2011 Year-End Hotel Technology Review (long)

Well, it wasn’t the year we’d hoped for; initial optimism that we were at last coming out of the recession was replaced by reminders that there was still a long way to go. Nevertheless, many properties took advantage of slow business to upgrade their systems and lay the foundations for more efficient operations once traffic does return, and equally as many vendors enhanced their systems for greater integration and flexibility.
The importance of IT innovation in the hospitality world was recognized once again by InformationWeek’s listing of the U.S.’s 500 most innovative business technology users, which included seven hospitality companies in the top 250. The highest-ranking hospitality company honored this year was Vail Resorts at #10, whose EpicMix Web and smart-phone application appropriately highlighted the integration of guest service with mobile technology.

The year of mobile technology

It was definitely the year mobile devices of all types became mainstream, along with a growing integration of social media sites into more traditional hotel systems. IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group) released iPhone booking apps for each of its seven brands, launched 120 free iPad Concierge Insider Guides and reported a nearly 1,000 percent increase in room night bookings from mobile devices. MGM released Android versions of 12 hotel applications for booking rooms and activities, and Motel 6 released an app for Apple devices. Genares and InnLink released mobile booking engines, Expedia announced an app for the iPhone and iPod Touch, and RIM released a BlackBerry Travel app integrating itineraries, profiles and flight status updates into BlackBerry Calendar.
To help international travelers, FCS’ i-Guest Hotels Finder app played recordings of directions to a hotel in the local language for lost guests to play back to taxi drivers, and Marriott offered its mobile app for Apple and Android devices in Chinese, Spanish, German and French. RateTiger released a Blackberry version of its revenue management RTSuite, and Alloso Technologies ported its hospitality business intelligence app to the iPad.
Bringing social media into the mix, Availpro released a Facebook booking engine and RateTiger used Cultuzz Digital Media’s CultBay to post hotel availability on eBay. Sabre’s SocialConversion product suite helped hotels maximize their social media presence; Appnostic and Genares integrated their hotel booking apps with Facebook, and Regatta Travel Solutions launched a Facebook booking engine tool for Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs). VFM Leonardo released a Mobile Media Player for its VBrochure, formatting hotel photos, virtual tours, videos and marketing copy for mobile devices.
Protel introduced an iPad “bookatonce” version of its GMS and released its Voyager browser-based mobile app for Apple, Android or BlackBerry. ResortSuite released ResortSuite MOBILE; Resort Data Processing (RDP) announced four new mobile modules. Fuel Interactive’s Guestdesk Mobile Booking Software added mobile booking of tee-times and other activities, as did Open Hospitality for food and beverage, special amenities, event tickets, flowers and other add-ons. W Hotels unveiled an iPhone app that lets guests order room service and request other services, in addition to booking guestrooms; Crave Interactive’s GuestService+ in-room application included food and drink ordering for Room Service or in Hotel restaurants.
POS wasn’t left out; Agilysys released InfoGenesis Roam mobile POS software for the iPod, and Squirrel put its Professional POS system onto Apple iPads. MICROS integrated Tabbedout into its POS systems, allowing guests to pay restaurant and bar tabs with their smartphones. All in all, look for mobile F&B ordering to become much more common in this coming year.
On the guest services side, Acentic’s mobile versions of its high-speed Internet and iTV services platform allowed users to check a hotel’s offering of movies or other services from their own phones and to use them as TV remote controls. Intelity released ICE Mobile for Android, and TAC developed a phone-based loyalty card app. Starwood offered FaceTime video calling for loyalty-club members to contact customer service agents, and GoConcierge released native iPad and iPhone versions of its system. MTech released an Android app for H2GO, its mobile version of HotSOS, and hotel SystemsPro released its hotel ServicePro asset management system for the iPad. Adaco extended procurement system to iPads and touch-screens.
Conference/event software also went mobile. Passkey’s GroupMAX used OneClick Mobile to generate customized mobile sites for events, and released a widget to embed availability on event websites and social networks. QuickMobile launched MobileEvent Express Edition, an iPhone app for meetings and events. StarCite’s Mobile Attendee tool delivered key information (including agendas, logistics, maps and news alerts) directly to meeting attendees’ mobile phones and devices; Swank Audio Visuals released its SwankDraw iPad-based room layout application. Intriguingly, The Knowland Group’s SmartPhone Leads, a location-aware augmented reality app, lets hotel sales teams focus their smartphone cameras on a hotel and see on-screen pop-up bubbles showing groups that have held meetings or stayed there, with contact data.
Speaking of cross-system integration, OTRUM launched its Enterprise portal, combining check-in information with details from a hotel’s CRM database to profile guests as to type, gender, age, language and home country, thereby letting the hotel send customized communications, advertising, service offerings and price points to each individual guestroom TV. MConcierge Systems rolled out a Guest Relationship Management system that links hotel profiles with guests’ social media profiles and rewards guests using the hotel’s mobile application for every activity performed using it, with loyalty points for immediate on-premise redemption.
And if all that wasn’t enough, Marriott even released a hotel-themed online game (My Marriott Hotel) and InterContinental released a Kitchen Cookbook iPad app of its hotels’ recipes. Where will it all end?

