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Siegel Sez

October 16, 2008

Siegel Sez

by: Richard Siegel

In case you hadn’t heard, Atlanta was one of those cities with limited gasoline delivery for a few weeks after Hurricane Ike hit the Gulf Coast. It was actually pretty entertaining. Gas stations that had gas had lines that often were nearly an hour wait. You would wait in line and then when you got to the pump they would run out of gas. Or, the station only had regular and your car needs premium. Many drivers were following the gasoline delivery trucks to whatever gas station they were going, to get in line while the gasoline was being unloaded. It was interesting here for a few weeks. For those of us around in the ‘70s who remembered the oil embargo, it brought back many memories…..probably those that we could live without.  Atlanta went from one of the areas in the nation with the cheapest gas prices to the most expensive. Now that the crisis is over our prices have come back down. Regular gas prices, which only 10 days ago were around $4.10 a gallon, are now around $2.90 a gallon. And the prices continue to drop daily.

Watching the gas prices drop had me thinking about travel. With the price of fuel for airlines going through the roof the airlines claimed they were going to impose fees to help offset these costs. With many airlines there were fuel surcharges, fees for checked baggage and certain airlines charging for just about everything when you were on the plane, some even charging for soft drinks. I think it took guts for airlines to do this.  With the price of fuel being what it was the airlines were in desperate times, but with fuel prices continuing to drop dramatically, who will be the first to end these charges? My guess is no one. Wow, do I sound like a Southwest Airlines commercial? Actually this is probably why through turbulent times they continued to make money. I don’t live in a Southwest Airlines city, but when I am traveling from city to city where they fly, I do fly Southwest. For some reason I always expect something weird to happen when I fly Southwest but it always seems to be a pleasant and often fun experience. I have always believed that being different is good and they prove this.

For the many of you who have been following my horse racing venture, this Saturday is a big, big day. I am going to be at Keeneland in Kentucky, which is the most historic and beautiful race track in the world. Our filly, Set Play, who has brought us so much joy, including last year’s Breeders Cup experience, is running her last race on Saturday in a big stakes race. I am bringing my horsey friend, Heather Pitts of QSR Automation who lives in Louisville, with me. Keeneland is a snooty and dressy place and if she asks one more time what to wear I am going to scream. It should be a fun, fun day. Also on Saturday my favorite horse, Sea Gull Sez, is running at Golden Gate Fields outside San Francisco. He is not the fastest horse but he tries hard every time.  What else can you ask for? Finally and probably most importantly, our 2-year-old colt Backbackbackgone is running again at Santa Anita in southern California after a five-month rest. He has trounced his competition his first two races and if he runs well Saturday we could actually start dreaming of the Kentucky Derby. The odds of a horse making it to the Derby are about 20,000 to 1, but who knows. Wish us luck. It is an exciting day for our group.

Here now is the real reason we are here, Jon Inge’s technology review. Pay close attention to his opening comments and his advice. I am not sure I agree with him as to the state of the industry, but no matter what, his advice is solid. I will see you at the end with this week’s attempt at you-know-what.


Technology NEWSSTAND

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


- Troubled times: take the time to fine tune your operation and systems
- User interfaces: paging Steve Jobs
Never has it been more true that we live in interesting times.  Given that no one really knows where the current credit crunch will end up, it’s likely that CapEx funds for systems expansions may be even less available than usual, at least for a while.  So what’s a property to do?

Fine tune your operation and your systems.  You need as much accurate information as you can get on how the property is doing; explore the business intelligence/ad hoc reporting function in your systems, and make sure they’re reporting relevant, consistent and accurate data.  You need to target potential guests as precisely as possible; explore your systems’ CRM functions in depth.  Across the operation, invest in refresher training for all the staff using your systems.  It’s probably been a while since they had any, and this is a great opportunity to bring them up to speed and perhaps learn about some useful new features that have been added to the systems since they were last trained. And hang in there.
I’ve been thinking about user interfaces a lot lately, based on comments from a number of clients on how old-fashioned many current systems look and after reviewing several vendors’ recent updates without seeing a significant improvement.  User interface design is notoriously difficult to get right, but there should be a middle ground between having a few busy screens crammed with everything that might be useful and having dozens of very simple confusingly similar screens for the user to work through for even the simplest function. 

One frustrated hotelier recently asked why he can’t get a system as appealing and functional as an iPhone.  Well, one reason is that our systems do quite a bit more than an iPhone, but he’s certainly right that Apple sets the bar for clarity and usability.  Does any PMS vendor out there want to step up to that challenge?  Thousands of systems users would thank you.

There used to be a debate as to whether using a mouse to check in a guest slowed down the process compared to using a keyboard.  Recent research seems to indicate that the younger front desk agents are now faster with the mouse, which is pause for thought.  Now Hilton announces that it’s launching video game-based instructional videos.  Maybe for real check-in speed we should work out how to hook up video game controllers to the PMS.


