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2011 Executive Vendor Summit Review: April 13-15, 2011 – Wyndham Tampa Westshore

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June 16, 2011
Executive Vendor Summit Review
Kris Burnett

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No where else can high-level hospitality technology executives come together to meet, discuss pertinent topics to the industry, garner relationships and spark new ones, share concerns, goals and technology interests in a non-selling environment, with multiple repeat attendees and such a variety of technologies represented.

Sean O’Neill of Newmarket International said, “Every successful business leader needs an accurate understanding of their marketplace including the other providers in the space, some complementary and some competitive. Attending this summit affords the attendees a highly efficient way to advance this objective.”

Hospitality Upgrade’s 2011 Executive Vendor Summit was held April 13-15 at the Wyndham Tampa Westshore in Tampa, Fla., and hosted a record crowd of 70 of the hospitality industry’s top technology executives. The event began with the annual golf tournament, including the largest number of participants yet – 36 golfers. The opening ice breakers and barbecue followed, with educational sessions both of the following days and a Gala dinner in between. The main theme was globalization, whether the companies already had expanded and were continuing to do so, or if they were in the process of venturing offshore.

Globalization – Lodging Overview with Jan Freitag of Smith Travel Research
With a 24.4 percent RevPAR growth in China, many American companies are expanding further into global markets, especially Asia, to offset the relatively flat growth rate in the United States and Europe. In the first session, Jan Freitag, vice president, global development for Smith Travel Research (STR), provided a lodging overview by global region.

As many would guess, in general, Freitag said, the annualized percentage change in how many rooms were sold during the recession went down quite a bit. The good news is, he said, “We see room demand coming up quite strong.” He even went so far to say that this is the strongest demand rebound ever in the United States (as of YTD February 2011).

Below is a snapshot by region according to Freitag and STR.

In Asia Pacific, Freitag said, “The supply growth is pretty strong, just under 3 percent.” In 2010, there were 19,000 hotels in AsiaPac, with the room supply up 2.9 percent at 940 million, the room demand up 12.2 percent at 630 million, and occupancy in general at 66 percent – a 9.1 percent increase.

“There’s a lot of growth in upper-end hotel rooms,” he said. “India and China are the new frontiers in terms of new rooms… You’re just not going to see this kind of growth in the U.S. because the market is so saturated.”

In Europe: In 2010, there were 51,000 hotels in Europe, with the room supply up 1.1 percent at 1.4 billion, the room demand up 6.3 percent at 904 million, and occupancy up in general 64 percent – a 5.1 percent increase.

“Inflation rates have a huge impact on ADR (it depends on the exchange rates too),” he said. “The U.K. is basically flat; London was the only city not really impacted with the recession.”

In the Americas: The ADR growth rate in the Americas is very, very muted, according to Freitag. The region broke out as follows: In 2010, there were 67,000 hotels throughout the region, with the room supply up 1.8 percent at 2.2 billion, the room demand up 7.4 percent at 1.2 billion, and occupancy in general at 58 percent – a 5.6 percent increase.

The United States differed a little bit. Freitag said that in 2010, there were 52,000 hotels, with the room supply up 2 percent at 1.7 billion, the room demand up 7.8 percent at 1 billion (the same as in 2008), and occupancy in general at 57.6 percent – a 5.1 percent increase.  “Business travelers are back and so are leisure travelers, but the dollars (rates) are lower,” he said. “There are deals out there.”

Globalization–The Company Perspective with Tina Stehle, senior vice president and general manager, Agilysys; Larry Hall, president and CEO, PAR Springer-Miller Systems; Tracy Flynn, vice president and general manager, hospitality solutions, Infor-SoftBrands; and Peter Rogers, Jr., executive vice president and corporate officer of business development and investor relations, MICROS Systems, Inc.

The company perspective panel included four executives whose companies have had extensive global expansion experience.

 Tina Stehle began her part of the session with what’s been easy, what’s been hard and a few surprises Agilysys has met along the way.

