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Sunanda K. Chavan
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hotel industry - September 29th, 2010

The hotel industry is fast adopting the latest technologies in a big way, thanks to increasing competition. Chitra Padmanabhan observes that technology acts as a key differentiator to retain international clientele0


Badly bruised by the September 11 attacks and the ongoing slowdown, the hospitality industry in India is increasingly taking the help of technology to not only cut costs but also lure customers. Today, guests in most five star hotels can access the Internet through their laptops at the poolside or in conference rooms, with equal ease, thanks to wireless LAN (WLAN). Innovations like these that seem like technological marvels today will be commonplace tomorrow, as almost all leading hospitality chains will provide wireless connectivity.

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In days gone by it was said that in order to succeed, all a hotel needed was a scenic location and good cuisine. But in today’s competitive environment, a mistake as trivial as not taking down a customer’s order can prove disastrous. As the hospitality industry started looking for ways to improve efficiencies, efforts and investments in the field of information technology intensified. One of the first deployments of IT began at the front desk when receptionists began checking the name of the customer and then allotted a room to him.


Big hotels also started putting in place accounting systems and back office software to improve processes. As hotel chains started expanding their operations across the country, it was necessary to monitor their assets. This gave rise to the need for a Property Management System which enabled hospitality groups to track their assets across different regions.


During the same period, hospitality chains also saw the need for a centralised system. This phase saw different hotels of a chain being networked and connected to a central server. The Taj Group of Hotels, for instance, has implemented a WAN called TajNet, connecting the group’s 55 properties in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. A centralised system has tremendous benefits. One, there are greater economies of scale, especially when the group wants to announce a special scheme for all its member hotels. Two, the group can monitor the performance of each member hotel and summarise the sales performance of the whole group.


Today, the IT initiatives of hotel chains in India have matured, and are being increasingly fine-tuned to serve the needs of the customer. Says Pradeep Khetwal, systems manager, Le Royal Meridien (Mumbai), “Most hospitality chains now realise that technology in the hospitality industry is critical to improve the operational efficiency of a hotel.


The industry has moved from the traditional transaction-based processes such as check-in and reservations to features that are built and designed specifically for the customer. Services like providing wireless Internet access to guests will only increase in the future
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