Minhaj Zia, National Sales Manager, Unified Communications, Cisco India and SAARC
An increasingly global and mobile workforce is demanding connectivity and amenities wherever they go, and whenever they want. This need transcends all industry verticals including hospitality. Today's travelers expect from their hotels, exquisite services and the ultimate travel experience. The business traveler additionally demands a safe, secure, and comfortable stay. Evolving regulations and standards place new demands on hotels even as environmental sustainability (e.g. energy consumption, materials and recycling) is becoming mandatory.
Increasing competition and traveler expectations is driving hotels to seek new ways of differentiation to deliver new experiences, attract and retain guests. To stay competitive, hotels today must manage costs, increase revenues, and provide an efficient and service-oriented environment. To optimize the returns, operating expenses have to be managed at a low and sustainable level; and revenues have to grow.
The need of the hour is for solutions that add value and offer new revenue opportunities- while providing guests new conveniences. Such solutions must improve operations by automating billing, streamlining contact centers, and empowering employees to offer more personalized guest attention. Ironically though, many hotels run their operations with a multiplicity of single-purpose proprietary network and applications. This disparate - and often obsolete business system - lacks the ability to deliver business intelligence or create opportunities for sustainable revenue growth and operational efficiencies.
Employing IP to create a comprehensive business solution on a flexible platform can help hoteliers to deliver value-added services and make a positive impact on bottom line. IP solutions enable a range of services in all areas of the hotel: guest rooms, public spaces, meeting rooms, front-office, back-office, and facilities management. The services are delivered to the guest, staff, or operator over one single converged network. Investing in such solutions enhances the value of the building and IT investment besides increasing business impact.
For most hotels, connectivity is a critical need - both within the property and to the outside world. Employing IP solutions provides seamless and secure connectivity that engender operational efficiency while improving guest experience. Guests can access personalized content, new entertainment, communications, and other services over one cost-effective and easy-to-maintain network infrastructure. Wireless solutions can further advance mobility, service and content delivery.
Guests can experience remote working and the hotelier can provide personalized guest services such as in-room dining and wake up calls to the guest using the IP telephone. Guests can also access information about the hotel and its amenities with the click of a button in meeting rooms, public spaces, and guest rooms. Seamless connectivity with concierge services and hotel staff will increase and improve responsiveness to service requests.
Guests can control the comfort of their room - lighting, heating, cooling, and even security controls integrated and offered over the telephone or television displays. Billing is instant, seamless, and accessible at any time via computer, phone, or television set. Voice, video (Video on Demand) and data services can be personalized and packaged - and delivered to the guest as a for-fee service.
With converged IP, disparate building systems, communication systems, security and media systems can be integrated into one network infrastructure. This will lower cost of design and implementation, operations and maintenance. With integrated systems and devices this infrastructure will become the platform for business innovation. A single network infrastructure simplifies design, installation, and operations of the communications, video, data, business and building applications. Additionally, energy consumption can be controlled, managed, and contained resulting in significant savings.
Centralized management of guest information delivers the same consistent experience to the guest in the properties of a chain or a brand. Guest marketing of in-house services and outside merchandizing (products, services, restaurants, taxi) can be delivered over the various displays in guest rooms, public spaces, and meeting rooms. Revenue sharing or 'pay-per-instance' opportunities allow the hotelier to capture on the traffic and activity over the voice and data network.
IP solutions help the hotel staff to streamline and expedite check-in, billing, and check-out and service request responsiveness. Guest and facility data can be accessed anytime and anywhere to optimize service delivery and maintenance calls. The hotelier can track, manage, and train staff using integrated solutions on PDA's, telephones, and video installations. IP solutions for call forwarding, messaging, and voicemail along with high-speed Internet access in each room-and wireless access points in the public areas-help to keep guests connected no matter where they are. Extending access into meeting spaces so that important calls, faxes, and e-mails reach their destination enhances guest experience and improves guest loyalty.
Incorporating staff paging, mobile communications, and remote access to keep people in touch with each other and with guests, brings efficiency into operations. Tapping into new features that give guests access to weather, local content, entertainment, music, and games-customized for their needs adds to the benefit. Hoteliers can also gain control of hotel services and property management capabilities to personalize guests' visit and enhance their experience.
By supporting biometric access control to deliver next-generation security services, hoteliers and guests-can have peace of mind. Linking to advanced applications like IP-based video surveillance allows building systems operators get better response control. Security and other authorized personnel can access video footage of any event from a remote location over the internet, and get alerted.
The ability to interconnect security systems with open standards is another advantage of IP-based surveillance. In an emergency situation, IP networks facilitate real-time parallel workflow among various departments, enabling collaboration and dynamic resource allocation for effective response. Information gathered is readily available to everyone involved in the emergency to respond accordingly. Important to note is that the IP network ensures that only authorized users have access to the required information. Digital/IP-based surveillance enables computer processing and analysis of video in real time. It also helps utilize security resources more efficiently, ensures scalability and enables to add new capabilities without requiring big investment, big hardware, or big changes.
With an IP-based network infrastructure, hotels can combine their various systems onto a single platform and deploy flexible solutions that integrate data, voice and video along with convergence applications tailored to meet the different needs of their guests. Such a converged network allows for a faster, simpler and more effective transfer of information between departments and enhances the functioning of each. By 'plugging' into the potential of the IP network, hoteliers can provide end-to-end solutions that are flexible and can be customized to the needs of their guests'.
Integrating technology solutions across the entire hotel property using IP helps hoteliers win more customers because differentiation is no longer in the décor, but in the access that a hotel can offer. Guest expectations for hotel services today, has moved beyond room service and a fancy concierge. Deploying technology solutions ensures increased productivity, greater guest loyalty-and ultimately, more profits. Against growing competition and a demanding global clientele, the first mover advantage is critical.