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Taking the Pill - the Tablet Revolution

The recent Hospitality Show in Birmingham showcased how some of the latest technologies could be used by the hotel sector, to increase efficiency and make hotel stays that bit better.

A major shift that has occurred in the hotel sector in the past five years is that system suppliers have rewritten their legacy PMS systems specifically for the cloud. Furthermore, operators now want to take a more holistic view of their customers, we at HOSPA could even be calling PMS systems 'Guest Management Systems - GMS'.

The challenge for operators is how they integrate the various systems to achieve this, whether for EPOS, loyalty, spa or golf. Operators have a choice of whether to bolt together best-of-breed systems or to find a system that integrates these individual parts. It's an on-going challenge, but the future is looking increasingly integrated.

The advent of cloud-based technology has also meant that content can be delivered seamlessly to digital signage. Not only are some of the latest designs really attractive, but technology has enabled personalisation, which will only increase in the future. It is now possible to have signs that communicate with the RFID chips in room keys, so the messages that appear are tailored to appeal to a guest's individual preferences. This is taking customer relationship management into a different sphere while broadcasting has become nanocasting - it's a little bit like the film Minority Report!

I also expect the iPad and tablet revolution to continue. They have moved from being a novelty gadget to become an essential device, and prices have plummeted - I recently saw tablets on sale for $59. Increasingly guests and diners will expect to be able to access information on their tablet from menu details to the ability to check-into a hotel. As one senior IT director in the US said last year: "Everything looks better on a tablet!" It may even bring Revenue Management to F&B outlets.

Tablets are only as useful as the network they're on and, to enable this, wifi services will have to be brought up to scratch. This is more of a challenge for hotels - where guests today rate a good wifi service as the third most important factor behind a clean bed and nice bathroom. Hoteliers need to carry out a proper survey of their property to ensure access points provide internet coverage for guests throughout - I stayed in a major London hotel in January and could not get wifi signal due to my room location!

With the demand for bandwidth increasing, the dilemma over when or if to charge guest for wifi will continue to exercise managers in 2013. Whatever they choose, hoteliers should be aware of the old adage: "Bad free wi-fi is good for no-one."

I also believe the days of hotels 'revenue -sharing' with their wifi provider to avoid investment are probably limited now. Having said that - Occupancy Based Pricing - OBP is on its way now for major IT Systems Investment (Networks, Telephony etc.) - will it catch on?

Next month, I will be discussing a panda, a penguin and what this has to do with hotel bookings, OTAs and Google, and how it affects all HOSPA members.

Carl Weldon, Chief Executive, HOSPA


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