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Siegel Sez

October 18, 2012

Siegel Sez

by: Richard Siegel

Have you ever attended an event and weren’t sure what to expect? That was me last week when I attended the Best Western Convention and Global Conference. Now be honest, when I say Best Western, doesn’t your mind immediately connect with a certain type of property? Mine always did, not necessarily positive or negative, just a typical Best Western. After three days in Las Vegas I will tell you that my perception of Best Western has changed dramatically. The smartest thing the company did was create Best Western, Best Western PLUS and Best Western Premier. Some of the Premiers are very, very premier. The growth of this company internationally is amazing and the level of properties being built around the world is not how I remembered Best Western. The Premier properties are absolutely beautiful and quite luxurious. Those of us in the media really have it made. I spent some quality and fun time with Best Western President and CEO David Kong, Senior Vice President, Marketing and Sales Dorothy Dowling, and of course CIO and Senior Vice President of Distribution and Strategic Services Scott Gibson. Yes, it seems like Best Western has reinvented itself. The company is launching an extended-stay product, it is toughening its stance with properties that need to improve, it seems like the company goal is to own Canada, and Best Western’s technology initiatives are becoming very rewarding. The executives shared statistics that include an increase in RevPAR by 9 percent compared to 7.4 percent for others in the midscale market. Revenue delivery through Best Western’s reservation system is up more than 16 percent for the year. Bookings via the new BestWestern.com website have grown dramatically and Best Western launched Rate Levels this year, which allows members to take advantage of a simple set of tools to more effectively manage rates and availability. Yes, as a technology guy I like it when companies invest and improve with technology and can proudly say it has worked. It sure seems to be working for Best Western. The Best Western Convention and Global Conference left me with a feeling that not only are great things happening with Best Western, but the future for our industry remains very positive!

I’m back in Atlanta for a few days and then next week I will be at the MICROS Users Group in Baltimore, Md. What fun to spend time with hotel owners and then with those who actually use the technology that we cover and talk about. I smile when I think how I started in the hotel business. At the time, working at a hotel that had a computer at the front desk was very exciting. I guess no matter where I go and what I do with my life, I will always consider myself a hotel guy. I have told many people throughout my career that no matter what my job is, my favorite job will always be working the front desk of a hotel. I felt I was on stage and every guest checking in was a new audience to entertain. That was a great experience.

Before I head to Baltimore next week it is off to the HFTP Annual Conference where they will be celebrating 60 years. The majority of the attendees at the Annual Conference are the financial folks (the “F” in HFTP), and after having attended this event for many years let me say, these folks might work hard, but they really know how to party. HFTP has entrusted me with one of the education sessions focused on technology initiatives so this should be fun. Orlando, here we come!

Here now is the real reason we are here, Jon Inge’s technology review of the last two weeks. I will see you at the end with this week’s attempt at you-know-what. For those who are following Currahee, the horse that could, he is running on Friday in the first race at Santa Anita in California. Maybe I can get HFTP to put this race on a big screen in a meeting room. Wish him luck. He is happy and ready to run.


Technology NEWSSTAND

by: Jon Inge
Systems News in Plain English from Jon Inge



- Investing in the right tools for your true needs always pays off
- EyeForTravel highlights four trends among mobile travelers
I’m off to the same couple of conferences as Rich this week, the HFTP Annual Conference in Orlando followed by MICROS’ Users Conference in Baltimore.  I’m doing him one better by also attending the Travel & Technology conference in Seattle immediately after I get back; this is a new event in a sort of mini-EyeForTravel format with discussion panels of vendor and hospitality representatives followed by six entrepreneurs making their pitches to a panel of angel investors.  Should be fun.

As regular readers know, one of my hobby horses is the crucial role technology plays in increasing a hotel’s revenue and operating profit, and I expect this to come up at all three conferences.  Actually, I KNOW it will come up at the HFTP Conference, not only because many of the attendees come from the financial arena but also because I’m on a panel discussing it!   The topic is the classic question of how to make money from IT, and the equally classic answer is that you don’t; you make money from marketing or business changes, and those often require IT changes to be effective.

There are two forces at work in the selection of new technology.  In the current issue of Hospitality Upgrade magazine, Michael Schubach warns against the temptation of giving in to the current Bright Shiny Object syndrome exhibited by many upper management folks.  These are the ones who simply must have the latest BYOD gadgets, and expect their IT staff to accommodate all of them so that they can be open to any possible source of business from any possible device.  That way madness lies.  Conversely, there’s the long-standing tendency of hospitality operations (and financiers) to postpone the purchase of any new technology until the last drop of return has been wrung from the old stuff – and that leads to stagnation and loss of competitiveness.

