Guest Column Apr May 07


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Hotel Industry and IT systems

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Guest Column Apr May 07

  1. 1. GUEST COLUMN TechTalk W ith the increase in the number of private airlines and improvement of India’s tourism infrastructure, more ing of information or the centralisation of the platform solutions. and more hotels are opening up. And Where earlier the focus was on selling one of the main concerns of all hotels rooms, the same has now shifted to is to provide the best possible cus- maximization of room yield. Guest room tomer service and experience, which is a perishable commodity. Arriving at a can be primarily achieved by aligning potential value of room when in demand the hotel business plan with the right is an art. Most deluxe hotels deploy type of technology. ‘Revenue enhancementYield manage- ment’ application. Keeping the manual In terms of PMS –‘Property Manage- track of a bulk room inventory, looking at ment System’, hotels are migrating the future booking trends and calculat- from DOS/Clipper-based ‘Fidelio’ to ing the potential room rate manually is robust Oracle-based software –‘Op- too tedious a task. This job is eased by era’. Most of the hotels have either ‘Revenue enhancement Yield manage- migrated from Fidelio version 6.x to ment’ application as systems look into Opera or have scheduled to upgrade it. current bookings, past history, future In fact, Micros-Fidelio will be putting a booking trends and various events (re- stop to any further enhancement and petitive and non repetitive in nature) to development of their DOS-based Hos- calculate the best possible rate at which pitality Solutions. a guest room can be sold. It also prompts Reflecting on the increasing impor- the best choice to be picked up from the Opera doesn’t crash like Fidelio version bucket of market segments to maximiz- tance of Information Technology, 6.x. In the older version, the major issue ing revenue , i.e.whether to accept a Harish Chandra, Information Sys- was database maintenance. It required group reservation or accept ‘FIT’-‘Free frequent maintenance (regular data- Individual Traveller’ booking in a given tems Manager, Hyatt Regency base indexing). System shutdown be- scenario. Mumbai, explains how hotels that comes the need of the hour even during peak operational hours if Fidelio hangs. Few years ago air travel was a luxury. provide personalised service have an Such system maintenance issues are Today with the application of yield reduced to a greater extent in Opera management, various airlines in India edge over others in earning more rev- due to the robust oracle database. are able to offer best rates to passen- enue. According to him, Information Again, unlike Fidelio at night during gers depending on the current load ‘Night Audit’ operations, in Opera, ap- and increase their PLF (Passenger Technology enables hotels and res- plication doesn’t require the system Load Factor) creating a win-win situa- taurants to reap maximum rewards operations to be called to a halt. tion for both the airline and the cus- tomer. Many private airlines have from minimum investment. MICROS Systems’ Opera Hotel Edi- tion is a very strong and stable PMS. It is a full-featured, Oracle-based, inte- Penning this article “more as a hotelier grated, web-enabled, scalable suite of products. Developed around the in- and business manager than as an IT dustry acclaimed Oracle relational manager,” Chandra is optimistic that database management system, speed, reliability, functionality and the hotel industry in India has ease of use are built into Opera’s design. Oracle is the versatile data recognised the importance of Informa- management platform which can sup- tion Technology and are in the process port customers with very large data- base requirements and high transac- of implementing solutions that are help- tion volumes. Hotel Management soft- ing hotel operations, reducing cost ware companies take advantage of the features of Microsoft Windows, Oracle, and enhancing guest experiences. and Internet technologies, in the pass- HOTEL & FOOD SERVICE REVIEW APRIL -MAY 2007 67
  2. 2. GUEST COLUMN started the concept of e-ticketing and this enhanced Seamless Next Genera- hotel for his/her stay. Wi-Fi (short for advance seat booking. tion of technical connectivity. ‘wireless-fidelity’) is no more a Greek word. Wi-Fi is the popular term for a Websites like, From the origin of hospitality, a cus- high-frequency wireless local area, tomer is always considered a king. network (WLAN). Many airports, ho- and have helped Retaining business and loyal custom- tels, and fast-food facilities now offer customers plan holiday/business trips ers is a real challenge for the hotel and public access to a Wi-Fi network; within a set budget as they can take tourism industry. Storing details of cus- these are known as hotspots. Although advantage of buying tickets available tomer preferences (likes and dislikes) many charge a daily or hourly rate for at the lowest fare directly without the into the system enables customised access, some are free. involvement of an agent. Similarly, hotel services which in turn helps hotels in room bookings and various other travel- retaining guest and up-selling. PMS, Most of the hotels have started provid- tourism related services can be booked POS, data warehousing and data min- ing both wireless and wired Internet by a customer on-line at the best ing tools play an important role in this services in guest rooms and public available rate. Advanced IT software area. Most of the hotels and airlines areas which is also known as ‘Broad- and systems make it possible for many use these tools to provide services that band’ or ‘HSIA’–High-Speed Internet agents and operators to provide a bou- go beyond the guest expectations. Access’. With the availability of broad- quet of complete services, i.e. from This also helps hotel sales and market- band, a guest is able to browse at a airline ticket booking, airport pick-up ing/revenue managers to analyse cru- much faster speed and download files and drop to hotel room booking along cial business data for loss of room in a short span of time. In comparison, with sightseeing at very nominal rates nights by a particular company. broadband is definitely 4 times faster due to consolidation and integration of To improve operations and record guest than dial-up connection. WI-FI offers all travel and tourism related services feedback, hotels deploy ‘hotel commu- freedom from wires. 