Guest Management Systems

The new breed of GMSs all made progress this year. Agilysys’ Guest 360 officially came out of beta with installations at the Gotham Hotel and two GrandLife Hotels, all in New York City. Infor-SoftBrands’ HMS found its first customers in the Larkspur Landing Hotel in Hillsboro, Oregon and the Fitzpatrick Hotel Group’s two hotels in New York. Dynamique Hôtels Management (DHM), with 150 properties, became the first customer for Amadeus’ new centralized Hotel Platform, which combines central reservation, global distribution and guest management systems. PAR Springer-Miller launched its ATRIO system with a strikingly new visual approach in its user interface, and Stoney Creek Inns was the launch customer for the first module of MICROS’ new OPERA 9 suite, channel management.
Central hosting of management systems continues to grow in popularity, for all the usual reasons of greater data consistency, system security and ease of reporting. Germany’s Rilano Group installed SoftBrands’ Starlight for all five locations, AC Hotels by Marriott picked MICROS’ centrally-hosted OPERA and Simphony POS for 91 properties, as did Cedar Point Amusement Park for its six hotels. Joie de Vivre added MICROS OPERA Customer Information System, Business Intelligence and Sales Force Automation to its already-centralized implementation of OPERA, and Orient-Express Hotels picked MICROS’ OPERA and POS systems for its 49 properties. Hospitality International named SKYWARE its preferred GMS for all 300 franchise properties, and Jebel Ali International Hotels installed protel MPE at all five sites.

Cloud Computing

After the massive hype of the last couple of years, true cloud computing settled in as a viable architecture for specific needs, although some costing issues still need to be ironed out. EZYield upgraded its infrastructure to run on a 40-gigabit InfiniBand network and Amazon’s Cloud, and OTRUM moved all of its Digital Signage services to IBM’s SmartCloud Enterprise. Online travel network TravelShark (née Swiftrank) moved to Amazon’s Web Services (AWS) cloud platform. Libra OnDemand expanded the functionality of its Force.com cloud-based CRM/Hospitality Management System significantly, and Dolce Hotels and Resorts implemented it across all 27 properties.

Guest Reviews

Guest reviews and feedback continued to have high importance. GetThere, with its Hotel Traveler Reviews, let corporate travelers share online hotel reviews, and Starwood launched its own online review function. Lodging Interactive extended its Guest Review System to let hotels collect and share guest reviews directly from their Facebook pages. Whiteboard Labs used FeedMagnet’s social curation technology to power Telltales, allowing hotels to integrate content from social channels into their websites and marketing programs.  RateGain launched its BrandGain guest satisfaction and online reputation management system to consolidate and analyze feedback, and, to try to keep things honest, researchers at Cornell University developed software claimed to be able to identify fake hotel reviews by their linguistic structure.

CRS

Google got serious about the hotel market with the launch of its Hotel Finder search tool, a rival to several meta-search engines, but the traditional CRS vendors saw strong growth as well. Regent Hotels & Resorts properties and Vantage Hospitality Group switched to Sabre’s SynXis, and Castle Resorts & Hotels (25 properties) and Kosmopolito Hotels International (22 hotels) went with TravelCLICK. Destinations of the World joined Amadeus and took it past the 100,000 property mark. Orient-Express Hotels picked Pegasus’ RezView NG for 40 properties, and relative newcomer Whiteboard Labs picked up Centerstone Inns, Hotels and Plaza Hotels for its Windsurfer CRS, along with a number of independent properties.

