Automation and smart technologies to improve hotel and hospitality businesses

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India’s hospitality industry is readily adopting technology to provide better services. As customers are increasingly relying on digital platforms, hotels too are turning to technology and automation to keep up.

Technologies like appliance automation, services control, tracking solutions, cloud-based data collection and analytics are garnering great demand for their significant impact on the hotel business.

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Aditya Sanghi, chief executive officer and co-founder, Hotelogix Inc., explains, “Until recently, 3-star and above hotels were running on older server-based technology, not connected to the digital world. This created a technological bottleneck for them. Now, these are effectively embracing cloud-based solutions to connect with customers in real time. Traditional hotel chains are expanding their property count by up to three times and are, hence, in need of centralised monitoring and control systems. Moreover, delivering consistently good service requires automation. This is driving the demand for such technologies. Even smaller hotels (with no more than 20 rooms) are willingly adopting such solutions.”

Market reports suggest that by 2021, the global smart hospitality market will grow to US$ 18.1 billion at a CAGR of 25.8 per cent. This will be driven by hotel automation platforms, which can generate a global market of US$ 4.3 billion by 2021, at 6.5 per cent CAGR.

What benefits will businesses get by investing in these technologies

Srijith Sivan, business development manager, BuildTrack, says, “The centralised system offers greater degree of control, safety and operational cost management. Energy and resource usage optimisation can lead to cost savings in the range of 10 to 25 per cent.”

Sanghi adds, “These solutions can help double the occupancy rate and help hotels make more money. Cloud-based technologies can strengthen their marketing capacities and guest management strategies. Through data-driven insights, owners can take important business decisions, like guest experience improvement areas, target market for better business, revenue management strategies and so on.”

Guest room automation solution by BuildTrack (Credit: buildtrack.in)

Sivan gives an idea on the investment required. He says, “Starting costs for room automation can vary between INR 50,000 and INR 150,000. For centralised management, it largely depends on the scope and size of the hotel. That cost starts at around INR 200,000.”

The payback is quick. Sanghi says, “Indian hotels should invest at least two per cent of their revenue in technology. ROI starts coming in as soon as three to six months, and increases the revenue by at least five per cent within this period itself.”

Examples of available hotel automation platforms and solutions
Hotel management encircles multiple aspects, ranging from asset and resource management, workforce, complimentary services offered to guests and more. Technology solution providers can take up each of these areas to create niche offerings or produce a complete end-to-end solution.

For instance, Mumbai-based BuildTrack delivers guest room automation and centralised control of hotel operations. Sivan says, “Guest room automation allows the guests to control features like lighting, air-conditioning, curtains, TV and other media devices, room service, laundry service, spa reservations and so on.

Representative image of BuildTrack’s hotel operations solutions

“The hotel operations solution pertains to safety monitoring, such as smoke sensors, gas leak sensors, perimeter security and so forth. It also addresses central control for common area lighting, ACs, pumps, elevator status and the like.”

Hotelogix offers an end-to-end cloud-based management platform that focuses on all operational verticals, including front desk activities (like check-in management and guest requests), housekeeping activities, guest room automation, appliance control along with centralised monitoring that provides data-driven insights.

Hotelogix platform makes hotel management easier (Credit: Hotelogix.com)

Chennai-based Hotspot Express provides a Wi-Fi automation solution to hotels. Their latest offering, called HotEx Mini, is a plug-and-play device that connects with the hotel’s Wi-Fi router. It provides secure Wi-Fi access to hotel guests via authentication. This allows hotel owners to customise individual Internet usage permissions. A single device can support up to 50 rooms.

Challenges in adoption
Sanghi explains the challenges related to awareness among customers. He elaborates, “Hotel owners who had installed older server-based solutions, say, seven years ago, are not keen on upgrading to modern solutions. They do not recognise the long-term benefits they are missing out on, nor the importance of scalability and a future-proof solution.
“On the other hand, in case of hotels that have not used technology at all, the challenge is adoption.”

Reports suggest that India’s low labour costs prevent small- and medium-sized hotels from investing in automation. However, industry players are of different opinions. Sivan says, “Lower labour cost is not an issue. Automation is intended to allow hotels to operate in a more structured manner with fewer people, but be a lot more reliable and cost-efficient.”

Sanghi confirms, “The solutions streamline the manual processes, making the activities easier to execute. These not only reduce time and effort invested in these activities, but also errors made by manual recordings, preventing dissatisfied customer experience.”

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