802.11X protocol using various softwares and booking nication system’. In this application, all has become a common feature. 90% engines interface. Due to this integra- guest calls are recorded. This helps the of guests carry Wi-Fi enabled latest tion, booking engines are empowered hotel management to know the key laptops which are also known as to offer great deals to customers online. repetitive issues and challenges that are‘Centrino’ laptops. Configuration of This has resulted in the increase of required to be addressed. This system external PCMCIA card to enable ‘Wi- Indians travelling abroad. Surprisingly, also helps hotels to measure the pro- Fi ’-wireless in non-Centrino laptop is statistics show that more Indians are ductivity of employees for employee quite a challenge for most of the IT travelling abroad than the number of recognition programmes. personnel of the hotel. Installation of foreigners visiting our country. this card occasionally takes a lot of Internet facility has become a vital time encroaching on guest’s privacy. Advanced reservations systems like factor for the guest in the selection of Most of the deluxe hotels in India have CRS (Worldspan, Amadeus, Galileo 512 KBPS to 4 MBPS Internet speed and Sabre) have helped guests to connections. This overall is a good book hotels and other services directly Internet speed but falls short of satis- at appropriate rates. GDS connectivity fying guests from western countries has helped hotel companies to display who enjoy faster speed in their coun- the true rate and availability of a hotel on tries due to cheaper cost of bandwidth the initial hotel availability screen (the achieved by available infrastructure. shopping display when more than one hotel is available in the requested des- Some hotels have started offering band- tination). Competitive feedback has width as per guest demand at an extra shown that hotel brands have benefited cost. This is done with the help of a from incremental revenue, supported managed ‘network switch’ in which port- by industry feedback that agents prefer based output can be defined. Like car to book hotel chains that comply with rental, Wi-Fi has become a major source 68 HOTEL & FOOD SERVICE REVIEW APRIL -MAY 2007
  3. 3. GUEST COLUMN of revenue for the hotels. Five years back top box’ in the guest room offers addi- Banquet function display screen – usage of high speed Internet (wired or tional multifunctional entertainment Many hotels have started keeping at- wireless) was minimal. Today, most of functions like games, music on de- tractive screens before banquet the business travellers carry laptops mand and the guest can also listen to prefunction area, which is interfaced and the number is on the increase. FM radio of the country he belongs to or with hotel sales and catering applica- Increased usage of the Internet has its to international radio channels etc. tion from which it directly picks up – own share of complaints like weak sig- ‘events-functions of the day’. nal, no signal, unable to connect and Guests who don’t carry laptops and like frequent disconnection. To arrest com- to browse Internet from their respective RFID – In India, hoteliers have not plaints like these most of the hotels are rooms can browse on these interactive adopted ‘Radio frequency identifica- in the process of upgrading their Internet TVs with the help of cordless (infrared) tion’ Technology. Firstly the cost of services with respect to better speed, keyboard. The only drawback with this RFID tag is expensive and further the coverage and connectivity. is that guest cannot download or copy software that captures data (known as information on to his personal data de- middle ware) is very expensive. RFID Looking at this new source of revenue vice (USB drive or external pocket hard technology can help hotels trace VIPs most of the deluxe hotels have started disk). Interactive TV also offers features and guests who have higher spending providing 24 x 7 ‘Technology Butler’ or like alarm clock, view bills on line, power. RFID tag can track the complete online ‘e-butler’ service to assist guest connect laptop with the TV, check-out guest profile provided the guest keeps proactively with the Internet and IT from the room and others. Its film library ‘RFID tag’ in his wallet, which is provided related services along with 24x7 multi- permits the guest to view a movie any- to him by the hotel for availing discounts lingual toll free helpdesk for immediate time with very good picture quality and etc. Identifying the guest and providing specialist assistance in case of any music library allows the guest to access him with services in accordance with his challenge faced during usage . Service most of the music tracks. ‘Digital video personal likes and dislikes can help the providers such as ‘Inter-Touch’ provide recorders’ helps guests to watch their hotel retain their guest. As mentioned remote network operation which moni- favourite programme in case they missed earlier, recording guest likes and dis- tors the status of all installed rooms it due to any prior engagement. likes is an art and different international 24x7x365; fixing problems before it chains meet this is in different manners. affects guests. Many business hotels Interactive TV needs infrastructure of abroad have started offering Internet to Cat 5/6 network cabling in the room. It