IT – the UK hotel industry’s forgotten element? Why the lack of IT expertise in understanding what Software Vendors are selling, could be costing businesses guests and revenue
At last there is a hospitality IT solutions company that understands hoteliers and their businesses, talks their language and not IT jargon, and operates as an independent oraganisation – not aligned to any product or vendor!
Let me allow Avenue9 Managing Director Kevin Edwards to tell you more and explain why IT is the UK hotel industry’s forgotten element.
IT is often described as the forgotten element in the UK hospitality industry. For more than a decade, the UK hotel industry has significantly underinvested in IT, with serious consequences. The emergence and dominance in recent years of Online Travel Agents (OTAs), for example, has impacted bottom line profits through the industry failing to invest in IT to win the battle to drive bookings through their own proprietary websites.
In addition, the hotel industry has fallen behind other service industries in addressing the data insights revolution. As a result, it is not as competitive as it should be in the fields of customer relationship management and loyalty schemes. In the face of fast changing technology and today’s highly competitive climate, it’s crucial to invest in the right IT to seek out guest behaviours – in terms of booking and spend patterns – and to use the data for, amongst other things, researching trends and information on ‘cost’ behaviour. This is an area where OTAs, airlines and supermarkets have traditionally led the way in customer relationship management and loyalty schemes.
This brings me to another even more fundamental IT problem the hotel industry faces – the fact it is full of poorly executed and extortionately expensive interfaces. These interfaces range from guests booking, to guests checking out. Indeed, the world of hotels is dependent on interfaces. It loves them with a passion! It’s an industry where general managers, sales managers, IT managers and receptionists constantly talk about interfaces, their faults, failures and their general lack of support. I can honestly say that in my entire IT working life, I have never met an industry so vocal about the dreaded interface!
Let’s face it, an interface is an interaction between two things that could be a human to human, a human to a computer, or a computer to a computer. Surely in the technologically advanced world we now live in, we should be able to get one to talk to another? The aviation industry has managed it and it has a phenomenal amount of systems integration – from baggage handling, to reservations and would you believe it, serial interfaces. You never hear theaviation sector complaining as much about interfaces. The reason is simple: they have modernised, evolved and stopped using outdated technology; and, most significantly, they have derived financial and operational benefits.
The question is: has this evolution occurred due to the airlines and airport operators, or has it been down to the software and hardware vendors recognising the need to evolve? The simple answer: the vendors recognised the need and the aviation businesses recognised the importance IT can have on their bottom lines. As a result, this has helped to eradicate system integration issues and stop the temptation to patch up old technologies that had leaked money for years. This is reflected in the fact that the cost of air travel continues to remain static and, in certain instances, has actually reduced. In short, the airline operators, as a whole, are maximising their profitability.
So why can’t the hotel industry do the same? A major hurdle to achieving this is that the profession often does not know who to trust – from infrastructure providers and IT vendors, to high end consultants commanding large fees – when making important decisions on critical business systems. IT is an enormous subject area. In most other sectors, businesses are able to employ a diverse set of IT skills – a factor not shared by the hotel industry. Unfortunately, owing to the complexity of hotels’ IT systems versus the relative size of the organisations supporting them, employing teams of proficient IT people isn’t truly viable. This has led to the hotel industry becoming reliant on IT vendors.
There are a myriad of vendors out there to supply the industry – the problem is that IT has a language of its own; and how many hotel owners and managers fully understand what is being sold to them? The answer is very few; and the majority need unbiased IT experts, with in-depth hospitality industry knowledge, to translate ‘IT speak’ and advise them about the systems best suited
to their operation – that will talk to each other and maximise business potential and return on investment. This is where Avenue9, created to fill a void in the hotel sector, has a very major role to play in providing a seamless and independent approach to managing a multitude of vendor relationships and disparate systems, often inappropriate to the nature of many hospitality and leisure operations. As an independent organisation, not aligned to any particular product or vendor, Avenue9 is in an ideal position to advise on this process and assist our clients in operating and selecting a suite of IT hotel systems that will work best together – to service the business, maximise its potential, and support its future plans for growth as efficiently and as effectively as possible.
We believe that it’s the software vendors which are driving requirements and functionality in hotel and leisure operations, rather than the vendors listening to operators’ requirements. With such a diverse marketplace, it is not the case of one size fits all. A five-star spa, aimed at international travellers, is very different to that of a one-star operation focusing on the domestic market. This is where Avenue9 excels. We want to understand fully the nature of our clients, understand their inner workings and fundamentally comprehend how they operate. It is only once this process is complete that we are able to suggest and recommend tailored solutions to fit their respective businesses.
We are also very mindful of the fact that the UK hotel industry has high employee turnover, and it is extremely difficult to ensure there is a consistency in maintaining staff IT skills and knowledge, especially in view of a general lack of refresher training within this field. This again is an area where Avenue9 will provide the tailored support and back-up needed. In short, we are here to take the angst out if IT for hotel businesses through our independent approach, built upon industry experience and market knowledge. This puts us in an ideal position to consult upon, supply, manage and host any aspect of IT within the hotel and leisure sector. Most importantly, this is underpinned not just by technical expertise, but as I have already stated, a deep understanding of how a particular business operates and the unique challenges it presents.
But don’t just take my word for all this – let our rapidly growing client portfolio speak for itself. It includes major brands such as: The Gleneagles Hotel, The Hotel Collection, SACO (The Serviced Apartment Company), Generator Hostels, Redefine BDL Hotels, Bourne Leisure, and Watergate Bay.
Avenue9 is currently involved in projects that involve everything from PMS (Property Management Systems) and EPoS (Electronic Point of Sale) rollouts; deployment of guest technology and applications; PCI compliance; network solutions; and IT systems for new-build properties, to general consultancy and IT health checks; technical support; contract negotiation; and brand development and website hosting. We look forward to hearing what we can do for you.
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