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Branching Out: Lemon Tree Hotels upgrades telecom systems

July 27, 2011
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Established in September 2002, Lemon Tree Hotels (LTH) currently owns and operates 13 hotels (having over 1,200 rooms) across 10 cities. Seven more hotels will be coming up shortly.

By 2012, LTH is expected to have over 2,800 rooms in 20 hotels across 15 cities  – New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Pune, Gurgaon, Ahmedabad, Kaushambi (Ghaziabad), Goa, Indore, Aurangabad, Chandigarh, Alleppey and Shimla.

According to data released by the India Brand Equity Foundation, with 40 international hotel brands intending to set up shop in India over the next few years, the hospitality sector is likely to witness investments of over $11 billion.

Keeping in mind the business opportunities this may entail for the sector, LTH replaced its dated telecom infrastructure with one that could accommodate the growing demand for top-notch communication facilities. LTH’s underlying idea was also to position itself as a preferred destination for business and leisure travellers alike.

tele.net traces the development of the company’s telecom set-up…

The legacy system 

Until 2008, the hotel chain’s legacy system comprised a standalone property management system (PMS) at all its properties. It soon became evident that the PMS set-up was inadequate. “In order to keep pace with the growth of the industry, we felt that a reliable, scalable and modular system was urgently required,” says Ajai Kumar, chief information officer, LTH.

With a clear agenda in mind, the hotel chain opted for new infrastructure that allowed it to not just operate on a central level with uniform training benefits and central controls, but also to interface with other compatible technologies.

The shift 

Kumar explains, “Our requirements centred around creating a broad integrated solution at an optimal cost. Keeping this in mind, we implemented a multi-tiered, centrally deployed property management system.”

Accordingly, LTH migrated from its standalone PMS set-up to a centralised PMS infrastructure in mid-2008. This system was integrated with back-office and customer relationship management applications. LTH has so far fully integrated 18 locations and units with this set-up, including a recently enabled central reservation centre. Kumar explains that financially the hospitality major was only moderately impacted by the upgrade, as it did not require a huge financial outlay. LTH chose the opex model in a long-term deal.

Today, the hospitality major utilises a remotely managed and hosted data centre that caters to all of its locations and units. This centre has an MPLS and internet VPN backbone that functions on a full duplex bandwidth. MPLS has helped LTH achieve increased network scalability; simplified network service integration and network management; and offered integrated recovery.

For last mile access, LTH uses dual technologies, namely, Wi-Max (fibre-based network) and copper. The hospitality chain opted for optic fibre connectivity as it provided a higher rate of data transfer and bandwidth. It was also cost effective and provided connectivity across longer distances in comparison to other technology mediums.

Internet and MPLS connectivity at the group’s various hotels is being provided by Tata Communications, while Bharti airtel provides its internet circuits.

A host of enterprise applications, including software platforms like the Protel multi-property edition, Prolific, Touché, Leisure Point and vBoss are used. At the data centre, several applications such as the BMC suite, Veritas and Symantec are used.

Benefits and challenges 

According to Kumar, LTH faced two major challenges while upgrading its communications infrastructure. “Finding a reliable internet service provider and hosting agency besides tailoring requirements to suit our needs were the major hurdles at that time,” he elaborates.

However, he agrees that the upgrade was worth it at the end of the day. “This set-up afforded us central control and effective monitoring in a multi-location and multi-property set-up. Other benefits included the quick rollout of infrastructure at new locations, lower total cost of ownership, enhanced workflow efficiencies, and security and controls.”

That apart, this upgrade reflected well in many of the hotel’s business areas too. Kumar says, “The new infrastructure increased guest satisfaction, thereby contributing to our business volumes. Besides, it helped enhance our brand value and customer focus, and gave the industry a new concept in multi-property operations and management.” 

The hotel’s future telecom-related strategies are dependent on its rollout plans. Kumar says, “We plan to add a few more installations over the next couple of years in accordance with our plans to set up properties in Chandigarh, Mumbai and at the New Delhi international airport.”

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