That is a question that the editors at Hospitality Technology like to ask of our lodging operators and vendors each year when they attend HTF. Some may say that they enjoy the networking time, or the educational session, or maybe even a combination of both. If we were to turn the question onto ourselves, our answer would include a number of points — and at the top of that list, would be the industry insights gained through rubbing elbows with senior-level IT execs. And so each year, HT’s editors set out on a mission to gain insight into the IT projects that HTF attendees are focused on, as well as the top trends affecting the industry.
IT’s ‘to-do’ list
HT’s quest for industry insights began on the first full day of sessions at the 2011 Hotel Technology Forum (held April 20-22 at the Mandarin Oriental in Las Vegas), when we asked our audience of senior-level IT executives to identify their companies’ biggest technology priorities over the next year via a live polling survey. The survey asked our audience to respond to a multiple-choice question via text message; the results were then broadcast in real-time at the Forum. The hotel executives in attendance answered as follows:
- Using technology to better business intelligence: 22%
- Focusing on in-room technology: 14%
- PCI compliance, payment and security efforts: 18%
- Integrating systems: 15%
- Network infrastructure: 15%
- Websites and distribution channels: 15%
In speaking with attendees throughout the event about their companies’ IT plans and current project, many of these aforementioned priorities were echoed. For instance, John Prusnick, director of IT innovation and strategy for Hyatt Hotels, discussed his company’s high-priority projects, including PCI data protection, and infrastructure improvements to for enhanced in-building cellular coverage.
Like Hyatt, Benchmark Hospitality International is also focused on building its infrastructure. Its goal is to make quality high speed Internet access ubiquitous in all of its properties, said Darrin Pinkham, VP of IT.
And while Hilton Worldwide is focused on strengthening its infrastructure in completing the migration from its data center from Memphis, Tenn. to Raleigh, NC, it is also focused on simplifying its application portfolio and driving innovative partnerships, said Rob Webb, CIO.
In addition to discussing IT priorities, HT also asked attendees to identify the IT trends that are affecting hoteliers. One topic that came up often was the impact of mobile devices, be it smartphones or the iPad.
“More and more people have mobile devices and they are bringing those devices wherever they go,” said Dan Connolly, associate dean for the University of Denver's Daniels College of Business. “Their whole lives are wrapped up in those devices, so the portability brings a ubiquity and constant access to things like the Internet — to information. That is greatly changing how the hospitality industry delivers services and interacts with guests — and with employees for that matter.”
Brian Garavuso, executive president for Diamond Resorts International, also highlighted the impact of consumer technology trends focused on mobility and entertainment.
Likewise, Hyatt’s Prusnick identified the consumerization of technology on both the enterprise and the guest level to be a major trend this year.