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Strategic CIO: Serving Tech Savvy

Strategic CIO: Serving Tech Savvy

The hospitality industry in Pakistan might be small but it does possess an importance in linking Pakistan with several other countries.

Technology thankfully entered the picture and phones, entertainment and connectivity were being provided to keep guests on the hotel premises for a longer duration of time. The hotel transformed from being all encompassing experience into a meager point of transit. With laws in place, there was little for the foreigner to do in Pakistan except work, eat and sleep. The Pakistani Tourism Department projected Pakistan as an economically viable destination for its mountain trails and hiking, reducing what few hopes there were for tourists to spend money in the big hotels situated in the main cities.

Meeting Challenges

As if the challenge wasn't enough, the early part of 2000 proved to be a turbulent time for the travel industry worldwide. September 11 and the world's increased exposure to terrorism, luxuries were put on hold big time. With the great exposure that the internet brings to a business, it also levels the playing field for competition to make a better impact through their website and win otherwise regular customers.

Going back to the late 1990's, like most other sectors, the hotel management was also dependent on manual systems -- essentially having to manage everything from accounts to customer lists, on paper.

Mohammad Khalid Shah, Corporate Director IT, Avari Hotels says, "With the benefit of hindsight, business was tough to manage without digitization and lack of automated processes. Every detail was marked and maintained manually. The details included different kind of transactions, data entries, timings and a variety of bills, including the room services, additional facilities, phone calls, meals and transportation. I can't believe how much information there was to manage! After working with the software solutions we do now, it was amazing how we ever managed without it!"

In the early days, explains Khalid, when computers were just coming into Pakistan, Hotel Management gradually shifted its data entry to a so-called digitized system which was essentially a collection of Excel sheets and basic computer activities. "This helped to a certain extent but this was obviously just glorified data entry and suffered from the same constraints that we were already facing with our manual systems." We all know how it was. You used to get one key and leave it at the behest of the hotel in case they needed to get into your room. This would have been the time before any real security and much before living in constant terror of threat.

Things were booming in the hotel industry around the world but then September 11 happened and businesses everywhere suffered. "I joined the Avari Group in July 2001. Two months later 9/11 took place and there was a record slump in hotel business worldwide." How did the hotel propose to climb out of that slump? "Strong commitment and dedication from the Management and Board invited innovative ideas. We have never looked back."

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