January 12, 2010

In this issue…

People on the Move

Property Management Systems

Reservations

Marketing / Management

Revenue Management

Sales & Catering, Meeting Planning

Guest Services

Back Office

Communications

Security

TOP O’ THE NEWS

  • Review of 2009

Well, the sky didn’t fall after all last year. In fact, hotels upgraded their technology at a surprising rate to help them survive by collecting and analyzing more and better information about their guests and operations. Vendors likewise expanded their products’ scope both through internal development and integration with each others’ products to provide more comprehensive tools to help them. More than anything, 2009 was the year social networking really hit its stride in hospitality and consumer-focused technology – especially the iPhone – became the driver for many new initiatives.

Social networking takes off
Social media interaction was the hot story of the year, with seemingly every chain announcing hotel booking applications for Apple’s iPhone (and sometimes for the more widely-used Blackberry); Nokia integrated Expedia’s hotel booking functions into its Ovi Maps phone module. Many properties launched Facebook pages to reach new guest segments, and some began offering updates and special offers on Twitter; Inoqo even launched a Twitter-based hotel booking engine. Intercontinental implemented Jive Social Business Software to connect with its 40 million Priority Club Rewards members, and Starwood Preferred Guest announced a suite of Twitter, Facebook and iPhone applications. Hotels.com integrated TripAdvisor reviews on all of its 31 web sites.
With all this social interest it became essential for hotels to manage their activity on multiple social media Web sites and to keep a close eye on their online reputation. New services such as TravelCLICK’s Social Media Optimization, Lodging Interactive’s HuBBub, Standing Dog’s ReviewAnalyst, Milestone Internet Marketing’s eBuzz Connect and others arose to help. Raveable’s beta site offered to identify and consolidate opinions buried inside the text of guest reviews, ShermansTravel’s Sherman Meter meta-search tool rated hotels by tabulating thousands of hotel reviews and ratings, and Libra OnDemand integrated Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn into its CRM tools.

Consumer technology rules
Consumer technology in general grew strongly in influence, especially in the guestroom, and Apple’s iPod Touch and iPhone became the default interactive devices for both guests and staff. Micros’ HSI division adopted the iPod Touch as a handheld POS device, and Bardessono Hotel became the first US hotel to deploy MTech’s REX iPhone/iPod Touch-based housekeeping room expeditor system, followed by Gaylord’s Opryland. MICROS added its PDA-based MyStayManager for reservations, profile management, check-in/out, folio viewing, restaurant reservations and room service, as well as SMS Texting to send messages to guests and staff phones and PDAs. Knowcross also leveraged SMS for its SKIGEE dedicated text messaging application. The Hilton Phoenix in Chandler, AZ introduced 3D-animated training lessons on iPods for its housekeeping staff. MSI (Multi-Systems, Inc.) now lets managers access property and guest data from an iPhone/iPod Touch, and also showed its WinPM system running on a Microsoft Surface table display. InterContinental Hotels Group installed its first Microsoft Surface (at its Buckhead Atlanta property) and Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City installed seven of them in its Xhibition Bar.

The connected guestroom
Greater integration came to the guestroom itself. Lutron’s Connected Guestroom allows guests to control lighting, window shades, temperature, security and TV from their TV remote or mobile phone, and INNCOM partnered with set-top box vendor Enseo to provide similar control via the TV remote control. INNCOM also released interfaces to property-management and building-automation systems, IP telephones and in-room entertainment systems. MTech integrated its HotSOS guest request/work order system with Control4’s Suite Systems, Intelity’s ICE and Runtriz’ Hotel Evolution mobile phone room-control/guest request application. The Nordic Hotel Forum in Tallinn, Estonia became the first Baltic region hotel to offer guests Skype telephones, while the Hotetur chain deployed VoSKY’s Exchange PBX-to-Skype gateway at 30+ sites and considered offering guests in-room Skype connections. Sounds like the concept of guestroom phone call revenue is now officially dead.
GBCblue developed in-room portals for Hyatt, Omni and Starwood for guests to view information relevant to their stay, order room service, provide feedback about service and access local attractions. Control4 added a Concierge Service to connect guests with information, services and reservations in and around the hotel, including their Facebook and Twitter pages, and released a ZigBee-based interface with SAFLOK’s Messenger networked locks which lets both use the same hotel network. OpenWays solved half of the universal guestroom key challenge by using guests’ mobile phones to replay coded sounds to the lock, though the locks themselves still need to be retrofitted with receivers; Saflok and MICROS agreed to interface to this approach. Finally, the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering and Organisation developed one of the more interesting approaches to a “hotel room of the future” in one of its laboratories, with an emphasis on technology that can help guests relax.

