For the first time, technology has become a real point of differentiation for hotel companies. As owners and asset managers become more involved and focusÂ on technology and distribution, the pressure will grow for brand companies.Â Itâ€™s great the entire industry recognizes the problem, but the question becomes, how does it get solved? Or worse, what happens if it doesnâ€™t?
After attending the summer season of hotel industry events, I was surprised to see a new found recognition from hotel brand companies that technology has become an urgent priority. It is refreshing to hear executives admitting that they have fallen behind the curve and are desperate for new solutions.
It wasnâ€™t that long ago that technology and distribution were barely mentioned at these events, but now they are often the focus of general sessions at even the biggest investment conferences like NYU. And now we even have newer events like the Revenue Strategy Summit and the Hotel Data Conference where distribution is a main topic on the agenda.
Itâ€™s remarkable to see such a transformation, but thatâ€™s where my excitement stops. In the next breath, many of the same hotel brand leaders talk about a renewed commitment to building better technology. They want to compete with Expedia, Priceline, and Google by creating their own in-house platforms.
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“This is the second time in recent months that security researchers have warned of hotel Wi-Fi networks being a potential vector of attack for cybercriminals, providing a not-so-subtle reminder that individuals must be ever-vigilant regarding the security of their devices and access points.”
Cylance, a security vendor, says that its security researchers at the Sophisticated Penetration Exploitation and ResearchÂ team (SPEAR) have uncovered a flaw in the InnGate Wi-Fi router commonly used by many hotels that could be placing the devices of guests at risk. According to Wired, the Cylance team reports, the vulnerability could threaten not just guests, but could also spread to the hotels themselves if hackers are able to compromise the router to allow them to access other parts of the hotel network. Cylance says this could potentially impact reservations and billing.
The vulnerability, dubbed CVE-2015-0932 gives an attacker full read and write access to the file system of an ANTLabsâ€™ InnGate device, Cylance reports. Â Cyber thieves gain remote access through an unauthenticated rsync daemon running on TCP 873, which then allows them to read and write unrestricted to the file system of the Linux based operating system.
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â€œNo hotel, convention center, or other commercial establishment or the network operator providing services at such establishments may intentionally block or disrupt personal Wi-Fi hot spots on such premises, including as part of an effort to force consumers to purchase access to the property ownerâ€™s Wiâ€‘Fi network,â€ The FCC states. â€œSuch action is illegal and violations could lead to the assessment of substantial monetary penalties.â€
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission forcefully came down on the â€œdisturbing trendâ€ of hotels and other commercial entities blocking consumersâ€™ personal Wi-Fi hot spots and declared such practices â€œillegal.â€
The enforcement advisory directly rebuffs efforts by Marriott International, Hilton Worldwide and the rest of the U.S. hotel industry to get the authority to block attendeesâ€™ personal Wi-Fi hotspots at meetings and conventions.
Although the FCC hasnâ€™t directly ruled on the Marriott and American Hotel & Lodging Association petition, filed in August, to seek clarification of the law as it pertains to Wi-Fi blocking, the FCC did note: â€œWhile the Enforcement Bureau recognizes that the Petition questions our position, the Bureau will continue to enforce the law as it understands it unless and until the Commission determines otherwise.â€
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Most obviously, hotels would have a monopoly over Internet access and could charge guests with exorbitant Wi-Fi fees; much like Marriott did with its $1,000 access rates at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel…Worse yet, hotels and other enterprises could also easily censor access to content deemed undesirable to the business via the Wi-Fi access contract terms. For example, Hilton could block all access to travel booking websites that list hotels with lower rates.
As the battle for Net Neutrality rages on, Federal regulators may soon be ruling in another dispute between consumer access and business control of the Internet.
In a petition to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission made public last week, the American Hospitality & Lodging Association and Marriott International asked the FCC to declare that a hotel operate can deploy equipment that â€œmay result in â€˜interference with or cause interferenceâ€™ to a Part 15 [Wi-Fi] device being used by a guest on the operatorâ€™s property.â€
â€œWi-Fi network operators should be able to manage their networks in order to provide a secure and reliable Wi-Fi service to guests on their premises,â€ Marriott argued.
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Hoteliers need to know how the bandwidth is currently being used so they can prioritize different types of usage. Packet inspection equipment can help you figure out if guests are using the Internet to download movie torrents or to make voice over IP calls, and then you can prioritize and make more bandwidth available for one activity over the other. â€œYou donâ€™t want to overpay for excess bandwidth when it isnâ€™t necessary,â€
Two years ago, BioMarin, a pharmaceutical firm based in San Rafael, Calif., called Inn Marin to book an offsite training session. This wasnâ€™t unusual since the 69-room independent hotel is located eight miles up the road from the companyâ€™s headquarters. And with only 35 people attending, the meeting requirements were far from onerous. But there was one last-minute request that nearly caused Inn Marin to lose this booking. BioMarin needed an Internet connection that was six megabits per second (Mbps) or faster to allow 20 desktop computers to log into the corporate server in San Rafael. And the DSL line coming into the hotel was only capable of 1 Mbps down and 1/2 Mbps up. â€œI just about had a heart attack,â€ says Inn Marin General Manager Robert Marshall. â€œThatâ€™s when I realized that we couldnâ€™t keep doing business like this.â€
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“…major hotel companies that have offered free Wi-Fi for several years at limited- and select-service brands have recognized that free basic Wi-Fi is indeed now a consumer expectation. Â In response, they have begun developing tiered offerings that satisfy customer demands while also leaving open the possibility of revenue for premium service….”Â
After seeing complimentary Wi-Fi service become ubiquitous at limited- and select-service hotels, owner-operators of full-service properties are now facing growing pressures from consumers and brands to provide a tiered program that features free, property-wide basic service while charging for premium broadband access.
Â “What we’re seeing now is more brands responding to consumer demand, because there has been a clear indication from consumers that basic connectivity is something they now expect us to provide (at no cost),” said Bill DeForrest, president and CEO of Chicago-based Spire Hospitality, which manages 22 properties including two full-service hotels under the Hilton Hotels & Resorts brand.
For more:Â https://www.hotelnewsnow.com/Article/13509/Tiered-Wi-Fi-emerges-as-new-industry-model