Scenic Hotel Group needed to replace its ageing PABXs with a Modern Hospitality Solution
Scenic Hotel Group (SHG) has operated since 1986. SHG is a Hotel Management Company operating 17 hotels made up of fully owned, managed and joint venture properties. It employs approximately 800 staff throughout New Zealand and Tonga. SHG is a proudly New Zealand owned company with 17 quality hotels, stretching from Paihia in the far north, to Gore and Queenstown in the deep south and their latest edition in the Kingdom of Tonga. They are located in New Zealand’s favourite holiday locations and main gateway cities in each island.
They operate legacy Nortel Meridian phone systems at many of their hotels. While these had proven reliable and suited to the hotel industry in the past, replacement parts, upgrades, support and licencing costs had become a major hurdle. Hotels can have a large number of extensions, many rarely used and generating little or no income. SHG needed to replace its aging PABXs with modern, hospitality proven, low cost of ownership solution. The new solution needed to be easy to use, work with existing room phones, run over existing wiring and interface into their Property Management System. The guest room phones are all analogue with many only having 2-wire cable running to them. Support for legacy wiring and handsets was an absolute must.
Most of their Hotels operated either POTS or ISDN primary rate trunk solutions. SHG wanted to adopt lower cost SIP technology wherever possible. Moving to SIP provided lower fixed operating costs and decreased toll rates, along with increased flexibility to size our trunking requirements to meet peak demands.
The entire project took seven months, from RFP to final install. This included evaluating responses, shortlisting, negotiation, final vendor selection, proof of concept, roll-out planning, installation and training.
Their PABX replacement project had to be completed by the end of their Financial Year End (30 June 2014). Replacements could also not begin before the end of their busy season (Oct – Mar), leaving a very tight window to work within. They also had to choose installation dates at each hotel that minimised the impact upon their guests.
Each site also provided its own challenges in relation to existing wiring, available space to mount equipment and remoteness of location. All of these requirements and challenges needed to be addressed and overcome.
Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) was a significant factor in their decision. Despite what many people think, hotels make no profit out of their PABX systems. Ensuring they had a solution that could be maintained remotely, had a long operational life, minimal fixed ongoing fees, and was comprised of modules allowing our onsite Maintenance Staff to replace any failed equipment, were significant factors in our final choice.
SHG operates a Central Reservations Office (CRO) based in Christchurch. The iPECS solution chosen for this location gives them greater flexibility and options to monitor their call volumes, handle any overflow and identify training opportunities to improve our Customer Service.
At the hotels, the wake-up call feature of the iPECs is a very important. They have many guests on tight schedules, having a wake-up call solution that automatically retries calling the guest and if still unanswered alerts the front desk staff as to the missed calls is invaluable to SHG and any guest oversleeping.
As SIP becomes more commonplace, increased pressure will come down on the Telcos to drop toll rates, perhaps doing away with toll rates altogether. Telcos toll revenue will replaced by access charges. Increased richness in calling content, eg Video, will drive up data rate requirements.
With free Wi-Fi becoming more commonplace in Hotels, toll revenue will be further eroded, as guests switch to Internet based services like Skype.
In the Hotel Industry there are some Brands that have removed the guest phone from the bedrooms altogether; this is generally at the budget end of the market. Their brands operate in the 3–5 star brackets and believe their guests still expect to find a telephone in their room. Even if it is only used to request a wakeup call or another pillow for the room. There is an expectation for this level of service, while this remains, so too will the need for guest phones.