Tourism and Leisure is an umbrella term for an industry that encompasses hotels and hospitality, dining and drinking, entertainment and attractions such as museums and theme parks, sports facilities and gaming. It generates 9% of the UK economy – more than £115 billion, according to the most recent government figures (source: Department for Culture, Media and Sport) – and employs more than 2.6 million people.
In this constantly expanding sector, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is rapidly becoming the foundation for growth, enabling the delivery of improved customer service and the streamlined management of data and business processes.
This means that Superfast Broadband is now a staple requirement across the industry. At the very least, even the smallest independent bar or attraction needs a website, a presence on social media platforms where their customers share reviews, recommendations and criticisms, any appropriate online booking facilities, and the ability to provide guests with reliable Wi-Fi services.
In the back-office, an increasingly sophisticated range of cloud-based applications and services is giving players in the Tourism and Leisure sector the chance to break down traditional barriers in the supply chain, get closer to their customers and use technology as a management tool to improve the performance and competitive edge of their business.
Thanks to technology, the visitor or guest experience starts long before their arrival, so if you cannot meet their expectations with interactive online services and the promise of high-speed connectivity, they might not
come at all!
Essential Technologies for Tourism And Leisure
Without adequate broadband capacity, SMEs in tourism and leisure face an uphill battle to engage potential guests and visitors by sharing multimedia content and interacting with them on social media platforms.
Aside from the provision of reliable connectivity services for guests at their venue, there is also a growing need to work with technology partners to develop services and applications – particularly mobile apps – for online trading (bookings, for example), special offers and marketing incentives.
And as the industry becomes more collaborative, technology is helping to break down traditional barriers between hotels, attractions and third-party agencies. None of this is easy without the availability of high-speed broadband services.
The cloud provides businesses with a cost-effective way to scale computing power up or down, according to seasonal demand or a successful promotional campaign, without investing in expensive on-premises infrastructure. It also enables innovative collaboration between industry partners, helping to break down transaction barriers between direct sales and agency sales, booking engines and online travel portals.
Even at the lower end of the tourism and leisure market, reliable Wi-Fi connectivity for guests and visitors is a necessity rather than a luxury. With smartphones and tablets now ubiquitous, people expect to be able to access personal and business applications easily, wherever they are – in the bar, the restaurant, the foyer or even in the grounds or car park.
Customer Relationship Management
Consumer information is the lifeblood of the industry. Only by knowing their customers well and reacting to their needs and requests in real time can businesses generate competitive edge, loyalty and repeat visits. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) technology is no longer the preserve of large organisations, and there are many cloud-based tools and systems that can be used to tap into consumer intelligence on social media platforms.
Management Information Systems
Hospitality management information systems (MIS) use technology to collect, process and analyse data and information to increase efficiency and improve business decisions across a range of functions, including online ordering, menu planning, delivery, accounting, stock control and sales records. Traditionally, MIS technology has been accessed via desktop PCs. But increasingly, it is available online via tablets, smartphones and PDAs.
HR and e-learning
SME in the Tourism and Leisure industries have previously found the cost of heavy duty HR and e-learning technology prohibitive. Here again, the cloud is helping to give wider access to systems and applications that will help businesses meet legislative requirements and regulations, as well as manage content and streamline processes. Safeguarding employee data, managing leave and sickness, salary administration, training records, payroll, implementing minimum wage and TUPE regulations, can all be achieved on integrated platforms provided as a service.
On the training front, in an industry where businesses are operating at a fast pace and employees need the skills to access information quickly, e-learning is ideal. Tutorials and podcasts can be accessed as and when they are needed, to meet immediate and specific requirements.
Consumers use social media to plan holidays, breaks and activities, and user-generated reviews are more powerful than traditional advertising. There is a great opportunity for SMEs to engage with their customers on these platforms, as well as monitoring them for comments about the visitor’s experience – and responding to them.
Booking apps that run in Facebook, deals, promotions and offers that can be ‘favourited’ and re-tweeted on Twitter, and post-visit feedback forms that can easily be completed and returned from mobile phones are just a few examples of how businesses can use these platforms to develop their markets.
Business Benefits Explained
Even a small investment in some of the technologies mentioned above, or the reappraisal of existing infrastructure, can deliver a host of benefits for SMEs in the Tourism and Leisure industry.
More meals can be produced with more efficiently sourced ingredients, for example. More bookings can be processed, more customers reached and more enquiries handled in less time. And if staff are supported by more automated processes, they are free to concentrate on visitor/guest services, and can be more responsive to requests and comments.