Business Intelligence (BI) grows further
Looking for ever more comprehensive and accurate information, more hotels expanded their business intelligence efforts. Benchmark picked Aptech’s Execuvue system for its 30 properties; Crescent chose ProfitSword’s ProfitSage for its 55 hotels and resorts, as did Wyndham for all of its managed properties. Many chains and properties adopted UniFocus’ survey tools to gather quantifiable guest and staff survey data, including Schweitzer Mountain Resort, Setai San Diego, Best Western, InterContinental, Real Hotels & Resorts and New Castle Hotels & Resorts. Good Hospitality Services implemented Alloso Technologies’ Portfolio One system for its 20 hotels, and Apple REIT activated M3’s M3 Link operations reporting tool at 198 properties. Foxwoods chose a Netezza data warehouse appliance and SAS software to collect and analyze data from its six casinos and three hotels; InterContinental acquired a Teradata data warehouse appliance as the base of its BI efforts.
On the BI vendor front, PAS introduced pasUnity to integrate front office data with its accounting/financial reporting, and Aptech enhanced its Innvue Web-based application for consolidating daily operating and performance data from different property systems for multi-property chains and management companies. Datavision released a new version of its Business Intelligence Suite built on the latest Microsoft technologies (SQL Server 2008, SharePoint Server 2007 and Silverlight). Dashboards gained prominence as a way to interpret the data visually; Micros added an Activities dashboard to Opera, Passkey released two versions for multi-property event tracking, and ResortSuite released on-the-fly customizable dashboards for its wide-ranging resort management suite.

Centralize, Integrate
Centralized systems continued to be adopted by hoteliers looking to outsource their support and gain more consistent reporting. Colonial Williamsburg picked Agilysys’ Visual One suite for five properties, Columbia Hospitality opted for a Northwind-hosted Maestro PMS/Sales and Catering implementation for six properties, and Focus Hotels implemented protel’s centralized PMS/S&C in eleven UK properties. Vendors got in on the act, too, with Pegasus outsourcing its technology infrastructure and support to HP.
Integration continued apace. Omni Hotels added two-way integration between its new Micros Opera-based reservation system and Rainmaker’s revolution Profit Optimization Suite. In addition to its guestroom vendor links, MTech integrated Libra OnDemand’s CRM tool into its HotSOS application. SAS predictably announced closer integration of its IDeaS subsidiary’s revenue management with its own BI and campaign management capabilities. InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) deployed its first “Hotel-in-a-Box” technology package, which integrates property management, cabling & wiring, network design, guest high speed Internet access, door locking, telephone switch (PBX) & phones, video surveillance, voicemail, business center, HDTV and in-room entertainment. Newmarket partnered with Dun & Bradstreet and Bluebuzzard signed with Hoover’s, both using these massive business databases to improve the completeness and accuracy of their customers’ information.

Reservations, Revenue Management
CRS activity surged, especially for Trust International (Charming Hotels and Resorts signed for 33 properties, Dorint for 36, HUSA Hoteles for 160+). VFM Leonardo seemed to corner the market on hotel chain rich-media management, and Sabre’s SynXis RedX was on a roll with multi-property signings from Menzies Hotels (16 properties), Norway’s De Historiske (37), Mandarin Oriental (25+), JAL Hotels (58) and Japan Rail (61). RedX passed the 10,000 property mark before being rolled into Sabre Hospitality Solutions along with Sabre’s other travel divisions.
Revenue management was another area of strong activity. Peninsula Hotels deployed OPERA Revenue Management System for ten hotels, and Derby Hotels rolled out IDeaS V5i to nine. Amari Hotels & Resorts and Metro Hospitality Group implemented EZYield at 12 and 14 properties respectively, and as a measure of general activity EZYield.com announced that it processed a record 2.1 million rate/inventory updates in January 2009, three times as many as a year ago. Rate Tiger released enhanced versions of its RTAllocator Pro and RTShopper Pro channel management tools, and Micros integrated RTShopper into its Opera PMS, ORS and RMS systems.

