An IT lead at Celtic Manor, the hotel and conference centre that hosted the Ryder Cup and a NATO summit is “amazed” at the lack of data-focus in the hotel and leisure industry.

Russell Phillips, vice president of facility development tells ComputerworldUK: “We [Celtic Manor] see it as critical, but it always amazes us when we go to another hotel or another resort how a difficult it is to connect with passwords and how poor the bandwidth or Wi-Fi. Everybody is missing a huge trick with that. In today’s world, as part of everybody’s stay it is a key factor that everybody will have a data device and everybody will have a mobile device.

But hotels need to offer more than just great bandwidth, he says. It is crucial to use it to learn more about guests to make decisions about services in the business and to boost marketing and promotions.

“The more we analyse this, the more trends and data we can get out of it, and can see what people are doing.

“We are completely redesigning our website in the first quarter of next year because it was evident guests were only visiting certain sections of our huge website that trys to cover all aspects of our business. It has given us the information to go to tender to completely reformat that and make it a lot slicker and easier for people to use.”

Getting the budget for this can be a challenge, Phillips admits.

“There is almost this reluctance for hoteliers to invest in IT, but I think we are seeing a slow change, where they realise it is key to get that right and to learn more about their customers, which they have never done before. It is easy to pull live data, and you can see exactly what they are doing and keep that relationship with them once you have left.

“You ask a lot of hotels if they put a hundred thousand on a restaurant that is going to serve more covers, it is a no-brainer. Ask if they will spend a hundred thousand on IT and they bolt. But I’m seeing that culture change now IT is a key business tool for a hotel.”

Wi-Fi fit for thousands

Celtic Manor is using a new wireless infrastructure to give it a competitive edge, offer targeted promotions and dictate the way it offers services to guests.

The hotel and leisure industry must compete to offer the quickest and most reliable bandwidth not only to over-night guests and staff, but the thousands of delegates who attend events in their conference rooms.

With over a million visitors a year and the future site for Wales’ International Convention Centre next year, Celtic Manor needed to upgrade its Wi-Fi infrastructure.

It chose provider Xirrus in favour of Jupiter, Aruba and Trapeze networks.

Phillips says: “Everybody that we were speaking to, for similar events and people who run big stadiums, seemed to have a really good time with Xirrus. We wanted to put a future-proof a network as possible.” 

“Next year guests will all have two data devices, probably three. So we are looking at worse case scenarios of 2,300 data connections in one conference room.” 

Using Wi-Fi network to learn about guests

Celtic Manor has plugged a Ucopia black box into the Xirrus' high density network to collect email addresses when a guest logs in to the Wi-Fi. 

“If we see a treatment room was cancelled last minute we can email you to see if you are interested. Similarly, if we wanted to push our restaurant at 50 percent off one night we could do that. We have usually struggled because if you check-in for a weekend, traditionally, we had no way of contacting you throughout your stay.” 

Phillips hopes Celtic Manor’s new Wi-Fi will make the hotel the top destination for events. 

“Clearly everybody today is looking for a deal, it will always be us against someone else and who can drop their price, but they won’t need to build their own network. 

“If we can point out the savings in coming here, as well as the resilience we have within that network and the bandwidth, that will be a major factor.”