As a strategist I wonder: What entitles some hotels to prosper for dozens of decades, while their competitors fade away in increments of thirty years?
What allows a hotel to stand the test of time? You know the type: the “grand dames” of hospitality, world-renowned, ever-dynamic, always beautiful, and usually higher rated (as in ADR) hotel properties? They sprinkle themselves with diamonds and stars and make you remember one night there forever. As a strategist I wonder: What entitles some hotels to prosper for dozens of decades, while their competitors fade away in increments of thirty years?
In most cases it began with a vision, a capable team of supporters, good advice and of course, some capital. This was followed by an on-going commitment to adapt and evolve with the modern world, but to always uphold the ideals that made it a great place to visit in the beginning. Whether it was located on the US railroad at the turn of the last century or an exotic locale during the Golden Age of world travel, this combination of strategies (along with a little more capital) allowed the hotel to grow up in history for all of us to enjoy now.
As technology becomes more integral to the hotel business environment, operators view it as critical to their ability to deliver and receive services. The ability to take advantage of innovation, either now or someday in the not too distant future, is dependent upon infrastructure. This term is used loosely in tech buzz, but for this article it refers to a “structured cabling system supporting all networks deployed within the building.”
Many hotel developers do not understand the importance of telecommunications building standards, such as those published by Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA). Even worse is when these standards and practices are dismissed in order to save money on development costs. The practice of “daisy chaining” voice and data connections is analogous to skimping on your IRA contribution. It will catch up with you in the future. Most reputable cabling contractors will not “loop” data connections, and it is important for the owner to understand the risk of warrantee cancellation by the cable manufacturer - devastating when you have to knock down walls or send IT guys into airshafts to troubleshoot the network.
The following is an all too typical hotel cabling scenario: Voice system distributors will contract for cabling required for the telephone (PBX) systems, while local hardware vendors often set up data networks for administrative staff. Application vendors such as PMS and POS companies provide guidelines for connecting workstations to servers. Pay-per-View vendors give specifications for video networks. These components are then put out to bid by the general contractor. The result has been a rise in “retrofit technology”, cables crisscrossing workspaces, running through ventilation pathways and a setting for what some call “a spaghetti nightmare”. Because cable components are so often chosen at the lowest price for what is currently required, consideration is seldom given for the increased use of networks in the ultramodern hotel environment. It was not until the advent of Internet access from the guestroom that hotel builders confirmed the need for structured cabling systems in the hotel had significantly increased.
What makes hotels more complex than other commercial projects is the diversity of the operations. There are multiple outlets (restaurant, spa, meeting facilities) and many types of systems and users. There is technology for the guest and technology for the staff, as well as multiple channels to the outside world. This network complexity should be addressed sooner, rather than later, in the building process and pre-opening phases.
Unlike a commercial building, where cabling systems have an economic life of 5 to 10 years, the physical plant of a hotel is much more difficult to change in the future. Hard deck construction is prevalent in hotels; there are almost no “drop ceilings” and little conduit - pathways to protect cable runs and make them accessible in the future. While most network engineers do not notice hotels demanding the network performance requirements of their commercial building brethren, hotels still require an increasingly sophisticated cable plant.
Although there is little precedence for structured cabling systems in the hotel environment, they permeate almost every new commercial building, including educational institutions, health-care facilities and just as importantly, new home construction. The multi-dwelling unit (MDU) and condominium developers are building with future communication needs in mind, as are the entertainment facility developers. It’s time that hoteliers stopped overlooking the importance of infrastructure and start ensuring it is addressed during major renovations and redevelopment projects.
There are plenty of professional consultants that can provide structured cabling guidance and design services. Some services may cost more money up front but one sure truth is this: It is much more expensive and very difficult to re-wire a hotel in the future, than it is to plan ahead for changes. On that same note, recognizing the need for modernization allows great hotels to become even better hotels, withstanding the test of time.
HVS Technology Strategies is a division of HVS International, the world’s largest hospitality specific consulting firm. The division was formed in mid-2000, following two years of hospitality technology market research. Our findings revealed a growing demand for unbiased, technology-focused consulting throughout the hospitality industry. HVS Technology Strategies is comprised of consultants with hospitality operations experience. You will not have to spend valuable time educating our consultants on the principals of hospitality business practices. These individuals are constantly researching and keeping apprised of new technology products and services, as well as the practical applications of these products and services in the lodging environment. For more information visit www.hvsit.com