A recent column in Inc. magazine by Jason Fried mentions Henry Ford’s comment that “If you need a machine and don’t buy it, you will ultimately find that you have paid for it and don’t have it.”  This is why young start-up companies take over from more established ones; by focusing on revenue rather than costs, they pick the right tools for what they want to achieve.  Older organizations tend to concentrate instead on the inevitably smaller marginal costs of continuing to use what they already have, and so lose the ability to leverage new tools into higher returns.

The trick is to understand what your need truly is, with clear, well-defined operational benefits.  Failure to invest in the best tool to get you there inevitably dooms the effort to be second-rate before it starts.
EyeforTravel has identified four trends in travel consumer behavior from a survey of over 8,000 people from five different countries.  None is really surprising, but it’s worth noting that these appear to be universal and multicultural. 
     1. Everyone is going mobile.  Probably the most obvious trend, but over half of Google searches originate from mobile devices and over 20 percent of U.S. travel bookings now come from phones and tablets.
      2. People are actively sharing their travel ideas and interests on social media and are influenced by those of others.  Many travel companies are working with the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Orkut, Baidu and Renren to sell travel but harnessing consumer intelligence from the social media interaction will be key.
     3. Big data equals big brains.  The true potential of analyzing big data is difficult to achieve given travel’s complex products and convoluted supply chain; it’s expensive and takes considerable expertise.  But it’s coming; Priceline and Expedia seem to grasp the benefits and their stock values are performing well above the rest of the industry. 
     4. New sources of inventory as well as new products and services are key.  Consumers have always been willing to buy inspirational, easily bookable online products, and more tours and activities, restaurants (with menus), spas, bars and taxis are being posted in a marketable, bookable format. 
The bottom line was that it’s critical to improve the consumer experience, especially on mobile devices, and to use thoughtful analysis of large, accurate databases to generate the most appropriate offer for the right person at the right time and send it to the right device.  But it’s not easy.



- Sabre receives 29 WMA WebAwards and 19 W3 awards
- Milestone Internet Marketing named by Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal as “poised for growth”
- newBrandAnalytics releases nBA 3.0
- TravelClick receives 15 W3 Awards from IAVA
For more information on Marketing/Management for 10/18/12


- Noble House Hotels & Resorts signs EMI for SpeedRFP
- Kelso & Company acquires Swank Audio Visuals, will merge with PSAV
Noble House Hotels & Resorts has signed with Elite Meetings International (EMI) to add EMI’s SpeedRFP software to its corporate website to manage online requests for proposals.  http://www.NobleHouseHotels.com, http://www.SpeedRFP.com
Kelso & Company, owner of PSAV Presentation Services, has acquired Swank Audio Visuals, and plans to merge Swank with PSAV.  Swank is currently a preferred outsource service provider to more than 375 hotels and resorts in the United States, Canada and the Middle East.  http://www.swankav.com, http://www.psav.com, http://www.kelso.com  


- UniFocus enhances mobile device functionality for Survey Solutions software
UniFocus has introduced enhanced mobile device functionality that makes the survey process easier for users with smartphones and increases response rates for its feedback Survey Solutions. The dynamic survey link automatically displays either a mobile or standard version of the questions, based on the device the user is viewing when taking the survey.  http://www.unifocus.com 


- SAI releases SynergyMMS Enterprise Voice to capture work requests entered by phone
- ZENO Controls acquires Verve Living Systems
Systems Associates Inc. (SAI) has released SynergyMMS Enterprise Voice, an enhancement to its maintenance management system that captures work requests entered by phone from anywhere on property via a multilingual interface, and creates work orders and dispatches service requests in real time.  http://www.synergymms.com  
ZENO Controls has acquired Verve Living Systems, which develops energy-efficient guestroom controls for hotels.  Verve received the Editor's Choice Award for Best Green Technology Product at the 2011 International Hotel/Motel & Restaurant Show in New York for its self-powered wireless keycard switch.  With this acquisition, ZENO now supports both EnOcean and ZigBee technologies.  http://www.vervelivingsystems.com, http://www.zenocontrols.com


