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A CRS Where Everyone Knows Your Name

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July 12, 2019
Mark Haley

The topic of localization has been seen in these pages before. See Going Global … Locally (HU, Fall 2013, co-written with Christoph Oberli) and Globalize Your PMS: By Localizing (HU, Spring 2015). The first article focused on the business drivers and technological strategies to localize hotel company website content. Now we focus on that most global of hotel applications, the central reservations system (CRS).

The CRS is the heart and vascular system of any meaningful hotel company. It sends reservations out to properties. Without it, the business will fail and die. An effectively localized CRS lets the guest dream, shop and share in the language and manner of their choice. It also allows the hotel or travel company associates to interact with their systems and guests in the languages most comfortable to them.
Many observers feel the staff-facing attributes of localization are less relevant than they used to be. Some CRS providers and their clients are more comfortable relying on English-language only usage for field labels, system prompts and help text. We disagree, noting the wild card here is the rise of the Chinese market. Consumer demand there is driving requests for system users to interact as they choose to or are able to. We can’t assume the middle-class Chinese call center worker of tomorrow will be fluent in English – today’s Chinese middle class is larger than the entire population of the United States. Note the purpose-built, fully localized integrated CRS/ PMS/CRM platform H-World, used and sold at the chain level by China’s Huazhu Hotels Group, LTD, or the various distribution solutions offered by Shiji Group.
But let’s focus on the guest side, our customers: Outbound travel by Chinese speakers, readers and writers compels usable CRS platforms they can interact with. This isn’t just field labels and currency codes. The concept of a last name as Americans know it simply doesn’t apply. In Chinese cultures (there are many), the last name comes first. Surname or family name is a better option. Asian and Arabic languages use different character set than the Romanized alphabet we’re used to. Arabic is read from right to left. 
The need for hotels to be flexible when it comes to languages and cultural assumptions extends beyond the CRS. If a CRS can accept input equally well in simplified Chinese from mainland China, traditional Chinese from Taiwan and Farsi from Iran, that’s all fine and good. But we have to get the reservation to the hotel, and the hotel needs to be able to do something with it. Many PMS interfaces will fail a CRS message in a character set the local PMS can’t interpret. Even if the PMS can accept the character set, that doesn’t mean local staff are prepared to work with it and recognize the guest accordingly.
The net impact of globalization for CRS providers, either hotel companies or third parties, is profound and driven by a need for localization. Hotel companies and third-party vendors that succeed in cracking this code locally will survive and thrive in the networked world of today and tomorrow. 
©2019 Hospitality Upgrade 
This work may not be reprinted, redistributed or repurposed without written consent. For permission requests, call 678.802.5302 or email info@hospitalityupgrade.com.

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