“One of the easy parts of global expansion is convincing some of your staff to go,” she said. “Your staff will be so motivated by the allure of something international. When you are looking at Cleveland vs. Paris… They sometimes see travel outside the U.S. as a perk. It ends up being a positive experience.”

Aside from having someone there on the ground to represent the company, Stehle said that many outside firms, not resellers, can also be helpful when expanding to foreign lands. “Customers expect us to do intense due diligence,” she said. “(With things like a) language barrier, a reseller is not always knowledgeable enough–with taxes, what to put on receipts in that country–an outside firm can be money well spent.”

Some of the challenges when expanding, she said, include differences in culture, communication and foreign relations. Regarding payments, Stehle said, “What is here in the U.S. is probably of very little value (in other areas). Each time (in each country), you will have to start over. The government will have to certify your application in some countries. When you are working with a hotel with properties all over the world, they know what they are doing. When you work with a company that decides to open one location outside the U.S., centralization is tough. You and your staff have to be diplomatic when dealing with these situations.”

Larry Hall agreed on the importance of understanding other cultures before venturing in.
“We have to make sure we are sensitive and knowledgeable of the culture,” he said. “Don’t assume because you are operating in a country that you know the customs.” As he said, for example, when you are 600 miles outside Shanghai, it is very different than when you are actually in Shanghai.

Hall also stressed networking as a huge advantage when going through expansion. “You come to events like this (Hospitality Upgrade’s Executive Vendor Summit),” he said. “You should shake a hand and ask how someone is doing this. I think networking is key.”

He agreed with Stehle on the importance of not only understanding different cultures, but the importance of language. “Don’t underestimate the importance of language–especially in contracts,” he cautioned. Force majeure language regarding acts of war and acts of God has become very important. “As with Japan (the earthquakes and resulting tsunamis), we are now dealing with it daily,” he said.

Tracy Flynn has found that the most important feature in expansion is planning – having a plan to go into a country. “If (a company) didn’t understand the requirements – it can be a lot of work after the fact to catch up,” he said.

Peter Rogers said that over the years, MICROS has developed fiscal rules in terms of taxation, and developed a library of algorithms for different cultures. The company has had very good advice from attorneys and financial advisors, which was instrumental, and hiring locally as a global business brought great benefit as well.

“We discovered what we needed to do, to do business internationally,” he said. “We realized we had to make more money to invest in distribution and to expand… It took a lot of time, money and understanding of culture.”

The session closed with the four panelists giving their top three pieces of advice when expanding globally. Stehle recommended, “Invest some money upfront, remember the culture, and patience and time.”

Hall said, “Give yourself plenty of time to learn. Don’t be arrogant; don’t think what we are doing in the U.S. can translate. Be a little humble. It will take money and time, and be realistic with expectations.”

Flynn reminded the group of the importance of local resources, the knowledge of the local market and planning. “Don’t let it happen by accident,” he said. Flynn also stressed being prepared when it came to company expansion, pointing out Infor’s recent acquisition of Amadeus. As he said, “The human resources policies as well as international business policies are very different in various countries and you have to be well versed in them all.”

Rogers recommended that to expand successfully, a company has to be more involved internationally. “You have to have people in an organization who have a global perspective. I read five to six different papers a day,” he said. Agreeing with Hall, he also recommended being modest, “Be humble and quiet. Listen to how they do things; remember you are not in the states anymore.”

Globalization – The Customer Perspective with Gustaaf Schrils, vice president of technology for InterContinental Hotels Group, and Bernard Gay, senior vice president and CIO of Kerzner International Bahamas Ltd.

The goal of this session was for the two panelists – both hoteliers – to give the attendees an idea of what they would like to see from their vendor partners as they continue to expand globally. Both, like the previous vendor panel, stressed the importance of knowing a culture, planning and doing their due diligence.