In few hotels the designation of a ‘Profile the guest, incorporating the cost in the combines functions of both television Manager’ exists. His job role is to en- room tariff. and PC to provide one solution. sure that guest likes and dislikes are properly recorded in the system to go In room entertainmenthotel information ‘Information Kiosk’ available in many that extra mile in serving guests accord- – Unlike abroad, hotels in India are hotel lobbies and public areas also act ing to their preferences. Besides the restricted by certain laws to screen as a great marketing tool. Hotels have inability of Indian hotels to move to RFID programmes that according to the In- started marketing various products and technology, is their failure to advance dian culture would be considered objec- services they offer via it. For example tionable and hence ‘video on demand’ details of various ‘multi cuisine restau- service is not successful in India. rants’ available in the hotel, ongoing promotions, spa facilities and other vari- Plasma interactive televisions have ous services, i.e. airport pick-up and helped hotels market their services and drop timings and list of functions hap- fulfill guest’s business and recreational pening in the hotel etc. Other than hotel needs. It also offers additional services information, it can also be configured to like express check out, details about display useful city information, e.g. shop- the city, tourist spots, shopping venues ping venues, distance of various land- etc. Various applications loaded on a marks from the hotel, major events common server which connects to ‘set- happenings in the city, tourist spots etc. HOTEL & FOOD SERVICE REVIEW APRIL -MAY 2007 69
  4. 4. GUEST COLUMN from non-IP based telephone/EPABX Hotels abroad have started using many measure to use central shared sys- to IP based EPABX used by hotels web-based ASP applications which tem concepts to overall reduce cost abroad and telephone sets. Another are accessed either by using Hotel of unit hotels. area where no advancement is seen is private secured WAN -‘Wide Area Net- in the way materials departments oper- work’ or via Internet. These applica- Most of the deluxe chains have started ate. Materials department to a greater tions are either located centrally in their own or outsourced reservations. extent abroad uses e-procurement sys- hotel HQ or maintained by third party Today, guests from any where in India tems. Unfortunately e-procurement and service provider. This central manage- can dial a common toll free number to supply chain management concept is ment way of operating the PMS soft- make bookings instead of calling re- not popular in our country. ware also gives the opportunity to spective property directly. This helps maintain a central reservation office. the guests in accessing the central Many hotels in India are concerned For example, one central office can reservation office for room bookings. about ‘energy conservation’. Hotels have take reservations for properties all over installed various ‘building management the country/region with skeletal staff Abroad, hotels have started using PDAs systems’ or‘ engineering management at the property level. Abroad, hotels in the restaurants, which make the systems’ to conserve and save on cost use ‘central procurement systems’. It F&B order taking simpler and faster. of energy. For example AC in banquet gives the advantage to the unit proper- This speeds up restaurant operations halls switches on automatically one ties to get a better bargaining power i.e. reduced delivery time of the ordered hour prior to a banquet function start with the volume of business that can food and also helps hotel management time and switches off automatically at be generated for the properties across to keep tight F&B control. PDAs are a specified time. Automatic water sprin- the country. also used for stores, mini bar inventory klers installed in the guest room help stock taking and for check-in of the hotels and safe guard property from Central data centre of hosting hotel guest right from the airport, etc. unlikely events like fire. Many hotels management application for PMS, res- abroad have installed systems in the ervation, back office application, cen- The odd part of IT in hotels is that the room which disconnect electricity con- tral purchase etc are very common hotel industry worldwide uses various nection as most often guests forget to phenomenon abroad. These concepts applications for different operational switch off the television, AC and other are not very common among Indian areas i.e. PMS, POS-‘point of sale’, gadgets (even though the same has hoteliers. It is expected that this con- spa management, sales and catering, come down with the key card activa- cept will be surely adopted in the near yield management, back office and tion system). In many hotels the guest future by deluxe hotels to save on materials management application, body motion sensing device controls cost though few international hotel time attendance payroll and data the HVAC in the room. chains in India have taken a proactive miningreporting tools. Most of these applications are separate and operate on different databases and platforms unlike industries like production and FMCG where they use one database for their complete business needs. Using different applications duplicates the job for reconciliation as at times figures don’t tally between different applications. There is a need of one application in hotel industry, which can serve the purpose of all depart- ments for better and faster extraction of business information for business intelligence and MIS purpose. It is sure that a day will come when hotels will swipe guest credit card for issuance of room key and gain access to paid services in the hotel (e.g. ac- cess to club lounge, discotheque, health club etc). Hotel technology com- panies need to explore this concept. 70 HOTEL & FOOD SERVICE REVIEW APRIL -MAY 2007