- Insignia Hospitality Group switches to Kaba ILCO 790 RFID locks
Insignia Hospitality Group has announced that all of its future hotels will use ILCO 790 RFID locks from Kaba, and its 12 existing properties (which operate under seven different flags) will be retrofitted with the brand's products.  http://www.insigniamgmt.com, http://www.kabahospitality.com 


- Phil Beilke hired by hotel SystemsPro as VP product strategy
- Rainer Gruber promoted to SVP client services at Pegasus Solutions
- Jeff Fox joins Intelity as VP strategic partnerships
- Vishal Arora hired by eRevMax as VP product management
- Jan Murza promoted to VP sales for the Americas at eRevMax
- Tom Barham joins Rainmaker as CFO
- Digital Alchemy forms advisory board
- Michael Zetterlund appointed product development director at Swisscom Hospitality Services Plus SA
For more information on People on the Move for 10/18/12


- Pestana Group selects MICROS OPERA for nine properties in Brazil
- Adoba Eco Hotel & Suites chooses IQware as official technology partner
- MSI completes beta testing of interfaces between WinPM/NiteVision and Windsurfer CRS
For more information on Guest Management Systems for 10/18/12


- Riande Hoteles launches mobile sites for two locations in Panama City using Pegasus OpenFlex
- World Rainbow Hotels launches online travel agent booking platform for over 850 GLBT-welcoming hotels
- Travel Tripper adds direct GDS connectivity to RezTrip
- HotelTonight acquires PrimaTable
- Pegasus splits off Utell’s connectivity services under new Pegasus Connect brand
- ONYX Hospitality Group chooses Trust International CRS for 34 properties in Asia
For more information on Reservations for 10/18/12


- Vatel Group signs with Availpro for 30 Hotel & Tourism Management Business schools worldwide
- Rainmaker receives 2012 Gaming & Leisure Business Partner Special Recognition Award
- Lanyon enhances rate auditing software to validate floating discounts
- Langham picks IDeaS for Melbourne, Auckland and Beijing Capital Airport
- Park Inn by Radisson Berlin Alexanderplatz signs with EasyRMS
- eRevMax restructures customer service for RateTiger Suite and RTConnect
For more information on Revenue Management for 10/18/12


- Arrabelle at Vail Square implements Intelity's ICE Mobile for guest phones/tablets
- Intelity study on guestroom iPad® usage shows average of 82 percent usage
- NH Hoteles expands partnership with Swisscom Hospitality
- Sprint offers 3G/4G/WiMAX reselling options to hotels
- Heritage Khirasara Palace, Gujarat, India, implements Blynk’s Hotel guest services iPad app
- Hong Kong’s Hotel ICON introduces smartphone application based on FCS’ i-Guest
- MVI Systems makes IPTV in-room infotainment service available for smart TVs
- MGM Grand Las Vegas completes install of Bartech’s C-32 Automatic Minibars in over 4,200 rooms
For more information on Guest Services for 10/18/12


And now for you-know-what…

A programmer and an engineer are sitting next to each other on a long flight from Los Angeles to New York. The programmer leans over to the engineer and asks if he would like to play a fun game. The engineer just wants to take a nap, so he politely declines and rolls over to the window to catch a few winks. 

The programmer persists and explains that the game is really easy and a lot of fun. He explains, "I ask you a question, and if you don't know the answer, you pay me $5. Then you ask me a question, and if I don't know the answer, I'll pay you $5."

Again, the engineer politely declines and tries to get some sleep.

The programmer, now somewhat agitated, says, "OK, if you don't know the answer you pay me $5, and if I don't know the answer, I'll pay you $50."

This catches the engineer's attention, and he sees no end to this torment unless he plays, so he agrees to the game.

The programmer asks the first question. "What's the distance from the earth to the moon?" he asks.

The engineer doesn't say a word, but reaches into his wallet, pulls out a five dollar bill and hands it to the programmer.

Now, it's the engineer's turn. He asks the programmer, "What goes up a hill with three legs and comes down on four?"

The programmer looks up at him with a puzzled look. He takes out his laptop and searches all of his references, the net and the Library of Congress. Frustrated, he sends an email to his co-workers... all to no avail.

After about an hour, he wakes the engineer and hands him $50. The engineer politely takes the $50 and turns to go back to sleep. The programmer, more than a little miffed, shakes the engineer and asks "Well, what's the answer?"

Without a word, the engineer reaches into his wallet, hands the programmer $5, and goes back to sleep.

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