“We need solutions from our partners (vendors),” Gustaaf Schrils said. “Solutions are not products and services. We need a holistic 360-degree view of what you provide us. PMS is only one (system); there are 40 other systems that generally reside in the hotel. I need for our partner… to interface with my systems. I need their support and I need my employees to be trained.”

He said he does not want to create a complex environment – he is interested in nonproprietary systems and vendors that collaborate with other vendors. “We also encourage them to be HTNG members,” he said.

Partnering with globally experienced vendors does have its advantages. “Understanding the customer’s business is very important to us,” he said. “We need to think globally. What we are consuming locally, we will need to consume outside the U.S.”

“I don’t recommend a company goes global on its own. I recommend you partner with someone. Start small and grow. Do lots of planning,” he said. “And, when an agreement is signed, be very clear.”

Schrils described a $20 million contract that was 488 pages. “Fifty of the pages were legal mumbo jumbo,” he said. “The other 438 were clarifying the statements of work to make it impossible to mistake what is expected.”

Another thing he cautioned is what works here, does not  always work elsewhere. What takes one week here in the states, can take four weeks in Latin America. There can also be a shortage of skills in some of these countries, as well as currency fluctuation.

At Kerzner, Bernard Gay is more than a CIO; he handles facilities, surveillance, security systems and much more. “The CIO role has changed immensely,” he said. “The CIO is not sitting around a table just to keep the lights on.”

“In the last 24 months, we have seen more dependency on technology than we have ever seen in hospitality,” he said. “It’s all about touching the customer; how do you drive a good high-touch experience to the customer.”

What are Kerzner and Gay looking for? “No stakes in North America,” he said. “We are forced to look globally because we are.”

Research and knowing the culture are very important to Gay as well. “Technology is local, make absolutely no mistake. You need to look at the culture; I can’t emphasize that enough,” he said. “We are looking at China and have sent multiple reconnaissance teams to research the marketplace.”

The main points he wanted to stress to attendees, like Schrils, were the needs for good support services and integration between key products and key vendors. “We are asking vendors to look at newer solutions,” he said. “We are struggling to do more with less.”

Globalization – The Legal/Regulatory Perspective with Art Walker, Rich Assmus and Aimée Latimer-Zayets, all partners with Mayer Brown

The legal session focused on compliance with U.S. and local laws, repatriating earnings and intellectual property rights and contracts. The first part of the session began with Art Walker addressing international tax planning.

“When you start going abroad, there are some tax benefits to U.S. taxes,” he said. Walker cautioned that an expansion has to fit the company, however. “If you don’t want to have meetings in Bermuda, don’t set up a general holding company in Bermuda.”

With deferral of income for foreign corporations, they are generally taxed on U.S. business income and U.S. dividends, interest and royalty income, but not U.S. capital gains. “Foreign corporations generally enjoy deferral of tax on foreign earnings, but there are a few exceptions,” he said.

He also touched on cautions when doing business in China and common ownership structures for foreign operations.

Rich Assmus focused on global intellectual property issues when companies expand overseas. He covered forms of IP protection including foreign protection, licensing issues and other risks associated with global expansion and potential pitfalls of IP/tax structuring.

There are various forms of IP protection including patents (which require a lengthy application process and disclosure of invention); trade secrets (even though not registered, they are still considered critical business assets); copyrights (rights exist upon creation of copyrightable work–for many, software is the primary copyrightable work of value; but laws protect specific code, not ideas embodied in the code); and trademarks (the simplest form of IP; rights accrue through use including international use, source codes, for example, and have a relatively inexpensive application process).

Another consideration he recommended was that companies look to see if their licenses protect third-party rights. “Those issues can be magnified when you move abroad,” he said. “Patent/trademark clearances and license compliance audits are two ways to avoid violating third-party rights.”

He also noted that when translating into other languages like Chinese, one should hire a consultant. “There are lots of unfortunate examples marketing departments would rather forget,” he said. “I recommend hiring a Chinese name consultant when translating a name or trademark into Chinese.”

