As one hotel type has struggled through the pandemic so another has thrived.
After several false dawns, we may finally have light at the end of very long and dark tunnel.
On Monday 22nd February UK Prime Minister laid out his cautious plans for taking England out of lock down by the summer, declaring that that the nation was on a “one-way road to freedom.” “Data not dates” would guide the country through the proposed steps intended to fully open up the economy by the end of June.
Few could have predicted 12 months ago, the disruption that the Covid pandemic would bring to our daily lives – our working practices, our education system, our social interaction – everything that we had taken for granted in 2019 has changed, perhaps for ever.
The coronavirus pandemic has shaken the world of business and economics to its core and for some sectors, that have clung on to their very existence by their fingernails, the Prime Minister’s announcement can not have arrived a moment too soon.
The Hospitality sector has certainly borne the brunt, prompting warnings that tens of thousands of pubs, restaurants, bars and hotels could disappear never to reopen. With the picture equally bleak in travel, tourism and leisure.
But while some businesses are forced into disruptive action because of market conditions, there are numerous examples of companies whose business models have enabled them to adapt, thrive and benefit massively. Online retail, delivery supply chain, remote learning and video conferencing tools are just some of the services that have witnessed exponential demand and growth in the past year and all underpinned by technology.
It is an oft overlooked fact that people working in IT, data infrastructure and network operations have been classed as key workers since the pandemic’s start and for good reason, we are witnessing an accelerating shift to a digital world.
It is estimated that had the coronavirus pandemic had happened just five years ago the NHS would have been much less able to cope. The technology simply did not exist to facilitate the moving of so many vital services online. Remote consultations, for instance, have supported thousands of patients to stay safely at home and get the healthcare they need. 99% of practices can now offer video consultations, up from 3% at the start of the 2020. And of course, artificial intelligence and high-performance computing have accelerated research into understanding the virus and the advance development of the vaccine.
And oddly enough, we can thank the hotel industry for facilitating these technological advancements. Not the obvious one offering luxurious bedrooms, a la carte dining and taste bud tingling fines wines, but the one characterised by plain non-descript buildings housing the world’s servers.
The term “carrier hotel” dates back to the US Telecommunications Act of 1996, which opened up competition in the Telco industry, and cleared the way for competitors to access the network by colocating infrastructure within the monopolistic Bell companies’ facilities. Fledgling rivals soon bought up space inside buildings like 60 Hudson Street in Manhattan and One Wilshire in Los Angeles, coining the term “carrier hotel.
Fast forward to today and these carrier hotels or colocation centres are present in virtually every major city on the globe.
The benefits are great, organisations get access to optimum operating environments, diverse data networks offering global reach, high security, business resilience and the ability to scale, without the need for large capital investment.
The pandemic has led to organisations around the globe transitioning to remote work models. To support a remote infrastructure and empower virtual collaboration, many organisations have leveraged cloud-based solutions and colocation capabilities.
And as we slowly emerge into the ‘new normal’ the role of the carrier hotel or datacentre will become ever more important. Technology will be vital in supporting economic recovery as organisations slowly begin to rebuild following the crisis.
Remote working and reduced commuting looks set to continue, but this is not without its challenges. Lack of bandwidth for a distributed workforce, access to company premises, single tenanted applications all require consideration and careful planning. Short term, low cost colocation, complete with high speed access for remote workers is one option that can be considered.
And taking a leaf out of the more traditional hotel sector, you might want to consider a colocation ‘Staycation’ of physically being close, with 24 x 7 access and guaranteed security, to your IT infrastructure. It’s not as crazy as it sounds. In times of uncertainty, we seek certainty, which is why the demand for UK ‘stay at home’ vacations is forecast to be 10 times greater this year than 2019, a trend set to continue into 2023.
Colocation with an established provider gives you and your organisation that certainty.
So, what of the traditional hotel industry? Is it finished? On the back of the lockdown roadmap announced by the UK PM, shares in the sector rallied and staged a comeback, with analysts raising price targets for leisure stocks, noting pent-up demand for travel. It will bounce back, and it will come back stronger.