Over half of hospitality operators around the world are planning to increase their technology investment over the next year, with the main driver being improved customer experience, writes Lorraine Heller. A survey commissioned by the US-based communications technology firm Motorola Solutions reveals that 56% of hospitality businesses on both sides of the Atlantic plan to increase spending in mobile and wireless to improve operational efficiencies. The report, entitled the 2011 Hospitality Market Barometer, found 91% of decision makers in the hospitality sector understand the importance of technology to their business, while 78% recognise its role in delivering a competitive advantage. “Advances in wireless and mobile technologies, products and services are changing the landscape of the hospitality industry and how it operates,” said Craig Mathias, principal at Farpoint Group. “With a demanding client base equipped with increasing numbers of smartphones, tablet computers, notebook PCs and even rugged devices, successful hospitality IT organizations recognize the need to upgrade their existing WLANs to improve network reliability, capacity and coverage to support customer-facing applications, as well as internal services that enable their own mobile workforce and improve the guest experience.” The survey, which was conducted online in the last quarter of 2010, involved respondents from 161 hotel, restaurant, tourist attraction and casino businesses in Europe and North America. Almost three quarters of the businesses participating in the survey were mid-size to large companies with over 2,000 employees. Findings included: Technology for guest experience * Improved guest experience is the top driver for mobility investments, cited by 76% of hospitality venues surveyed. * Hospitality decision makers are investing in mobile technologies to support customer-facing applications that improve guest services by handling wireless email, guest/attendee check-in, table-side order/payment or event ticketing, among others. * 61% of respondents plan to deploy some form of video capabilities, including video surveillance, video conferencing and streaming video, in public access areas such as lobbies. * 58% of surveyed hospitality organizations deploying mobile technology today see improved customer satisfaction. Technology for workforce * 59% of respondents currently deploying mobile and wireless technology witnessed an increase in employee productivity and efficiency, while 55% saw improved sales results. * Managers, security personnel and customer service associates are the primary users of mobile and wireless devices in the hospitality companies surveyed – 71% of supervisors use smartphones, 52% of security use radios, 19% of ticketing agents are equipped with voice-over-IP (VoIP), and 26% of property managers have tablets. * Currently, the most popular applications on two-way radios are project management (51%) and collaboration (41%). Unified messaging and remote management/monitoring have the highest rate of planned deployments into 2012. * Among survey respondents, tablets and VoIP handsets are the top two mobile devices planned for new deployments by 2012. Technology for operational efficiency * 75% of hospitality organizations surveyed already have wireless LAN (WLAN) installed in their facilities. In North America, approximately one third of these venues have 802.11n, while European venues predominately have 802.11b/g. * 42% of respondents with existing WLAN expect to be fully upgraded to 802.11n by the end of 2012. * Improving throughput and reliability, and extending range of current wireless data networks are the top three drivers behind 802.11n WLAN adoption – all critical network features to meet greater data volumes and increasing demands for access from the customer and mobile workforce.