Revenue management

Revenue management showed strong growth, as properties not only expanded their use of it but began integrating it into more of their guest management and marketing operations. EZYield had a strong year, picking up Swiss-Belhotel International (20 properties), Fairmont/Raffles (100+ hotels), N. Daskalantonakis Group (30 Grecotel Resorts and Classical Hotels), Lindner Hotels (34 properties) and developing an interface with Passkey for conference rooms booking. IDeaS integrated with RateGain’s ChannelGain and PriceGain as well as SiteMinder’s Channel Manager, and gained Dusit International (13 properties), Scandic Hotels (chain-wide) and Anantara (15 hotels). Toga Hospitality installed EzRMS in fifty properties, Guoman Hotel Management in another 37 and Brazil Hospitality Group in 20.
RateTiger launched RTSuite Content to distribute and manage marketing content centrally, Brook Hotels implemented its RTSuite channel manager at 12 locations and NH Hoteles adopted RTConnect for all 400 properties. China’s New Century Hotels & Resorts picked RateGain’s ChannelGain for 14 properties, PROS built Lixto’s competitive price data into its price optimization software, and Best Western International adopted Lixto for all 4,000 properties. TravelClick added over 200 Hotelligence360 clients in Europe in two months alone, in July/August.

RFID

RFID seems finally to have become a mainstream technology, especially for guestroom door locks in all sizes of property. VingCard’s Signature RFID locks were adopted by Starwood’s Aloft flag, the 500-room Royal Palm Plaza in Campinas, Brazil, the Holiday Inn City of Knowledge, Panama City and Kyriad Marseille Centre-Rabatou in Marseille, France, two Starwood properties in Greece and, brand-wide, by Mexico’s first extended-stay brand ExtendedSuites. KABA’s Saflok RFID locks were installed by the Peabody Orlando (1,641 rooms), the Holiday Inn Knoxville, Hotel Harrington in Washington, DC and Howard Johnson Admiral Inn on Tybee Island, the Comfort Hotel Xpress in Oslo, Norway (with OpenWays acoustic couplers built in), the YOTEL New York (669 rooms) and the 70-room Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge.
Peninsula Hotels is replacing the guestroom door locks in all properties with Saflok RFID units, and is reported to be looking at much wider use of RFID for guest services. Looking further ahead, ASSA ABLOY introduced its Mobile Keys Platform for the NFC (Near Field Communication) mobile phones as they come into more widespread use, and partnered with RIM to develop NFC-enabled door key software for Blackberry phones. Outside of locking systems, InvoTech’s UHF-RFID version of its GIMS uniform and linen tracking system gained several new orders as its viability and cost-savings became apparent.

Multiple-property orders

Many chains extended a single-system philosophy by placing chain-wide orders for all types of application. Roadchef rolled out Guestline’s suite at 14 properties across UK, Richfield implemented ProfitSage Financial Business Intelligence throughout its portfolio of 500 hotels, SKY Hospitality selected Aptech’s Execuvue business intelligence system for nine Microtel Hotels, and Ameristar Casinos picked Teradata Data Mart Appliances for its seven casinos. Royal Caribbean selected InfoGenesis for additional seven ships, and Resort Collection of Panama City Beach picked Springer-Miller for six condo properties. The Trump Hotel Collection standardized on MICROS’ OPERA and Newmarket’s Delphi MPE across all seven properties, and Lindner Hotels and Resorts moved 32 properties on OPERA and myfidelio.net to MICROS’ Data Center. Lane Hospitality implemented hotel ServicePro across 19 properties and Loews migrated all 18 properties to MTech’s HotSOS.

