December 3-5, 2007

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March 01, 2008
HEDNA Conference 2007
John Burns

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© 2008 Hospitality Upgrade. No reproduction without written permission.

The Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association (HEDNA) conducted its winter, 2007 conference in Phoenix, Ariz., on Dec. 3-5.  During their breaks conference participants relaxed and networked outdoors under swaying palms, but when indoors attention was focused on timely topics during the conference sessions.

Henry Harteveldt, VP and principal analyst at Forrester Research, launched the conference by delivering an insightful status report on travel sector e-commerce.  His news was both good and bad.  In the good category was his prediction that, despite potential economic softness in coming months, online bookers will remain largely constant in their demand and volume. 

Less comforting was his assessment that this same group is becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the online travel shopping and booking processes.  Harteveldt suggested that a lack of continuing enhancement of those sites was making them appear somewhat stale.  He also lamented the failure to achieve greater personalization.  Harteveldt suggested that too many travel Web sites, including hotel brand sites, continue to offer disheartening anonymity.  In closing he reminded the audience of the necessity to focus on communicating value rather than price to potential guests.

Mike Kistner, COO of Pegasus Solutions, provided a useful look back on the evolution of hotel central reservation technology and illustrated how much the distribution environment has progressed over the past decade.  He reminded the audience that fundamental issues remain open.  In the booking process, for example, “Who owns the customer?” he asked and, “How can hotels provide the depth of information that travelers seek? And do so through every distribution channel?”

A panel moderated by John Burns of Hospitality Technology Consulting delved into two topics.  The panel discussed the evolving role of revenue management staff in both on-property and corporate decision-making processes.  Then the panel debated the future role of call centers and the GDSs in the hotel booking process.  They agreed the emergence of RM professionals to be disruptive, but valuable and far from complete.  Of the voice and GDS distribution channels, they concluded that both remain important.

Online payment became an attention-holding topic as Mike Carlo, business development manager for Global Collect, reminded the audience not only of the lack of credit cards for use as a guarantee by many international travelers, but also of the preference by younger generations to use facilities such as PayPal.  His bottom line message – the more payment options a Web site offers, the greater the likelihood of securing the booking.

Spencer Rascoff, chief financial officer of real estate Web site Zillow.com and a former Expedia executive and HEDNA board member, delivered a thought-provoking comparison of process for real estate sales and hotel accommodation booking over the Web.  His identified similarities (and notable differences), as well as shared technology opportunities (and shortcomings), providing an informative and entertaining session.

The conference concluded with futurist Daniel Levine reprising his resoundingly received presentation from HEDNA’s Spring 2007 conference in Barcelona.  Levine challenged conference participants to consider five trends – personalization, targeted segmentation, mobile lifestyles, lifestyle visibility and life-easers – and to consider their implications for the lodging industry as well as commerce in general.  

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