Every hotelier wants their establishment to remain competitive and technology can assist them in gaining an advantage over their competitors. Intelligent CIO spoke to Monzer Tohme, Regional Vice President, Middle East and Africa, Epicor Software, to discover how operators in the hospitality vertical can remain at the cutting edge of customer service.
Could you start by shedding some light on the type of services you are delivering in the hospitality segment?
In May 2017, we released iScala for Hospitality, a full functional, integrated back-office solution for restaurants, hotels and resorts, that helps drive efficiency and cost savings across all key focus areas of the business.
Epicor iScala is available on premise, as a hosted solution or cloud-deployed and enables users to meet the unique needs of the hospitality industry by allowing companies to:
- Streamline and standardise back-office processes
- Manage costs and drive bottom line profits
- Capture and manage key finance information
- Simplify operations and reduce overheads
- Integrate front and back office systems
- Analyse financial reports in real-time
- Eliminate duplicate processes
- Operate in nearly paperless environments
How would you say end-user demand in the hospitality segment has changed over the last few years in terms of technology?
Till about five years ago, most travellers made their hotel choice based on amenities: choice of on-site restaurants, spa/gym/pool facilities, business centre, etc. In fact, the rating system for hotels (one to five) is still based on availability and quality of such facilities.
However, consumer demand for a more ‘personalised’ experience, like the ones they are used to with online shopping, is changing the way that the hospitality sector operates. And technology is at the heart of this change, for example, rather than waiting in line to check-in at the reception to be assigned a room etc., several hotels in the UAE now offer guests a chance to check in via smart devices. Similarly, rooms are now equipped with tablets that allow guests to control light settings, air-conditioning and entertainment, with just the tap of a finger.
From your perspective, what IT trends are currently influencing the hospitality sector? What technologies are hotel operators looking at?
As the hospitality sector continues to evolve, in an effort to provide customers the personalised experience we discussed previously, I think advanced analytics/big data and the internet of things (IoT) are two technologies that will be key in shaping the future of the industry.
For example, using big data and analytics, hotels can now offer frequent guests email offers with tailored packages and promotions, or once they are on-site, ensure that the room temperature is set to their preference as they walk in, the newspaper of their choice is delivered to them each morning or if they frequent a particular restaurant, ensure that there is always a reservation for them, irrespective of how busy the place is.
Similarly, using IoT, hotels can offer guests a very similar experience to the one many are used to in their ‘smart homes’: controlling blinds, the entertainment system or lighting either from their own smart device or via voice activation.
Do you have any tips to help IT managers and CIOs build a competitive hospitality infrastructure?
As the hospitality sector increases its investments in IoT devices in a bid to improve customer experiences, back-end systems have come under the spotlight.
Hospitality managers are becoming overwhelmed by the challenges of integrating existing front and back office solutions. Nevertheless, this integration is essential to effectively manage costs, optimise business performance and free up managers’ time.
To help combat these challenges, I would urge hospitality CIOs to consider investing in a robust back-office solution. The ideal back-office solution is specifically designed to meet the unique needs of the hospitality industry: working well for independent hotels and restaurants, while being scalable to meet the needs of larger hotel, casino and restaurant groups or real estate investment trusts (REITs).
Regardless of the size of the business, the enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution must be quick to implement, have fast and easy integration with the point of sale (POS) or property management systems (PMS), and go beyond traditional generic ERP functionality to deliver optimal stock control, financial management, business intelligence and collaboration, that will help drive maximum efficiency.