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Australia’s Iconic Hotels taps cloud for speed and cost savings

The independent hotel operator in the Australian Capital Territory has saved IT manpower and costs by moving from an on-premise hospitality management system to a cloud-based application

As a fast-growing hotel chain in Australia, Iconic Hotels, formerly Abode Group, could no longer depend on its on-premise systems to support guest reservations and its property management needs. In less than five years, its portfolio grew from three to eight hotels, with two more properties in the works.

Rudy Kalele, director of revenue, distribution and central reservations at Iconic Hotels, says the company had been using Oracle Opera to manage its properties and guest reservations, but the rapid expansion had made it difficult to scale up deployment of the software.

“Now we want to access software from everywhere and at any time,” he says. “We want to multitask on one screen, and we want cost effectiveness and security ... so cloud is the way to go.”

That led Iconic Hotels, which considered other offerings in the market, to go with Opera Cloud, the cloud-based version of its Opera on-premise software. The experience, however, was not without hiccups, at least during the first six months after the project went live.

For one thing, Iconic Hotels was using Opera Cloud hosted out of Germany, and so it found itself grappling with latency issues while accessing the service in Australia, says Kalele. “But thanks to Opera and the Oracle team, they moved us to a closer server in Singapore at their own cost.”

On its part, Iconic Hotels assisted with the move by migrating each hotel to the new server, an effort that took about six weeks. “Since then, Opera Cloud has been running fantastic for us,” he says.

Opera Cloud’s improvements over the on-premise version of the software proved its worth quickly – by providing an overview of its properties from a single dashboard, as opposed to separate screens previously. “Our central reservations teams can now pick up reservations and access any property in one environment,” says Kalele.

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He says the migration from Opera on-premise to Opera Cloud was spaced out. It took about a week to migrate data and processes for one hotel, leaving some time for the new system to stabilise before moving on to the next hotel.

“The Opera installers were very experienced and helpful,” says Kalele. “They literally held our hands and showed us what needs to be done, and my team got the hang of it for the first couple of properties and then it was just the same afterwards.”

During migration, the only challenge that his team faced was that it had to consolidate customer profiles and decide which ones to port over to Opera Cloud. “We did this manually and although we could have the Oracle guys do this for us at a cost, we had enough resources on the ground to transfer the data across on our own.”

The move to Opera Cloud has resulted in cost savings, as Iconic Hotels no longer needs a dedicated IT team to manage the system. “We don’t need someone to restart or back up the server, or to take care of its security,” says Kalele. “We’ve saved the cost of having at least two IT managers. Also, instead of having five people in my central reservations team, we can do the same job with four people, because it’s all on one screen and the time taken to enter reservations is much lower.”

From an operations perspective, the hotel’s housekeeping staff can provide updates on whether a room is cleaned or not using a tablet or smartphone, without the need to inform the front desk.

As a cloud-based application, Opera Cloud also lets the hotel’s staff access the reservations system anywhere without using a virtual private network. “If you’re at a conference and you need to access some reports or information, you can do that anywhere as long as you have an internet connection,” he says.

Iconic Hotels is now looking at rolling out the Opera Payment Interface, a payment gateway that will allow its credit card machines to be integrated with Opera Cloud. Plans are also underway to implement some of the software’s functionalities on tablet computers so guests can fill in check-in information on a tablet instead of on paper.

Read more on Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)

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