As tech transforms the hotel business, network performance is critical
The rate of change in the hospitality sector over the past decade has been staggering. While booking apps, AirBnB, and ratings websites have certainly been disruptors, it’s really the changing demands of travelers that have put technology at the center of the lodging experience.
And hoteliers are taking note.
A recent study from Forrester Research found that of all the amenities patrons seek in the hotels they do business with, wireless connectivity is what guests desire most. And while 94 percent of business travelers agreed that well-performing WiFi was “essential to their stay,” it’s not just a sentiment felt by those traveling for work.
International guests, for instance, may not want to change their wireless data plans to accommodate their trip to a foreign locale, as access to functional WiFi is now an expectation wherever they roam. And with 89 percent of guests “deciding where to lodge based on free reliable WiFi,” according to the 2018 Lodging Technology Study, access to connectivity is now literally the first thing brands should be delivering to guests.
Business consequences of poor monitoring
Poor guest WiFi can result in negative guest satisfaction as measured by post-stay surveys, which hold a lot of weight in a market where 64 percent of leisure travelers claim they aren’t loyal to a particular marquee. This isn't just a bad reflection on the brand, as it can result in adverse business consequences for property managers, including loss of repeat customer business, poor online reviews, managers not getting bonuses, or worse, loss of franchise.
It goes beyond delivering guest WiFi, too, as connectivity now plays a critical role in the world of hospitality from an operational perspective.
As has happened in other industries, global hotel brands now connect their various branch or franchise locations via a corporate Wide Area Network (WAN) that supports many of the critical tools hoteliers need to both keep guests happy and the lights on. And also like other industries, the customer-facing tools workers in the field of hospitality leverage are more and more dependent on WiFi-enabled applications being performant.
For instance, just as shoppers now expect a more streamlined point-of-sale experience when they visit brick-and-mortar storefronts, hotel guests have little patience for bottlenecks at the front desk. As a result, the back-of-house applications hotels use to manage their bookings are now often equipped to function on mobile devices that they can arm their check-in staff with to service guests from different parts of the property.
When all is said and done, hotel networks need to support an almost countless number of apps -- from business-critical tools to a guest’s Instagram account -- that all place unique demands on network capacity that IT needs to support.
Digital transformation in the hospitality industry
With connectivity playing such a critical business role, hotel brands are exploring similar “digital transformation” initiatives that have already taken root in other sectors by retiring their data-center-centric network architectures for cloud or direct internet access (DIA) configurations, or a combination architectures supported by SD-WAN.
The benefits here are clear to see. For starters, global hotel brands will need to leverage an array of cloud vendors and ISPs to support and deliver traffic across the network; if IT can retire their physical legacy network infrastructure, they’ll no longer need to exhaust resources to support hardware, nor will they need a local IT presence at each branch location.
Some of the drawbacks, however, might include a lack of visibility into what’s going on locally at each remote location. While the old network architecture that was based around a data center and VPNs allowed IT to have insight into the entire delivery path of the apps they need most, IT teams lose that visibility when they rely on cloud and DIA exclusively. If one branch location is experiencing poor latency compared to other locations, IT will need a monitoring solution that delivers visibility along each network path to pinpoint the actual cause of the issue and to resolve it.
This is true for assuring that WiFi is getting delivered with minimal delay at each of the brand’s branch locations, too. Rather than supporting a local IT team at each hotel in a brand’s portfolio, a comprehensive network performance monitoring solution should be able to see past local firewalls and into the LAN, giving a centralized IT operation a “local perspective” to identify potential issues isolated to one location on the network.
It’s critical, however, that any performance monitoring solution a hospitality brand partners with is able to account for ALL of the apps leveraging network capacity. This includes the personal apps of guests using a specific locations WiFi, ie. making sure visiting children have access to streaming services or messaging after a long journey that may have left them grumpy.
For a major distributed hotel network, it’s especially important that any monitoring solution they seek out breaks down the barriers to visibility across the network where issues hindering performance could be hiding. It’s the only way these companies will be able to keep up with ever-changing consumer tastes in a global market where connectivity is key.