It’s no secret that the hospitality industry was significantly affected by the pandemic because it brought both business and leisure travel to a grinding halt and put a stop on conferences across the world.

In most cases, hotels did continue to operate, but with limited staff, only to support the needs of governments looking to provide a safe place for essential workers and travelers returning home place to quarantine themselves safely. This prompted hotels to explore contactless technologies and focused them on finding ways to balance the digital experience with the personal touch.

Now, as restrictions in some parts of the world start to be lifted and business activity picks up pace, demand for hospitality services is expected to grow. However, having experienced what it means to be lean from an operational perspective, and with the changing needs of customers, these establishments have been keen to re-imagine themselves.

Hotels were already looking to invest in new technology even prior to the pandemic. The past few months have accelerated those plans with a big focus on solutions aimed at contactless check-in and automated social distancing. Even technologies like Internet of Things (IoT), which power connected robots, are going to play a crucial role in keeping guests and employees safe in the near future – not least because businesses and governments have started to realize that we may have to learn to live with the Covid virus while mitigating its spread and dampening its impact through various measures.

This is where, in the hospitality sector, technologies such as connected robots can help with frequent sanitization, doorstep delivery of food, and provide other valuable services. There is also the added benefit that connected cameras can enhance guest security; connected sensors can help generators save fuel and allow equipment to save on electricity and boost the overall financial position of the organization.

The future of hospitality is a balancing act

As hotels open their doors to more customers, secure, high-speed Wi-Fi connections will be crucial. In fact, socially-distanced events held in conference rooms or ball rooms will require better digital infrastructure to support their hybrid nature, ensuring sessions are broadcast for delegates to attend remotely.

How secure is a guest’s internet connection in a hotel? Not as much as most people would

think. It’s ideally not as vulnerable as the one in a coffee shop but most informed users would not consider accessing their corporate networks or bank accounts without protecting themselves first using a VPN.

Further, the organization’s investment in network infrastructure has become critical as employees who aren’t required on premises were sent home during the pandemic and set-up to work remotely.

These employees access a number of applications to manage guests, amenities, services, and so on. Their work often involves confidential and personally identifiable data which is valuable to hackers. As a result, hotels must be cautious about identity and access management but also about their data centers. As staff start returning to work and organizations transition to hybrid working models, the security of data, and by extension, the networks, becomes even more critical.

Guests too expect a contactless experience, but they need hotels to balance in-person services with technology-driven interactions. This is especially true of hotels in the business and luxury segments than anywhere else. To enable all of these experiences, a host of autonomous and sensor-powered devices are needed.

This is where SASE provides incredible value – as evidenced by the conversation we had with a client, a leading hotel chain, who was keen to leverage the technology to secure the entirety of its ecosystem, for employees as well as guests.

SASE is a network architecture that combines SD-WAN capabilities and cloud-native network security services including zero-trust network access, secure web gateways, cloud access security brokers, and FWaaS (firewalls as a service) – and delivers them as a cloud-based service.

In the hospitality industry, as new, intelligent devices are brought onboard, the threat surface is bound to grow exponentially. SASE is their ticket to all-round protection in cyberspace.

SASE helps leading hotel chain upgrade security posture with ease

What really delights customers about SASE is able to provide all-round security without mandating that every single piece is deployed. Customers are free to pick and choose the solutions that best meet their needs; they can also build on their SASE deployment by adding more services as their security posture matures. When working with Cisco, an immediate benefit is that all of the solutions work better together, fitting in seamlessly into a single dashboard that serves IT leaders and supports their vision for a safer, more secure organization.

In the case of our client in the hotel business, the team decided to invest in solutions from our Meraki and Umbrella suites to get started on the SASE journey. By combining the two, they were able to gain unprecedented visibility into their network to see who’s accessing which application from what location and device.

As a result, the client’s IT managers can now identify exposure and prioritize remediation efforts in real-time, separating security events from non-security events.

Further, the organization can leverage automation capabilities to not only better manage how it defends itself against threats from an effort and time perspective but also helps to implement policies across the organization and across different types of guests with just a few clicks.

Ultimately, SASE, by protecting the wider digital ecosystem of an organization, can ensure a strong defense even when the surface area of vulnerability increases. SASE, as a technology, is what a hotel with a future-forward agenda trusts to keep itself secure without having to scale up its IT team in any way.

Of course, the SASE deployment at the hotel isn’t all-encompassing. There’s definitely room to grow as use cases increase – but the bottom-line is that there’s now a stronger defense in place and staff as well as guests can be a little more confident that they’re protected when working online. Finally, balancing the digital experience with the personal touch will be easy to deliver, so long as leaders make the effort and are open to exploring new technologies.