For the first time, HOSPA has created a Directors’ Level Dinner with a topic that IT and Finance Directors could discuss and debate as a joint issue. The objective of these forums is to engage a high profile audience of senior IT and Finance executives from within our sector in a lively debate on topics that affect the industry, while networking and enjoying an excellent meal within a relaxed setting.
The delegates met at the HOSPA Hub at Hotelympia for pre-dinner drinks where the evening was introduced with a special announcement from Strategic Partners and event Sponsors HFTP - and their CEO Frank Wolfe confirming the new project (just launched) of research into a new Hotel Accounting System and Standard.
We then moved on to enjoy an excellent dinner served in the stunning Premier Suite One on the corner of the first floor of ExCel with fantastic views of the Thames from two sides.
We were honoured to have Robert Cook – Chief Executive of DeVere Village and HOSPA President to open the debate on the issue of “Investment in Hotel Guest Technologies in today’s environment – a guest imperative or a financial headache?”
Robert started the debate by suggesting that guests these days – while valuing such essentials as a comfortable bed, clean room and a good working shower - also expected good guest Wi-fi services and working technologies. He commented on how guest techs move so quickly today and the challenge was to stay ‘on the game’.
The debate was then opened up to all the delegates and a lively discussion was chaired by Carl Weldon, CEO of HOSPA. The issues and debate centred on the essential ‘infrastructure’ in a hotel – the Wi-fi service.
Some of the key issues and challenges that were aired as follows:
Free Wi-fi can be as bad as a free (bad) cup of coffee if it is not good enough!
Guests expect that Wi-Fi accessibility will be better than what they have at home - is this realistic nowadays?
Regular guests do not want or need to understand the issues – they just want it to work. Should ‘Preferred Guests’ or Loyalty Club Members receive free Wi-fi?
There was a fairly even divide (amongst hotels in the room) between free Wi-fi and ‘charged-for-Wi-fi’ and a mixture in-between (e.g. free up to basic levels – charged for beyond a certain band-width).
There was a consensus made after this point. Some hotels can be confusing the guest with too many different (charged for) options, therefore simpler “non-techie” explanations and charging is required.
Hotels do not appear to be prepared to invest in the appropriate (ever increasing) band-width required due to costs pressure.
Bandwidth constantly needs to be reviewed as technology and the Cloud proliferate.
Conference and banqueting Wi-fi produces its own challenge for huge numbers of guests in the hotel – all possibly wanting to access Wi-fi simultaneously.
Charging extra for conference Wi-fi can be a challenge.
In 2011, a HFTP survey estimated an average traveller carried two and a half Wi-fi enabled devices.
Even now though - the average number of internet devices people carry is increasing, which impacts on user demand for Wi-Fi services – one individual can carry now up to 4-5 items such as iPhone, iPad, Slingbox etc, placing enormous demands on a hotel.
Recent Apple changes to iPhones and iPads enabling operating system updates via the Cloud increase Wi-fi pressure and band-width requirements.
Other Hotel Systems can also require more Wi-fi overhead these days and need to be catered for when planning systems.
In London, demands on bandwidth are increasing.