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Hospitality firms must accelerate digital transformation to secure long-term recovery

Key retail sector must respond quickly to new post-pandemic digital-first demands and consumer behaviours to regain competitive edge, says study

With lockdowns being eased and the sector’s doors finally reopening, hospitality is quickly getting a sense of the evolved digital-first world in which it is now operating. Research from Aruba says the whole sector must accelerate its digital transformation to fuel long-term recovery, or risk customer abandonment and falling further behind.

In its study, the wired, wireless and security networking provider said that as of last year, the hospitality sector was in a healthy – but not leading – place in its adoption of advanced technologies and moving computing to the edge.

The past year has seen a significant step-change in the adoption of technology and digital services, but while some hospitality businesses were able to welcome online models, huge swathes of the industry were forced to remain dormant, leaving many digital advancements relatively untested or stagnating.

The research found that more than half of hospitality IT leaders had started to implement trials or applications in areas such as artificial intelligence (AI) (55%), internet of things (IoT) (70%) and machine learning (57%). However, that compares with figures of up to 75% for AI in the financial services industry, or 77% for IoT in retail, distribution and transport.

Aruba said the sector was also struggling significantly with the data these new technologies produces. One-quarter (25%) of IT leaders in hospitality said there was too much data for their systems to handle, and they could not process the data they collected quickly enough to act (25%).

With data levels increasing exponentially over the past year because of the Covid-induced rise of smart technologies, IoT sensors and connected devices, Aruba warned that the depth of data sprawl will only increase.

The research also showed that 54% of hospitality IT leaders were already using or trialling edge technologies pre-pandemic, and a further 16% were already computing at the edge. Although this shows a smaller proportion of hospitality businesses are operating at the edge compared with other industries (28% across all sectors), Aruba suggested such firms were successfully delivering new outcomes, such as utilising facial recognition technology (49%), experimenting with live, real-time, multi-language translation (45%), and creating enhanced augmented and virtual reality experiences (43%).

In a call to action, Aruba’s study set out three key areas of focus for organisations in the hospitality sector in order to provide a clear roadmap to setting up the right network for future success. These were to process data efficiently, analyse data intelligently and store data securely.

“The pandemic presented endless challenges to the hospitality sector and while there have been pockets of digital innovation and success, many businesses have been unable to test and trial digital advancements, putting them at a disadvantage,” said Morten Illum, VP EMEA of Aruba. “Consumer behaviours, expectations and demands have shifted exponentially, and hospitality organisations must demonstrate that they can respond quickly to these new requirements to tempt them back through their doors.

“Organisations have a tremendous opportunity to make changes now to provide superior services in the future. But to do this successfully, they must get a handle on the information flow in and out of their systems. That is why it is critical that the sector evolves its network capabilities to ensure it has the infrastructure and solutions in place to support the next-generation technologies and experiences that will define their organisation’s digital transformation in 2021 and beyond.”

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