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Technology Spending - The need to know

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March 01, 2008
Benchmark | Survey
Sally Kelly

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© 2008 Hospitality Upgrade. No reproduction without written permission.

In the 19th century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli was famously quoted as stating that there are three types of lies; “Lies, damn lies, and statistics.” The quote continues on to state that, “There are some easy figures the simplest must understand, and the astutest cannot wriggle out of.” If you are asking yourself what any of this may have to do with the hospitality industry, read on.

Our industry is rife with statistics. As an industry we can easily quote occupancy, average daily rate (ADR) and revenue per available room (RevPAR) statistics that are part of the agreed upon language of the industry and that benchmark us against our peers. All nod their heads sagely when quoting these operational benchmarks, however, when it comes to quoting what we spend on the technology to achieve, enhance and support, operational performance, there is a yawning gap in available information.

Survey Background  
As a member of the hospitality industry technology community, you are aware that meaningful comparative data regarding costs, productivity, efficiency and cycle time, are simply not available, leaving organizations to guess where they stand vis-à-vis relevant competitors. Enter the Hospitality Industry IT Benchmarking Survey. The survey is an outgrowth of research conducted at the 2005 CIO Summit and reaffirmed at the 2007 CIO Summit. The results of the research indicated that 57 percent of CIOs agreed the comparative spend data available to them was poor, and where 95 percent of CIOs indicated that they were likely to complete a comparative spend survey, and 76 percent indicated they were very likely to complete such a survey. Industry surveys of this type have been attempted before and have failed to produce credible results. For this effort, Hospitality Upgrade teamed with sponsors HFTP and KPMG LLP, and third-party research firm Performance Monitor, to develop a survey designed to create an operational tool for the industry, which CIOs and other industry constituents, such as vendors and service providers, can use for benchmarking and budgeting purposes.

Survey Round 1
Developing a survey of this type, specific to this industry is, simply put, hard work, which is a very likely explanation why Gartner and others do not cover this particular industry as part their benchmarking research. Following is a brief history of the survey’s development and a look at the first year of the Survey’s birth in 2007.

The Survey effort began in May 2007. A prototype of the initial survey was developed and presented to the steering committee, a group of seven industry CIOs who very generously offered to donate their time, their expertise and their expectations of what the survey needed to produce to be a meaningful tool. The initial survey was released in July 2007 and the results of that initial effort were released at the 2007 CIO Summit in September.

While the survey results presented at that event were well received, they also attracted a large group of people who saw ways to improve them; in short, a great deal of constructive criticism was received and so began round two of the survey effort. This effort, through the generosity of an expanded steering committee, produced the results that will be presented here.

Survey Round 2
In December 2007, the new and improved survey was released to 200 participants. The re-designed survey saw two major changes: First, a division of companies into “Brand Franchisors” who reported system-wide revenue that included franchise revenue and expense and “Owned/Managed” companies who reported revenue and expense for properties meeting these criteria, and second, a breakout of the data collected by segment, which includes luxury, full service, resort and select service, allowing us to report out IT spending by segment (e.g., IT operating budget as a percentage of revenue for the full service segment). The expanded data capture gives us 750 data points to report on rather than the typical 250/300 collected by similar benchmarking efforts. The survey was open to North American participants only and invited companies were given 8 weeks to respond. To date, the survey has achieved a 20 percent response rate. The preliminary survey results were released at HFTP’s EHTEC conference in Amsterdam on Feb. 11, 2008, with final results being available at the end of the first quarter of 2008. Survey results are provided free of charge to participants and are available for purchase to non-participating companies and vendors.

The following are some preliminary results that offer a glimpse into some of the data the survey has produced. The numbers below are preliminary, are presented for Owned/Managed properties only, and will be expanded upon once all survey responses have been received.

There are many people that deserve thanks for their contribution to the successful launch of this effort; it is our Steering Committee that I would like to recognize here, listed alphabetically by company: Jeff Winslow, Accor North America, Jim Lamb, Global Hyatt, Jane Durment, Marcus Corporation, Tom Peck, MGM MIRAGE, Richard Tudgay, Omni Hotels, Mike Sutten, RCCL and Todd Thompson, Starwood Hotels and Resorts.  A very special thanks, as well, to Frank Wolfe for HFTP’s sponsorship of the survey.

It is our hope that this survey will produce statistics that have enough credibility and methodology behind them that they are not classified as damn lies and can be simply understood as a means to hold the most astute accountable to move the industry forward.

*For figures mentioned in this article please see the PDF version online.

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