Facilities management can enhance the tourism industry

During an economic downturn, facilities management is often regarded as excess to requirements, an operational cost that many companies scale down. Webb Meko, Managing Director, Integrated Solutions at Servest says, “While hard-pressed industries may make immediate savings from scaling down facilities management, they will probably incur even more costs resulting from rapidly depreciating assets.” The […]

During an economic downturn, facilities management is often regarded as excess to requirements, an operational cost that many companies scale down.

Webb Meko, Managing Director, Integrated Solutions at Servest says, “While hard-pressed industries may make immediate savings from scaling down facilities management, they will probably incur even more costs resulting from rapidly depreciating assets.”

The month of September is tourism month, and the tourism industry in South Africa presents a lot of opportunities, if well managed it can continue in its current growth trajectory. In 2017, industry contributed 9% of the total gross domestic product (GDP), once all the direct, indirect and induced benefits are taken into account. The industry contributed a whopping R412.5bn to the economy. In 2018, this figure increased. Research by the World Travel & Tourism Council show that travel and tourism in South Africa contributed 1.5 million jobs and R425.8bn making South Africa the largest tourism economy in Africa.

According to Meko, “The facilities management sector has the greatest potential to enhance the tourism industry as well as the end-user experience.”

Meko argues that well-maintained facilities and destinations have the potential to attract more tourists, thereby contributing to an increase in the number of visitors. Furthermore, an integrated approach to facilities management in the tourism sector, or any sector focused on the introduction of smart user-friendly systems such as smart and efficient water and energy solutions, can in turn significantly lessen operating expenses while reducing the sector’s carbon footprint.

He notes that it is unfortunate that the general perception around maintenance and facilities management is usually seen as a big cost centre, yet in fact it can be a big cost savings, as it improves the life cycle of the assets and reduce maintenance costs as result of reactive plant breakdown repairs.

“Facilities management should not be seen as a commodity, but rather viewed as an enhancement to productivity and return on assets.  The challenging economic environment has seen costs cut, with the unintended consequences of revenue loss resulting from loss of customers (tenants) as they witness deterioration of services,” adds Meko.

The integration of facilities management in the tourism industry has been at the forefront of global transformation especially among forward thinking countries; and in countries like Singapore and Malaysia. Facilities management has played a crucial role in creating an environment conducive to fuelling the tourism industry’s objective of exceptional customer experience along with enhancing business sustainability resulting from the asset upkeep.

“We see facilities management as a huge enabler that will allow property owners to realise a return on their investments.  In the tourism space, property owners need to be mindful that they are fighting for a share of wallet with other service providers. So the crucial question is what is the key differentiator that sets one facility off from the other? Facilities management can help to enhance the attractiveness of a tourist site by improving the level of cleanliness, hygiene, and overall guest experience at a tourist facility,” says Meko.

He explains that, managing facilities in an integrated manner enables better understanding of facilities usage patterns for example, create better understanding of areas that may need automations and sensory intelligence; thereby freeing up colleagues to focus on other strategic work within the business ecosystem.

He highlights that facilities can be automated in such a way that they bring about efficiencies and result in significant operational cost savings on electricity, water, and overall environmental management; while the guests enjoy convenience and comfort.  The current trend is the use of Bluetooth technology to detect occupancy in premises from the hotel room, bathrooms to the passage and walkways -. Face-recognition capabilities can monitor the premises and ensure that potential transgressors are immediately identifiable.

Among other things, these technology enhancements have the potential to contribute to the growth of the sector as these provide more value from an end-user experience perspective.

A well-maintained asset has a long-life expectancy, which brings a much higher return on investment. In the leisure and tourism space, uncompromising levels of cleanliness and hygiene are non-negotiable, which explains why most people prefer to use premium places with better levels of hygiene and high gradings.

Simplicity, they say, is the height of sophistication. Guests prefer to interact with a tourist site where the booking processes and payment experiences are hassle-free, check in and check out processes are seamless; however, in some parts of the country, the tourism sector has been a slow in adoption and effectively integrating technology into their operations. With increased digitisation, it is vital that the tourism sector begins to strategically and fully embrace an integrated approach to facilities management for improved efficiencies and cost savings.  “As the tourism sector continues to grow, caution must be taken to make sure that there is effective integration of facilities as part of the business value proposition; and a strategy to improve the bottom line without compromising on the customer experience,” concludes Meko.

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