Aimée Latimer-Zayets focused on complying with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The FCPA applies to U.S. and foreign entities and extends beyond the context of foreign bribery.

According to Latimer-Zayets, 2010 saw a record number of criminal fines, civil penalties and disgorgement payments. Total enforcement actions in 2010 doubled from 43 in 2009 to 86 in 2010. Corporations and individuals collectively paid or agreed to pay nearly $1.8 billion to settle FCPA-related charges in 2010.

She cautioned that the new Dodd-Frank Act provision may result in what she called a “race to report” as disgruntled employees decide to report potential issues directly to the SEC rather than through internal compliance programs.

“FCPA violations allow people to run to the SEC or Department of Justice and get 10 percent of the fine,” Latimer-Zayets said. “This is great motivation for a disgruntled employee to run to a regulator and report you,” if you haven’t properly protected yourself.

Cloudy with a Chance of Confusion with Stewart Hair, managing director of HP Enterprise Cloud Services and Russ Frahmann, director, Solutions V, Oracle

The focus of this two-part session, was basic information about cloud technology, characteristics deployment and service models, as well as approaches to the cloud. “Everybody thinks cloud is online. It is not. Cloud is about mobility access,” Hair said.

“IT is shifting from technology to information,” he said. “There are 25 million apps, 4 billion people are online, and there are 31 billion connected devices. There are 1.3 trillion tags/sensors…and 50 trillion gigabytes of information. We have to build data centers to house all of this information.”

Hair said cloud computing can be narrowed down to three types: SaaS (software as a service), PaaS (platform as a service) and IaaS (infrastructure as a service). SaaS delivers commonly used software to users’ desktops from the cloud. PaaS provides an environment for developers to design, develop, test and deploy custom applications for the cloud. IaaS provides IT infrastructure on demand with provisions to scale up and scale out as required.

In his part of the session, Frahmann said cloud is not about technology, but is a financial model, more business operated. “If I store stuff up in the cloud, (shrinking and expanding), someone has to accommodate the demand,” Frahmann said.

With regard to enterprise evolution to the cloud, he said, “We have automated the front office, we have automated the back office, we have automated manufacturing; what is left to automate – IT.”

He said cloud computing allows for a lot of options. “Whatever the point is, cloud is big,” he said. “Cloud provides you a lot of opportunities… Anything being built right now is on a cloud architecture.”

More engineers are working on enterprise management currently than just about anything else, he said.

Like all technology, cloud is moving forward. He said, “The key to understanding cloud computing is it changes and it changes rapidly.”

LinkedIn and Facebook and Twitter, Oh My! – with Cindy Estis Green (moderator), CEO, The Estis Group; Ken Bott, director, direct to consumer marketing, Outback Steakhouse International; Russ Frahmann, director, Solutions V, Oracle Corporation; Don Hay, founder and CEO, Digital Alchemy; Chuck Marratt, vice president information technology, MTM Luxury Lodging; Ursula Rhode, COO, Genares; and Luis Segredo, president, MTech

The panelists for this session all use social media in some form or fashion, whether it is to drive people to a restaurant, hotel property or resort; for better customer service; or to drive information to decision makers.

Moderator Estis Green asked the audience members, as technology vendors, how they use social media. Thirty-two percent said for sales purposes, 32 percent said for customer engagement, 5 percent said for user feedback for product or service, and 32 percent said for news or updates on products and services.

Ken Bott said Outback uses Twitter and Facebook quite a bit for consumer marketing. “We have used Twitter for customer service, to intercept a bad review,” he said.

They use tools like Twitter to scrape and geographically find which store the person with the complaint is in, and let the managing partner know as soon as possible so they can handle the problem, hopefully turning the original complaint into good customer service.

Marratt said MTM uses Twitter to tweet that a property’s deck is open in good weather, pushing visitors to the property. He also described his company’s Shoot to Win contest, “We post photos from different properties on Flickr and get tremendous participation from guests.”

