Running the biggest hotel in the world is no small feat but what does it actually take?

Blood, sweat and tears? Yawn… it takes a lot more than a few bodily fluids to win a gold medal at the Olympics these days. There are the psychological aspects, the endless training, specialist equipment, money (*blush), even being born in the right country. There are, however, some characteristics that all champions share that we can adapt to our personal lives and professional careers, so that we can become champions in our own right.


The best athletes in the world do not compete against their opponents, they compete against themselves. Usain Bolt did not compete against “that guy” that came second, he competed against himself. He trains tirelessly every day to be incrementally better than he was yesterday, a tiny bit faster, a little bit stronger, a smidgen fitter. All these small improvements lead him to be the fastest man in the world. The key element here is that even when you are the best you still want to be even better. 

Having been asked to provide the hospitality technology backbone for the Olympics, protel did not say “we are the best and therefore you must do it our way” this is not how champions think, no, protel decided to custom build an entire system that was uniquely suited to the requirements of the Olympic games in Greece and China. protel wanted to be even better than themselves and do something completely new and exciting, so they went ahead and did just that.


Champions ask profound questions, they do not accept what is considered by most to be impossible, they live day-today in the impossible. Michael Phelps did not accept that it was impossible to swim the 100m butterfly in under 52 seconds he just went and did it. The body is only limited by the restrictions our minds create for it. 

When protel was given just 60 days to provide the core infrastructure, personnel and PMS for the Olympic Village in Greece consisting of:

  • 28 reception desks
  • 8 media villages
  • 300 hotels
  • 35,000 rooms across,
  • 9 different accommodation units
  • All the equipment storage and training facility management for all the athletes

Did they say “that’s impossible”?, no, they said “Yes, we will do it and we will do it better than anyone has done it before.”

Be Inquisitive

The inquiring mind is a wonderful thing for we can only get great answers, and thus great results, if we are asking the right questions. How can I train more efficiently? How can I improve? What can I do to be better than yesterday? This step links directly to self-improvement. Only by asking how we can be better can we actually start to be better.

Taking on the challenge of being the PMS provider for the Olympic games forced protel to ask a lot of questions about the various aspects of PMS, integrations, networking and the IT technology world in specific relation to hotels and hospitality. Thanks to this experience protel has been able to:

  • provide safer and more reliable networks  (provide scalability and redundancy)
  • decrease installation times 
  • improve the user experience, and  
  • significantly cut costs for the end-use

Be Self Disciplined 

Everyone has those days when they feel a bit lazy or unmotivated. When they don’t want to even get out of bed let alone train and work hard to achieve their goals. When you are an elite athlete there is no such thing as an off-day, every day counts, including those days when that inner voice begs us to stay in bed – but we get up and do it anyway. Those days, the days we get up when we don’t want to, are the days that separate gold and glory from mediocrity.   

protel staff worked around the clock for weeks on end to complete all the preparations for the Olympic Village, Media Villages and Central Reservations in Greece and China and thanks to all the hard work of the teams in Head Office and those on the ground, protel was able to operate its PMS for the entire duration of the Olympics without interruption. protel is an IT company and IT does not sleep, it does not rest, it does not have days off. The true spirit of a champion. 

Be Courageous

There are a great many people who have been attributed with the saying “courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it”. Nelson Mandella, Mark Twain, Franklin D. Roosevelt and even Bruce Lee. The author is irrelevant, it is the message that’s important. Great athletes are afraid. Afraid that they won’t win, that all the training was for nothing, that they will get injured. But they push forwards anyway. They are, just as we are, only mere mortals. 

It’s not completely accurate to say that a company needs to be ‘fearless’ or ‘courageous’. More accurately put, employees and owners of companies have specific, human fears, and at the Olympics, on such a huge international stage, with around 3.5 million people watching, there is most definitely a huge spotlight on everyone to perform. protel and everyone one of its staff put their best foot forward and were able to absorb the pressure and pull out a fantastic all-round performance – and were awarded honorary gold medals to prove it. 

Face Unique Challenges Head-On 

As unique as the Olympic games are, so too are the challenges that come with it. One of the features protel had to create was a way of indicating to reception staff which rooms have which unique facilities i.e. Longer beds for basketball players, rooms with special modifications for Paralympians, etc. 

Another great challenge was coming up with a way to get guests from the airport, port or any other point of entry to their hotel room. Keep in mind that this was before everyone walked around with a GPS in their pocket. protel created a program that could run on mobile terminals, placed throughout the country, so that every guest could instantly look up exactly where they were staying and then be fed the information required to get from wherever they were to exactly where they needed to be. 

In 2008 protel was the operating system of choice for the Beijing Olympics. One of the reasons protel was chosen was because of the amazing flexibility and adaptability of the software. At the time the system was not programmed to read or display Mandarin. So, in true protel fashion the amazing team put their heads together and came up with a solution that allowed not only for Mandarin to be displayed on the system but also for data to be entered in Mandarin. protel is now available in just about every language.

Lessons Learned 

During protel’s time at the Olympics, there was a lot of knowledge gained from the experience, the kind of knowledge that not everyone gets access to. Here are some of the things we learned and we hope that some, if not all of this knowledge, can assist the rising stars or maybe just help anyone who needs assistance with big IT projects.

Closely Monitor Networks 

  • Make an inventory of all the devices in your network 
  • Establish a baseline behaviour 
  • Clearly define escalation procedures i.e. If x goes wrong report it to y
  • Failover and availability protection 
    • Ensure there is no single point of failure 
    • Use a monitoring system 
    • Ensure the monitoring systems is installed on a separate part of the network 
    • Plan ahead for updates and network changes
  • Setup and configure correctly 
  • Closely monitor:
    • Security – Firewalls, malware protection and antivirus software. Ensure update servers are functioning properly
    • Device availability – Especially critical servers such as central servers 
    • Storage – Storage capacity and disk space 
    • Capacity planning – closely monitor all traffic in and out of the servers and be aware of peak periods such as check-in and check-out

Performance-Test the Network 

  • Targeted Infrastructure Test – Each component or layer of an application is isolated and tested for the ability to deliver the required performance
  • Stress Test – This validates the responsiveness, reliability, and stability of the infrastructure under extremely high load
  • Failover Test – Determines a system’s ability to call in additional resources when it faces heavy traffic and usage
  • Load Test – Tests whether or not the system performs optimally when it is being used by multiple users at the same time
  • Capacity Test – Identifies and benchmarks the maximum amount of traffic or load that the system can handle effectively
  • Browser Test – Determines the compatibility of a browser with the overall system
  • Latency Testing – Measures the time taken for moving data messages between two points within a network

Have a plan for training staff 

  • Identify the training needs 
  • Set the objectives for the training 
  • Establish a timetable 
  • Customize the training to the specific objectives and desired outcomes 
  • Encourage feedback  
  • Keep all materials for future training 
  • Continuously improve 

Have a plan for network infrastructure design 

  • Have a clear map of the network 
  • Plot the structure and layout of the cabling required 
  • Clearly show the quantity, type and location of all devices on the network 
  • The IP addressing structure 
  • Details of the network security architecture and processes 

Winning Spirit 

protel did not make a single cent for both of the Olympic games, the entire project was done as a proof of concept to show the world what amazing things protel was capable of. From managing the sheer enormity of data required to keep track of 35,000 rooms to coding the software to read and write in an entire new language. From coming up with a unique guest navigation system to adding custom room features. There really is no hurdle too big for protel to overcome. 

Want to be a champion? Want to use IT for your hotel that could save time and money whilst generating additional revenue daily? Being a winning hotel starts by using gold medal award-winning software.

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