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Being An Early Adopter Of Technology Doesn’t Always Pay

Friday November 5th, 2010 - 12:51AM


Dennis Nessler, Editor, Hotel Business

I recently attended LodgeNet’s third annual Customer Technology Symposium in Boston. As I attended the numerous educational sessions, I tried to get my mind around concepts like cloud computing and converged IP networks. The industry has been criticized often for not being early adopters of technology and for having guestrooms that offer less than most consumers’ homes.
There is little debate that those are facts of life for many properties. But the more I heard at the symposium, the more I wondered if that’s necessarily a bad thing.
Case in point, one of the more interesting discussions at the conference centered around 3D Television. Just as the majority of the industry catches up when it comes to flat-screen televisions, the 3D movement seems to gain momentum. There was much discussion at the event about how far this technology was from being ‘ready’ and whether or not it was really a viable idea.
One of the more interesting comments came from Anthony Fonzo of Philips, who borrowed a line from the movie Jurassic Park, when he said “just because we can do it doesn’t mean we should.” Many hoteliers haven’t yet figured out they need to invest in HD content in order for their HD TV’s to work effectively and you expect them to start handing out 3D glasses to guests?
When it comes to technology in hotels, consumers will drive the trends and there’s no reason to look at something like 3D television until guests have it in their homes and demand it when they travel. Sure you may look like your coming to the party late but there is always a cost associated with being a pioneer.
There was also discussion during the event about kiosks. And while some claimed that hotels haven’t properly trained their guests on the benefits, there was also discussion that kiosks would no longer be needed in a few short years with all the advancements in mobile technology. If so, where does that leave those properties that invested heavily in kiosks?
Obsolescence is a very real issue when it comes to technology, but by the same token hoteliers can not turn a blind eye to technology either or they will be left behind. The real problem is it’s very difficult to really dip your toe in the water when it comes to deploying technology. You either make the investment or you don’t.
My advice is when it comes to some of these cutting-edge, prohibitively expensive technologies is to eventually make the investment, just let someone else do it first.
If I was a hotelier the one place I would focus most of my technology spend on would be bandwidth. There is a very real correlation between guest satisfaction—or dissatisfaction in some cases—and the amount of bandwidth a hotel can offer. Particularly when traveling on business if I recall that I had difficulty getting online at a certain property that will absolutely be a consideration for where I choose to spend my future dollars.
The rules have changed, according to keynote speaker Robert Atkinson if Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), many hotels offer an average of 56K of bandwidth, which is not nearly enough. The bar on bandwidth has permanently been raised. In fact, one megabyte for 100 rooms is no longer satisfactory in many cases.
The return on investment for such an expenditure may be hard to see, but your property will certainly see the effect of not investing in this technology.