Greater customer knowledge
Businesses can develop instant, personalised and bookable services that reflect what they know about their customers – and anticipate demand. These services and applications also help to address the challenge of brand-agnostic customers who rate value and service quality above mere reputation.
Customers like a streamlined experience: Wi-Fi everywhere, cashless transactions, automated check-in and check-out facilities, mobile apps with destination/event/venue information – the possibilities are endless, and they all have the potential to generate repeat and referred business.
Technology helps businesses to run more efficiently, saving time and resources in the back-office – automating order and booking processes, for example, integrating processes that previously existed as mini silos, and enabling multi-channel communications.
Getting Services Right
In the 21st century, guests and visitors expect services such as Wi-Fi to be available as a matter of course. This might be enough for a modest pub or bed-and-breakfast. But beyond that, depending on the nature and market of the venue or attraction, there might be a host of expectations that can only be met with the help of technology.
Front of house expectations
At the higher end of the market, consumers want to have access to the same range of digital and internet services at the gym, in the hotel or even at the restaurant table that they enjoy in their homes. This means that top-range hotels are having to implement IPTV, Unified Communications and personalised apps on a much bigger scale.
Technology is giving consumers in the Tourism and Leisure market much more control over how they spend their money. They will naturally gravitate towards attractions, experiences and venues that offer good value and service from the first point of interaction online. Applications such as e-booking and e-ticketing, which
make it easy and seamless to plan and confirm an itinerary from a mobile device will be increasingly important.
Key Back-Office Considerations
Systems and network availability
If you want to maximise your investment in technology, however modest it might be, you will need to ensure the availability of adequate processing power and network bandwidth. For smaller businesses, this could mean upgrading your server(s) or making sure you have a good-quality Ethernet connection with the broadband service. Larger businesses might need to think in terms of redundant network lines to ensure availability in the event of an outage.
Software as a Service
Buying software as a service is making previously high-cost applications and systems affordable to smaller businesses. In the Tourism and Leisure industry, this means that CRM systems, in particular, can be used by SMEs to develop a more interactive relationship with consumers. And because they are sourced from the cloud rather than occupying expensive server space, they help to reduce infrastructure costs. Upgrades are automatic, and licences can be scaled up or down.
Wi-Fi connectivity is as important for staff as it is for guests and visitors in an industry where employees are mobile, and have to take services to the customer. Whether this involves mobile terminals for financial transactions, the ability to answer specific questions, or fulfilling requests that require communication with another department – housekeeping, restaurant bookings or concierge services, for example – any interruption in wireless availability is potentially damaging to the business.
Many Tourism and Leisure businesses are using the cloud to source new applications and integrate them with legacy systems. For example, social media platforms like Force.com provide toolsets for integrating with enterprise applications and middleware solutions, as well as other cloud services. This is making it easier for businesses to extend legacy environments while introducing new services.
How do I get started?
Assess your resources
Superfast Broadband gives you the chance to reassess your resources and make sure they are optimised to take advantage of higher connectivity speeds. Start by looking at the entire cost of your telecoms bill – and ask your prospective service provider how superfast broadband can save you money by delivering a complete UC package.
Then look at your existing infrastructure. For example, you will need to check the quality of your Ethernet connection to make sure the benefits will be realised within your own network. This is something your service provider should be able to help you with.
Technology for innovation, collaboration, development and engagement
Superfast Broadband will give you access to a range of cloud-based applications and services, many of which will complement or even replace your existing software investment. The benefits of cloud computing – reduced licence costs, simpler management, 24-hour availability, remote access – will depend on your service
provider’s ability to guarantee security, which should be a primary consideration.
Security and mobility
Prepare your team to get the most out of an IT environment which they effectively carry around with them on their laptops, smartphones and tablets. Consider implementing a BYOD strategy in which employees are encouraged to access business tools and systems via the interfaces that they feel most comfortable with, wherever they happen to be. This should be integrated with your security policy – and properly managed.
Choose the right provider
High-speed connectivity is essential to the Tourism and Leisure sector’s ability to innovate and develop new content and products. So it is vital to find a service provider who understands the dynamics of your industry and can provide the kind of service levels, availability and security that you require to conduct your business, enable collaboration and meet customers’ expectations. Telemat are in the position to offer a free 1 hour review of your broadband setup and make recommendations for you in relation to superfast broadband. If you would like to take up this offer give our office a ring on 01239 712345 to request
Website for the sector skills council for hospitality, passenger transport, travel and tourism.