It’s Getting Easier to be Green – in small steps
“Green” is still cool, if sporadic in its implementation in hospitality. Marriott led the way by being ranked for the second year on Computerworld magazine’s “Top 12 Green IT Companies” list. Measures included a new data center 220 feet underground, raising its air-conditioning temperatures 10% to 15%, using virtual servers wherever possible, desktop power management and thin clients instead of desktop PCs. It also started replacing the 24 million plastic key cards that it purchases annually in the U.S. with alternatives made of 50 percent recycled material. Chartres Lodging installed Telkonet SmartEnergy thermostats in over 3,500 rooms; Microsoft introduced its Environmental Sustainability Dashboard for Microsoft Dynamics AX to display data on four core environmental performance indicators.
Specific “green” projects ranged across the board, from the Crowne Plaza Alice Springs’ 530,000 kWh/year solar photovoltaic (PV) system to Cambean Hospitality installing solar panels and a wind turbine on the roof of the Clifton South Beach Hotel. Kaba introduced two environmentally friendly keycard options using 100-percent recycled PVC plastic and from corn-based (and biodegradable) polylactide acid plastic. Starwood’s Element Hotels planned to install ChargePoint electric car-charging stations at all of its properties.

RFID
RFID was still a slow grower last year, though VingCard reported strong demand for its Signature RFID locks. Elsafe has launched its Sentinel II in-room safes, which use both RFID/NFC technology and RF-online options. As before, though, the use of RFID for inventory/purchasing efficiencies hasn’t taken off.

Standards
With all this integration and interaction the need for standards seemed clearer than ever. OTA continued releases of its interface specifications, and announced its FastRez connectivity approach to simplify the automation of reservations for smaller hospitality companies. HTNG’s workgroups expanded existing specifications and released new ones, and its list of certified vendors grew as more senior hotel chain executives joined its board.

M&A
As for mergers and acquisitions, it was a relatively quiet year. The major deal was SoftBrands being acquired by Infor in June, though there has been surprisingly little news since then on Infor’s goals for it. EZYield.com acquired HotelProphets, its Australian partner in hotel distribution and online marketing technology, and Travelocity Global acquired India’s Travelguru online hotel distribution network. Lanyon acquired corporate travel expense management vendor DirectConnections!, and TripAdvisor picked up Kuxun.cn, the second largest online travel-related web site in China.

And now…?
What’s coming this year? With so many good examples of synergy between different systems running on shared IP networks, I expect to see many more integration efforts between guest service vendors to provide ever-expanding ranges of functionality, especially on mobile phones. Similarly, more vendors will work together to gather and consolidate guest and operational data from even more areas of a hotel, finding new ways for management to analyze and use it to target specific guest segments and specific operational exceptions to generate more business and greater efficiencies.
It’s not going to be an easy year, but I’m very much encouraged by the creativity and persistence of the vendors, and by the ever-clearer advantages shown by hoteliers who use technology to really help their operations.
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PEOPLE ON THE MOVE

  • Nikolaus Braun hired by Benchmark as Director of IT
  • Patti Goodrich hired as Vice President of Enterprise Infrastructure at Choice
  • Corey Trautvetter joins hotel SystemsPro as Senior Director – eSales & eMarketing Systems
  • Joel Pyser appointed to Chief Client Officer at Passkey

Nikolaus Braun has been hired by Benchmark Hospitality as director of information technology, reporting to VP IT Rodney Thiel. Mr. Braun brings 20 years of experience in hospitality information technology, most recently serving five years as regional director of technology for Dolce Hotels & Resorts. He was earlier the director of information technology for the Four Seasons Hotel in New York City, worked in the same position for Philips Hotel Group’s Shore Club in Miami, and was part of the opening team for the Bryant Park Hotel, New York. Mr. Braun previously worked for vendors Springer-Miller Systems and Micros Fidelio as a network engineer and senior installation specialist, and had earlier worked as front office manager at The Sonnenalp Resort of Vail, Colorado and with Kempinski Hotels in Frankfurt, Germany.
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Patti Goodrich has been hired as vice president of enterprise infrastructure at Choice Hotels International. Ms. Goodrich brings 23 years of experience in leadership and infrastructure management, most recently servicing as associate vice president of information technology operations at Scottsdale Insurance Company.
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Corey Trautvetter has joined hotel SystemsPro as Senior Director – eSales & eMarketing Systems, coming from 16 years with Hilton Worldwide where he most recently served as Director of Hotel Content and Distribution.
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Joel Pyser has been appointed to Chief Client Officer at Passkey. Mr. Pyser was most recently a managing director at meeting procurement vendor HelmsBriscoe; he had previously served as president and COO at Inn Fluent and vice president of field sales at Marriott International.
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PROPERTY MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS

