wherever there is guest dwell time, guests will expect to be connected. Not to mention, employees serving those guests require pervasive wireless connectivity to ensure guest needs are met.
- Redundancy. As hoteliers move applications to the cloud with diverse connection types, they need to retain the reliability realized when moving their applications to a controlled data center environment. Diverse connections can also increase aggregate WAN bandwidth while adding redundancy to improve uptime and performance. Today’s hospitality IT professional has options to choose from, including specialized “over‑the‑top” services such as SD-WAN.
- Personal area networking. For extended-stay properties, the concept of “at home” connectivity takes on extra meaning. Families or groups staying in larger spaces for longer periods of time are more likely to bring additional network devices (laptops, gaming stations, casting devices, etc.) to re‑create their at home network. A personal area network (PAN) allows guests to securely create their own personal local area network (LAN) by adding devices to a unique virtual LAN (VLAN) assigned specifically to them.
- IOT. Internet of things (IOT) devices are rapidly being introduced in the hospitality space to enable automation. Enhanced voice capabilities focused on AI, IP video surveillance, and access control are three main areas where IOT devices are being deployed. With this, networks need to account for increasing bandwidth and security needs. Physical cable plant extensions, coverage placements, and logical network segmentation in a converged setting are necessary to ensure uninterrupted packet delivery.
While these five factors are not an all-inclusive list—they help to define next‑generation network requirements in the hospitality industry. IT communities and lodging companies who leverage these technologies in their deployment plans—for both new-build properties as well as retrofits—will be well prepared to reap the rewards from these investments, to the benefit of guests and staff alike.
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