Hotel Technology: How Tech Savvy is Your Hotel?
Understanding consumption of technology in hospitality management is not just about understanding high tech; it is about insightful leadership and creating an organisational culture that fosters the possibility to create positive memorable experiences. Hoteliers must realise that the technologies that may have been considered luxury extras in the past are now considered basic needs by consumers.
In this article, part of my Hotelier 3.0 series, I put the hotel technology and IT strategy of ten of the most expensive London hotels to the test. The ten most expensive five-star hotels in London are chosen (The criterion was the most expensive published rates of suites in the hotels).
Taking a snapshot of how the high-end London hotels react to technology can allow us to draw comparisons and give us some understanding to what the industry benchmark may be.
Hotel WIFI Policy
The first part of this test involved calling the hotels to find out their WIFI policy. The call was made early February so the WIFI data may be slightly inaccurate if some hotels changed their policy between February and May 2012.
Hotel Web 2.0 Activity
The second part of the test is conducted with the help of twenty undergraduate hospitality management students, studying Hospitality Management at the University of Brighton. Their demographic captures the technologically savvy consumer of today and I feel represents a fair view of how consumers interpret hotel online activity.
Five focus groups were created, each focusing on one web 2.0 application. The groups scored each hotel by giving them a High, Medium or Low score. Their judgment is influenced by evidence of content and interaction as well as communications consistency in each hotel web 2.0 activity.
For each hotel, the focus groups examined content and activity for the three first months of 2012. The focus groups also had to indicate the one hotel they would suggest as their favourite for the web 2.0 site they were examining (highlighted in red in the table). A high score gives a hotel two points, whilst a low score gives zero points. The potential maximum points for each hotel is 12 points.
The following table summarises the scores for each hotel:
As we can see from the table, only four out of ten hotels offer free WIFI to their clients. This is quite surprising when even independent cafes now offer free wifi, one would expect all five-star hotels of a major city to also offer free wifi. The problem with NON-free WIFI or even VIP-only free is that often a customer will be frustrated with the setup procedures required to allow them to use the WIFI.
The problem is not price; the problem for your customer is lack of convenience.
Hotels that promise luxury must realize that WIFI today is a necessity and not having it readily available damages your brand.
What is also interesting in the table is that there is no clear correlation between in-house technology and web 2.0 interactivity. It is highly likely that web 2.0 is considered solely a marketing function when in fact it can have great operational applications.
Although digging deeper in Tripadvisor comments suggests correlation however of negative comments in social media and absence of basic technology such as WIFI.
Hotel Technology: Missed Opportunities
If we were to rank the type of applications that hotels overall make better use of, we can argue that the order would be Twiter, Tripadvisor, Facebook, Linkedin. Google+ is very much underutilised and potentially a missed opportunity, with only one of the ten hotels posting some content.
I shall not over-analyse these findings but let the readers make up their mind as to what the results communicate to them.
But one though must wonder: if our most expensive hotels do not invest resources in a technologically savvy strategy then what does that say for the overall hotel sector? Perhaps it suggests great opportunities for four-star hotels, or perhaps something less optimistic to the whole sector.
If you are a hotel manager, a simple audit like this one should tell you a lot about your property and how it can be perceived by the technologically savvy consumers of today.
My final thought as I examine these results is that with such proximity to the Olympic Games, hoteliers in London and the rest of the UK should be ready for “gold medals” at all levels of the guest experience.
I can’t help but feel that we may still have a long way to go till we can claim that we are true champions.
By Ioannis S. Pantelidis