  • Skyware Hospitality Solutions signs with Shift4

Skyware Hospitality Solutions has contracted with Shift4 Corp for credit card transaction processing services using Shift4’s $$$ ON THE NET gateway. (www.skywaresystems.com)
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RESERVATIONS

  • Langham selects SynXis for connectivity, reservations services for three brands
  • Hotelzon launches iPhone application
  • Genares certifies Connect 1.0 product to HTNG specifications

Langham Hotels International has selected Sabre Hospitality Solutions’ distribution and marketing products for its three brands: The Langham, Langham Place and Eaton. Langam will use Sabre’s SynXis Central Reservation System (CRS) to connect to the four GDSs, thousands of online travel agents and to power its own Web site bookings. (www.langhamhotels.com, www.synxis.com)
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Hotelzon has launched an iPhone application to allow travellers to book and pay for rooms across a network of 90,000 hotels across 180 countries. Key features include a GPS search for nearby hotels and both quick and advanced searches for country or city based inquiries. Confirmations are sent by SMS text to the user’s handset, and the GPS will then direct the traveller to the hotel. Users can also browse and cancel existing reservations. The app is also available in 17 languages; Hotelzon already has over 100,000 mobile users. (www.hotelzon.com)
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Genares Worldwide Reservations Services has certified its Genares Connect 1.0 product to HTNG Property/Distribution Solution 2007a specifications, which support basic reservation, rate, and availability transactions among any two compliant systems. (www.genares.com)
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MARKETING / MANAGEMENT

  • MICROS acquires TIG Global
  • Sedona Pines Resorts selects SPI Software’s Orange timeshare enterprise software
  • TRAVELCLICK opens Digital Agency location in Baltimore, MD

MICROS Systems has acquired interactive marketing vendor TIG Global. (www.tigglobal.com, www.micros.com)
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Sedona Pines Resorts has selected SPI Software’s Orange timeshare enterprise software for marketing, sales, owner servicing, finance, reporting, and business analytics. (www.sedonapines.com, www.spisoftware.com)
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VIZERGY has released a new version of its My Web World Internet marketing management tool. Enhancements include:
– In depth reporting for search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising clients
– VIZ phone tracking for recording and analyzing phone calls
– the addition of Yelp to reputation monitoring and USA Today Travel as a news feed
– a “Provide Feedback” option
– a “Resource Center” with educational newsletters and documents
– access to VIZERGY’s Web World Publishing content management system.
(www.vizergy.com)
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TRAVELCLICK has opened a new Digital Agency location in Baltimore, MD as a center for planning and executing personalized hotel digital marketing campaigns, including website design, content management, search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising, social marketing optimization, consumer review monitoring, and integration with TRAVELCLICK’s iStay web booking engine. (www.travelclick.net)
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REVENUE MANAGEMENT

  • Xotels launches Revenue Management System
  • REVPAR GURU announces direct XML interface between its RMS and HRS.com

Dutch-based Xotels has launched a new Revenue Management System, using a combination of:
– historic demand for different market segments and rates/groups, adjusted with unconstrained demand values,
– future demand influences such as festivals, venues, economic factors, competition
– current bookings to date to calculate maximum revenues in an optimal configuration of available rates. Xotels RMS is fully integrated and interfaced with the company’s XBooker hotel reservation software. (www.xotels.com)
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REVPAR GURU announced a direct XML interface between its revenue management software application and the HRS.com electronic reservations system, which has a database of 250,000 hotels in Europe and across the globe. (www.hrs.com, www.revparguru.com)
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SALES & CATERING, MEETING PLANNING

  • Cendyn enhances eMenus with Customer Order Center on-line F&B order function
  • Millennium Broadway Hotel New York upgrades WiFi with 90mbs bandwidth from Transbeam

Cendyn has introduced its Customer Order Center, an enhancements to its eMenus catering software to let event meeting planners create and place complete food and beverage orders online. The new system displays customized Web ordering pages with standardized menu selections and photos. Starwood Hotels & Resorts has selected the combination for use at all its 240 domestic properties. (www.cendyn.com)
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The Millennium Broadway Hotel New York has updated its WiFi HSIA service with a new network from Transbeam, which provides 45 mbs of bandwidth for its rooms plus another 45 mbs for events. The new network allows over 1,500 people to access the Internet concurrently. (www.millenniumhotels.com, www.transbeam.com)
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GUEST SERVICES