Guest services

Integrated guestroom services continued to gain ground. Intelity had a banner year with its ICE product winning HTNG’s 2010 Most Innovative Hospitality Award and being implemented by many properties, including the Plaza Hotel, JW Marriott Indianapolis Downtown, Mondrian Soho, Hotel Beaux Arts, Miami, Eccleston Square Hotel, four Chicago hotels and the Hilton Inn at Penn, Morgan’s Delano in Miami and Hudson in New York, the Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills and the Dorchester Collection’s Hotel Bel-Air, and its first properties in Asia (L Resort Krabi, Thailand ) and South America (three Hoteles Charleston Colombia). Runtriz was adopted by The Westin Riverfront Resort Spa at Beaver Creek Mountain and the Hôtel Americano in New York. Roomlinx was adopted by Prime Group’s new 610-room Chicago property and the 216-room Holiday Inn Resort Orlando – The Castle. iRiS unveiled its Personal Valet Application for iPads and smart phones, ZDirect’s Mobile Passport offered guest services via smart phones, and SuiteLinq interfaced with MTech’s HotSOS for fulfillment of guest requests. KoolConnect announced that its implementations in the first nine months of 2011 significantly exceeded those of any previous full year, and introduced its 1Connect concept covering FTG TV, HSIA, TVs, iPad/mobile apps, network services, digital signage, single-remote control, PVRs and more.
WiFi became an even more essential service; although the cost of providing ever-increasing bandwidth to meet guests’ demands is significant, an iPass survey indicated that hotels may very well lose business travelers through bad Wi-Fi offerings. iBAHN launched dynamic Bandwidth Management to help hotels provide tiered pricing for different service levels. Swisscom’s ConnectedHotel TV/digital services platform gained several new clients, as did iBAHN’s IPTV application (ETVi).
Digital display boards expanded their functionality; JANUS added boarding pass printing to its Concierge Board touch screen display, enabled an interface to guests’ and meeting coordinators’ tablets, and released motion-triggered signage using a Kinect device. Courtyard unveiled version 4.0 of its GoBoard digital lobby display, developed in partnership with Four Winds Interactive and expanding the range of interactive guest services offered.

Inventory/procurement

Keeping an eye on cost controls, many hotels implemented inventory/procurement systems. Wyndham Worldwide deployed Adaco’s .NET system enterprise-wide, the Imperial Treasure Restaurant Group picked Eatec for 13 locations in Singapore, and relative newcomer Yellow Dog Software found success with five independent clients.

Energy management

Energy management seems to be keeping up its slow but steady growth levels, with some interesting developments. The Peabody Orlando, for example, integrated HotSOS with Control Green guestroom monitoring to pro-actively deal with rooms running at less than optimal efficiency, and both Encelium Technologies and Verve introduced new low-voltage occupancy sensors, the latter being self-powered. Telkonet’s SmartEnergy platform was adopted by the Springhill Suites Las Vegas and Crowne Plaza Times Square Manhattan. The Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa installed INNCOM’s Deep Mesh Network, and the Atlanta Marriott Marquis installed Inncom Guestroom Occupancy Sensors in all 1,569 guestrooms.

M&A

It was an unusually active year for mergers and acquisitions. Sabre Holdings acquired GMS vendor SoftHotel and its 4,500-strong client base, NCR took over Radiant Systems, Infor picked up Lawson Software, Newmarket acquired both MTech and Libra OnDemand, and RTP was taken over by The Active Network. GMS vendors AutoClerk and Bay Lakes Information Systems merged, as did InnPoints Worldwide and CARINO Hotels and Resorts to form Centric Hospitality.
EZYield was acquired by TravelClick, which also took over Rubicon. PAETEC acquired XETA Technologies. Passkey International gained UK-based Velvet Software, and Safemark Systems acquired Best Lockers. Xn Group sold its Leisure Systems subsidiary to Jonas Computing, and Philips transferred its television business to a joint venture set up with TPV Technology. Web developers were in demand; Pegasus took over Open Hospitality, Cendyn acquired RoundTableHQ, eRevMax acquired Lunar Logic Polska and TripAdvisor bought GPS-app developer EveryTrail and mapping vendor Where I’ve Been before being spun off from its parent, Expedia. Quadriga acquired pay-TV specialist SmoovieTV and Los Angeles-based NxSystems, intending to use the latter’s NXTV brand as the basis for its entry to the Americas market.

Overall

Overall, a surprising amount of progress was made in what turned out to be a much more difficult year than most in the industry had hoped for. We’re not out of the woods yet, but my sense is that last year’s optimism that “this year will be different” has been replaced by a much more solidly-based and confident “we’re going to make this year different.” I think the industry has turned a corner, and we’ll see many more systems and technology developments and upgrades than in recent times. One thing’s certain, though; we’ll all need more WiFi bandwidth!

3 Responses to “2011 Year-End Hotel Technology Review (long)”

  1. William Hazelton Says:

    Please sent this article to me as a pdf my printer will not print this out for some reason and i would like a copy. Excellent review, thanks for the info.

    bill

  2. Jon Inge Says:

    Thanks, Bill; you should have the PDF version by now. Let me know if you have any other questions.

    Best regards

    Jon

  3. Lisa Miniter Says:

    Hi Jon, I just learned about your highly informative expertise through a HotelMarketing.com article, and like Bill H., I would greatly appreciate it if you could format the Tech. Review into PDF, due to printing issues. Thank you, I will be visiting your site more often! Regards, Lisa

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