Yogi Rawal of Defero3 asked Bott if they had thought about using the menu to promote visitors to tweet about their experiences. Bott said, “Maybe in some markets, but… We don’t want to define ourselves where there is no (personal) interaction with the server or manager. We would miss that high-touch opportunity.”

Another use Bott described is when customers give them hot tips, the company sends them coupons or gift cards and they become the company’s advocates. “Hot tips enable us to fix a problem before it blows up in our face,” he said. “This can be a valuable tool to us.”

It also helps with ROI. “We now have 1.1 million followers on Facebook,” Bott said. “This enables me to say to my boss, ‘I still deserve a budget.’”

Other social media sites provide good tools internally as well. HU’s own Kate O’Neil said she uses LinkedIn for account mapping; she finds out names, titles, where the people are located and it makes each call personal in nature. “By motivating your sales team to start using LinkedIn and by teaching them how to use it, you will see your sales funnel grow,” she said.

Estis Green agreed and said LinkedIn is a great sales tool. “If you do nothing else, you have to do it,” she said. “There should be no more cold calling – it should be warm and more personal.”

Frank Wolfe of HFTP said social media is something they are embracing at HFTP. “Everybody at HFTP tweets,” he said. “Even though we have a small office, it has been effective.”

Rhode said, “One of our competitors had a major outage and that’s how we found out about it – on Twitter. They never responded (to the comments).”

Don Hay said he has someone on staff who uses Facebook emphatically. “After a sale, she invites the customer to her Digital Alchemy Facebook page,” he said. “She posts features (and other information), and this is where we have gotten the most feedback.”

Russ Frahmann also talked about the merits of Twitter scraping. He said, “If I have a bad steak, it can generate a help desk ticket… Social media is now integrated into these applications.”

David Chestler with RateGain agreed on how useful scraping can be. “We use scraping to measure ourselves, track and measure and set a benchmark,” he said. “It enables us to see how we measure up against our competitors.”

Social media obviously can be a valuable tool both internally and externally for the hospitality industry.

Gala Dinner: Tony Farris, Chairman and CEO of Quorum Hotels & Resorts

Relationships are important to Quorum Hotels & Resorts, according to Tony Farris. With corporate employees’ average tenure of 17 years, and the general managers’ average tenure of 11 years, Quorum seems to be onto something.

After describing the history of his own company, Farris gave an overview of hotel technology trends past, current and future.

“If demand growth is at an all-time high, why is supply growth so very low,” Farris asked. “Because no one is lending.”

From 2003 to 2008, roughly $110 billion of lodging mortgage debt was originated and securitized. It was collateralized by slightly over 18,000 lodging properties – about 35 percent of the total U.S. lodging inventory, Farris explained. “After the financial meltdown and collapse of lodging demand, our industry is confronting a legacy of debt,” he said.

According to Farris, over $17 billion (roughly 26 percent) is now in special servicing, and of that amount, nearly $13 billion is listed as over 60 days delinquent in debt service payments. “These numbers far exceed the most dire predictions made as recently as this time last year,” he said.
After further review of the state of the industry, Farris concluded with his theory for a successful company and said, “Choose your partners wisely; don’t make promises you can’t keep; a manageable sized company is a nimble company; once you’ve given someone responsibility for an area – let them do their job; and your current clients are your best source for new clients.” All sound advice.

Live Long and Prosper with Dr. Roy Siegel

The final session covered individual well being instead of corporate well being, a refreshing reminder that if our minds and bodies aren’t healthy, it may actually begin to affect the health of our companies.

Health isn’t necessarily all genetics – about 75 percent is lifestyle and about 25 percent is genetics. “You can override your genetics and improve your health,” Dr. Roy said.