  • Montage Beverly Hills implements Opera PMS/MTech HotSOS interface
  • Kempinski Hotel Adriatic installs Bang & Olufsen televisions in 200 guestrooms
  • Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts launches multilingual mobile Web site
  • Uniguest announces QuickScoop and Concierge Station guest-information products
  • Uniguest announces that its kiosks printed over 3,000,000 boarding passes last year
  • Golden Nugget’s Rush Tower deploys guestroom video services from Cox Business/Hospitality Network
  • ARIA Resort & Casino and Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas install Control4 Suite Systems in 4,300+ guestrooms

The Montage Beverly Hills has implemented an interface between its Micros Opera PMS and MTech HotSOS guest-response system, to allow Opera users to access and act on guest request and history information. HotSOS will also automatically issue work orders pre-arrival based on a guest’s known preferences, e.g. for down pillows. (www.montagebeverlyhills.com, www.mtech.com, www.micros.com)
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The Kempinski Hotel Adriatic has installed Bang & Olufsen BeoVision televisions and home entertainment systems in all 200 guestrooms, integrated into the hotel’s interactive information system. One of the two presidential suites is the first hotel room to be equipped with B&O’s largest unit, the BeoVision 4-103 with a 103-inch full HD plasma screen. (www.kempinski.com/en/istria, www.bang-olufsen.com)
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Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts has launched a multilingual mobile Web site allowing guests to reserve, modify or cancel a booking with real-time availability. Members of Shangri-La’s Golden Circle guest recognition program can use their profiles for quicker reservations. The site is available in English, Chinese and Japanese and was designed for the screens of smart phones such as Apple iPhone, BlackBerry, Android and Nokia Nseries. (www.shangri-la.com)
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Uniguest announced its QuickScoop and Concierge Station products for providing guests with local area information with no capital outlay for qualifying hotels. QuickScoop is a pre-printed, double-sided, tear-off guide that lists the local area businesses on one side and a custom-drawn map showing their locations on the other side. The Concierge Station is a self-serve, touch screen kiosk built on HP’s TouchSmart technology. The services are supported through Uniguest selling advertising space to local businesses.
Uniguest announced that over 3,000,000 boarding passes were printed last year from its kiosks, averaging over 50,000 a week.
(www.uniguest.com)
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Rush Tower, a 25-story addition to the Golden Nugget Las Vegas with nearly 500 guest rooms, has deployed in-room, free-to-guest cable television in standard definition and high definition, video-on-demand services as well as wireless Internet connectivity from Cox Business/Hospitality Network. The Golden Nugget is also preparing a rollout of Cox’s branded iGuestbook, a guestroom TV portal to hotel services and amenities. (www.goldennugget.com, www.coxbusiness.com)
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The ARIA Resort & Casino and Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas at CityCenter has installed Control4 Suite Systems in their 4,300+ guestrooms to allow guests to control the room environment and interact with entertainment and hotel services, while providing CityCenter with energy usage control. When guests open the door to their rooms, the lights gradually come on, the drapes open and the TV turns on to display a list of automated controls. Using the remote and Control4’s on-screen view, guests can use the TV to set the lighting levels, room temperature, television/video systems, music, drapes and guest services to their personal preferences. (www.arialasvegas.com, www.mandarinoriental.com, www.citycenter.com, www.control4.com)
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BACK OFFICE

  • Royal Caribbean selects Agilysys’ DataMagine

Royal Caribbean International has selected Agilysys’ DataMagine document management system to streamline operations on its Oasis of the Seas cruise ship. Royal Caribbean will use DataMagine to capture guest signatures electronically, digitize sales receipts and consolidate activity waivers. (www.royalcaribbean.com, www.agilysys.com)
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COMMUNICATIONS

  • TMX Funding adds Teledex to its Scitec and Telematrix brands

TMX Funding, an affiliate of Scitec/TeleMatrix, has acquired assets of Teledex, thus consolidating what were once the top three guestroom telephone system companies into one company. (www.telematrix.net)
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SECURITY

  • Kaba Ilco awarded ISO 9001:2008 Quality Management certification

Kaba Ilco has been awarded ISO 9001:2008 Quality Management certification for its Montreal manufacturing facility. (www.ilcolodging.com)
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  • Jon Inge & Associates
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