Could you share your journey in the hospitality industry before IHG?
I started my career in the hospitality industry about 25 years ago in Malaysia. Since then, I have worked across various Asia-Pacific regions—Thailand, Australia, and Singapore, to name a few. I have worked with multiple global brands, such as Radisson, GHM hotels, Marriott, Marriott Vacations Worldwide, Wyndham destinations, and other hotels, before landing the role of IT director at IHG.
What challenges and trends are you currently seeing in the post-pandemic travel and hospitality space?
Based on my experience, I think the pandemic made the hospitality industry more agile and robust by presenting an opportunity to upgrade its business operations. In the aftermath of a pandemic, the hotel business exploited the downtime to renew infrastructure and modernize technology in accordance with the latest trend to support remote working.
A global shortage of skilled workers in the market has resulted in technological advancement that automates previously laborious tasks by incorporating evolving contactless technology to accommodate the new millennial travel trend and change in travel behavior. For example, introducing video conferencing capabilities and data management technologies into company structures provides a better guest experience.
Still, the hotel industry faces a few significant challenges in keeping pace with changing millennial travel trends while upgrading hotel infrastructure to support seamless guest technology. The general shortage of infrastructure supplies in the market, such as PCs, hardware, and wi-fi equipment, delays the process of digital transformation in the hotels. I recently placed an order for wi-fi infrastructure equipment for multiple properties, but due to shortage, the lead time was six months.
Another challenge is convincing hotel owners or technology vendors to spend money on incorporating technological advancements according to changing travel trends to enhance the overall guest journey and deliver an increased return on investment and experience by providing better guest service. There has been a significant change in travelers’ behavior since the pandemic as people have become more concerned about hygiene and prefer contactless technology over manual assistance. The contactless technology enables guests to arrive and check in to their rooms without needing to pick up a room key from the reception desk and pay for services securely and hygienically.
After researching the current trends from the big system integrators like Oracle and other companies supporting the hospitality industry, I concluded that the central reservation system lies at the heart of a hotel’s functions in the current situation. This system contains vital information about the hotel’s availability, rates, and inventory data to manage online and offline bookings that helps in attracting more customers.
Could you share a scenario where you incorporated these technologies and trends and how they helped your clients?
As part of my current role, I’m working on multiple properties where we are upgrading the technologies precisely to align with the new travel patterns of millennials. The plan is to future-proof hotel competency to provide a stable and consistent customer journey. I’m looking forward to taking advantage of new technologies to deliver a better guest experience and ROI for hotel owners. To that end, I’m focusing on driving major digital transformation in all hotels owned by the Salter brothers, who own six IHG hotels in Australia. Currently, we are focusing on upgrading their guest wi-fi experiences and digital television signage to offer better guest room entertainment with the benefit of improved cost and energy efficiency.
Is there anything you’d like to share with your industry peers to help them adapt to new technologies and provide better customer experiences?
Based on my experience, I advise my peers to convince hotel owners to upgrade technology by focusing on commercials, ROI, and energy-saving solutions that provide speedy performance and a better customer journey. For example, we purchased over a thousand televisions for three different hotels, and I chose three major brands to compare. New television technologies now save 50 percent of current energy consumption, resulting in energy savings and eco-friendly benefits.
As an outcome, I would suggest my industry peers focus on convincing hotel owners to invest in the best technology. They should present the technical information in simple language, as it is important for hotel owners or asset managers to understand the offerings of the solutions before investing.