Here is a quick snapshot of Dr. Roy’s words of wisdom for well being (go to our website for more tips):
  • Regarding back pain – the root cause is the chair. Anytime you don’t have to be in a chair– don’t.
  • Looking down at your smartphone is bad for you – hold the phone up to eye level.
  • Take your shoes off when you can.
  • Exercise three or four times a week, even if only for 10 minutes.
  • Avoid sugar, flour and salt to stay lean.
  • Sleep eight to nine hours a day. Your body repairs itself during sleep.
  • To alleviate neck pain and sleep better, roll a hand towel up and place it under you neck when you sleep; also you will sleep better if you sleep north to south.
“We all know stress is killing us,” Dr. Roy said. “We need a good amount of short stretching; a good amount of laughter; a good amount of weight-bearing, resistance training and a balance in diet.”

Even a little bit of a change for the good can certainly help. Now go take off your shoes and run down the hall; your co-workers will wonder about you, but you will feel better.

For more information, please visit www.vendorsummit.com. Special thanks to Executive Vendor Summit sponsors HFTP, Realview TV, HUTechShare and Hotel Online.

- By Kris Burnett, Hospitality Upgrade

©2011 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.


Executive Vendor Summit Attendees – 2011

Patrick Martucci, Incentient; Gregg Hopkins, Libra OnDemand; Sascha Hausmann, eRevMax – RateTiger; Michael L. Waltman, Interactive Sites, Inc.; Evan Brown, ENG Infotech; Don Hay, Digital Alchemy; Mike Kennedy, SoftHotel, Inc.; Robert Magliozzi, CENDYN; Ken Brown, Hewlett Packard; Stan van Roij, EasyRMS Ltd.; Trevor Warner, Warner Consulting Group; Kyle Buehner, NAVIS; John Burns, Hospitality Technology Consulting; Rick Munson, Multi-Systems, Inc.; Cindy Estis Green, The Estis Group; Sherry Marek, Datavision Technologies; Juli Barter, POST Integrations, Inc.; Tammy Farley, The Rainmaker Group; Larry Hall, PAR Springer-Miller Systems; Luis Segredo, MTech; Tim Kinsella, Merchant Link; Patrick van der Wardt, Brilliant Hotel Software; Frank Pitsikalis, ResortSuite; Tom Murray, Sabre Hospitality Solutions; Kevin Ruhman, NEC; Peter Rogers, MICROS Systems, Inc.; Bob Lowe, Shift4 Corporation; Neil Holm, hyphen Information Systems; Craig Ziegler, SuiteLinq, Inc.; Tracy Flynn, Infor – Softbrands; Bill Euler, PAS; Bob Bennett, Starr Technology; Tom Littleton, LMG Data Mining; Richard Wiegmann, Trust International; John Rovani, The McLean Group, LLC; speaker – Russ Frahmann, Oracle Corporation; Greg Pesik, Passkey International, Inc.; Jonathan Clues, Realview TV; Jay Troutman, APTECH Computer Systems Inc.; Randall Reviere, InnPoints Worldwide, Jane Stampe, IDeaS; Yogi Rawal, Defero3; Kristin Intress, InnLink; James Filsinger, EZ Yield; Sunil Ippagunta, Adaco; David Chestler, RateGain; Ursula Rhode, Genares; David Levin, Four Winds Interactive; Chris M. Jackson, Apical Resource Group; Jeff Venza, Venza Group, Inc.; Bruce Humphrey, Miwa Lock Co Ltd; Bas Blommaart, Hotel Concepts–Brilliant; Rod Jimenez, Whiteboard Labs, LLC; Mark Haley, The Prism Partnership; Ron Dressin, RedRock Software; David Shaw, Postec Inc.; Annette Green, SAS Institute Inc.; Bruce Bensetler, Data Plus; Sean O’Neill, Newmarket International, Inc.; Mark Swanson, Immersion Technology Inc.; Tina Stehle, Agilysys; Young N. Nguyen, d2o; Jacob Dehan, Northwind Canada Inc.; Ron Peterson, Blueprint RF; Terry McGowan, Datanamics Inc.; Bruce Kirst, Elavon Gateway; David Garrison, iBAHN; and Hayes Thomas, ZDirect.

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