When Charles Babbage (1791 – 1871), an English mathematician, philosopher, inventor, and mechanical engineer invented the concept of programmable machine (now known as the computer), he never dreamed that its evolution would touch millions and change their lives.
Some have lost their livelihood (I am thinking of typewriter manufacturers and workers. The last plant was closed in India in 2011), but millions more found employment, and more people now enjoy the convenience computers (hardware and software) provide.
In the hotel industry, management has been quick to adopt computers in their reservations systems, banqueting bookings, banquet marketing, accounting, cost controls, lowering heating and electricity usage, security and need to say, improve profitability either by eliminating staff or educing costs.
Today, with the exception of few developing countries, IT is everywhere and hoteliers use it for marketing, reservations, and communications.
Even social media is being used to publicize the brand.
On the other hand, there are several companies that buy blocks of rooms from hotels at low prices, and sell them on their web sites for profit.
On the guest side, IT has forced millions for hotels to offer wi-fi, computer connectivity in rooms create business centres, and travellers use them for their business activities, or pleasure.
Some guests look specifically for IT amenities before booking, or even selecting a hotel chain for their travels.
The telephone department, once a revenue producer, lost in this “revolution” as cell phones make it possible to call (with the right service provider) anywhere less expensively than hotels sued to charge for long distance calls.
There are now thousands, if not millions, of hotels that offer electronic check-in, key issue, and check out facilities to speed all these time consuming and labour-saving activities. While letting guests do the work themselves, and reducing labour cost in the process, and increasing profits, prices have not changed, if anything, they have increased.
Big grocery stores and gas stations had adopted this technique long before hotels saw the benefits.
Even food and beverage facilities in some hotels, now, let guests order their food and wines electronically. Some feel comfortable with such technology, but mostly older guests become frustrated and occasionally angry. Yet the practice continues to gain acceptance by the young and mainly IT savvy guests.
With all these advances, criminals have gained entry in to the fray and hack into networks, either to steal funds or personal information from databases. In many cases, hotels fail to take required precautions to prevent such unfortunate, and occasionally, costly intrusions.
Today, there is hardly a hotel or even a restaurant without a web site. On many, if not most, the potential consumer can read relevant information (rooms, menus, beverage lists etc) and even book directly or make a reservation. The secret for success is to respond immediately, and confirm, while not forgetting that a credit card number is required, and the individual will be charged if he/she fails to honour the reservation.
Many people think that a restaurant can sell a table at the drop of a hat. It is simply not the case. A restaurant table is “very perishable” and if not used for one meal period, the revenue is lost forever.
The world is advancing at a rapid pace, with efficiencies and conveniences.
Progressive managers invest in technology to contain and reduce costs. Some even use technology to provide conveniences that guests may or may not use, but feel their presence will make the property more marketable.
Customer relationship management (CRM) is one of the fastest evolving areas in the industry. As technology produces a sea of changes in communication akin to Gutenberg’s printing press, hotel companies are pressed to invest in new CRM products at a time when budgets remain tight.
CRM, which correctly and efficiently used, can cerate revenue and enhance profits. IT allows you more precise market segmentation at a low cost.
While CRM can be a boon, you must also think of legal implications. A lot of the information on a database is considered personal.
A Florida-based IT company is now offering an in-room self service dev ice that interfaces with mobile phones, TV’s and Ipads. A guest can use it fro ordering room service, housekeeping services, wake up calls, valet, and book transportation.
Some restaurants offer menu and marketing portals for ordering. If you are catering to young and technology savvy guests, chances are you will do well. If you on the other hand you cater to the older generation and not IT fanciers, you stand to lose business.
It all depends on the market segment you are serving and how well you design, introduce and service it.
Computer hackers who profit from data theft are always on the hunt for quick gain, and hotels seem to be the low-hanging fruit.
According to one survey, 40 per cent of breaches occur in the hotel industry. More security measures are sorely needed.
Hackers use malware (programs that contain malicious executable code; hacking (remote user trying to obtain illegal entry into a network); physical (to obtain illegal funds from an establishment; misuse (lawful access abused by technicians) and social engineering (pishing, hoaxes, forgery, manipulation and bribery).
Once you decide to use IT, make sure to hire an expert who will
advise and guide you in teh process.