Irish hoteliers are looking to technology as part of their efforts to grow overseas visitor numbers. According to an industry survey undertaken by the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF), many of the hoteliers planning capital expenditure projects during 2018 intend to invest in new technology to augment business operations and improve guest experiences . “Our focus as a sector is on improving customer satisfaction. Increasingly technology can help us to deliver that,” said Joe Dolan of the Irish Hotels Federation. “However, poor access to broadband is a major barrier in rural areas.”
Increased broadband width is one important area for investment that has been identified by hoteliers. “Guests, especially younger guests and Americans, take access to high-speed broadband as a given. Hotels were once a place to get away from it all. Today it is not unusual for guests to arrive with a smartphone, a tablet and a laptop. Now as guests’ basic expectations of technology increase, even visitors to the remotest parts of Ireland expect to stay connected with family and friends at home. This is a great opportunity for Irish hotels too as these guests can become great ambassadors for Irish tourism,” said Dolan.
However, Dolan pointed out that for some hoteliers, especially in rural Ireland, delivering high-speed broadband to guests requires infrastructure and investment that is beyond the means of an individual property. “Poor broadband infrastructure is costing rural hoteliers business across the leisure and corporate sectors. The drop in corporate business is of particular concern as its broader seasonal spread makes it a valuable source of business during off-season. In many cases, the hotels most affected are still in the early stages of recovery, so any further delay in the roll-out of fibre broadband is a real worry,” Dolan added.
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In addition to extra bandwidth, hotels are also investing in in-room technology such as Smart TVs and flat screens. Dolan said that, with the rise in streaming, guests are increasingly bringing their own content with them when they travel so they can watch the same programmes they would normally at home.
While some of the difference will be literally at the guest’s fingertips, Dolan said that the real innovation will be behind the scenes. “Technology has the potential to help us to automate and simplify operational tasks. It can help us improve how guests interact with our business – from booking a room, for example, to check in. This can help to improve efficiencies and free up staff for more one-to-one personal engagement with guests, which is critical to the delivery of best-in-class customer experience.
“It can also assist us to drive down costs. Take energy conservation - smart thermostats, motion sensor lighting systems and energy efficient kitchen appliances all help to cut the cost of energy consumption. This contributes to better cost-competitiveness, which is essential in such a price sensitive sector as ours.”