- Jules Sieburgh installed as global president of HFTP
- Terry Price installed as HFTP global vice president
- Dr. Ravi Mehrotra appointed president of IDeaS
- Jennifer Ranno promoted to vice president of accounts for the Americas at SynXis
- Rune Venaas promoted to president of ASSA ABLOY Hospitality
- Scott Gutz returns to Amadeus North America as chief operating officer
For more on People on the Move for 10/16/08


- MICROS launches Operetta, a bundled software, hardware and services OPERA package
- Riverwalk Casino Hotel picks Agilysys’ LMS
- InnPoints integrates TTI Technologies’ WebScan into MyHMS
For more on Property Management Systems for 10/16/08


- Premier Inn rolls out Amadeus’ RMS across 556 hotels
The United Kingdom’s Premier Inn chain has rolled out Amadeus’ RMS across all 556 hotels, bringing the number of hotels using Amadeus RMS to 1,450.  Premier implemented a new version of the system, which is hosted at Amadeus’ data center in Erding near Munich, Germany.  http://www.premierinn.comhttp://www.amadeus.com/hotels


- PSAV, X20 Media receive Digital Signage Expo East 2008 Content Award
PSAV Presentation Services and X20 Media recently received the Digital Signage Expo East 2008 Content Award in recognition of its collaboration in creating an interactive touch screen digital-signage network for the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Rosemont, Ill.  The project enables guests to interact with any of 13 46-inch digital touch screen displays, using X2O’s Xpresenter platform to integrate them into the hotel’s content-management system to show the most current meeting location information.  Guests can access information about scheduled events, facilities, concierge services, amenities and airline arrivals/departures; the application includes a 3-D map showing how to navigate from one area to another.  http://www.x2omedia.com, http://www.psav.com


- Oryx Digital’s PerfectTablePlan seating planner software passes two million guest milestone
- AM/PM Service expands reseller partnership with Squirrel Systems to include Arizona
Oryx Digital announced that its PerfectTablePlan seating planner software has now been used to seat an estimated two million guests at gala dinners, fundraisers, weddings receptions, bar mitzvahs, award ceremonies and other events.  Launched in 2005, the software is used in more than 50 countries.  http://www.perfecttableplan.com
AM/PM Service is expanding its reseller partnership with Squirrel Systems to include Arizona.  http://www.ampmservice.comhttp://www.squirrelsystems.com


- Runtriz launches Hotel Evolution product
- Entiretec selects Anagran’s flow-based traffic management products
- iBAHN opens new office in Cairo, Egypt
- Metromedia migrates HotelEXPERT to.NET
- MTech appoints McLaren International as HotSOS distributor for Asia and Oceania
- Hotel 1000 installs Microsoft’s Surface customized by IdentityMine
- Preferred Hotel Group selects iBAHN for Alliance Partner Program
- Fairmont Chicago and Hyatt Regency Phoenix installing Flyte Systems on DisplayIQ platform
- Mirage Las Vegas installs 3,000 TeleAdapt MediaHub connectivity panels
For more on Guest Services for 10/16/08


- Hilton Garden Inn launches employee training program on Sony’s PSP game players
Hilton Garden Inn has launched HGI Ultimate Team Play for PSP, an interactive employee training program developed by Virtual Heroes, Inc. for use on Sony’s PlayStation Portable (PSP) handheld game players.  In addition to providing employees with realistic guest simulation experiences, Hilton Garden Inn will use the program as a recruiting aid.  The game puts team members in a 3-D, graphically intensive virtual Hilton Garden Inn hotel where they must respond to a number of different guest-related requests by a specific deadline.  The game is scheduled to launch at all HGI locations in January 2009 and will include positions in housekeeping, food and beverage, engineering/maintenance as well as front desk.  http://www.hiltongardeninn.com


- First aloft hotel installs Elsafe safes, TimeLox DC-One locks
The aloft Montreal Airport in Dorval, Quebec, the first of Starwood’s new aloft brand, has installed ASSA ABLOY’s Elsafe Sentinel Advanced (41) digital in-room safes and TimeLox DC-One dual-card (magnetic stripe and smartcard) locks in each of its 136 guestrooms.  http://www.starwoodhotels.com, http://www.timelox.com, http://www.elsafe.com


- Pegasus upgrades nearly 5,000 properties to RezView NG
- Hotels4U.com signs with Travelport for GDS connectivity
- InterContinental integrates Google Earth into Web site for visual planning and booking
For more on Reservations for 10/16/08


- TIG Global, Milestone Internet Marketing each win five Web Marketing Association awards
TIG Global and Milestone Internet Marketing each won five awards in the Web Marketing Association’s 12th Annual WebAward competition.  http://www.TIGglobal.com, http://www.milestoneinternet.com


And now for you-know-what…

Two boys were arguing when their teacher entered the room. The teacher asked, "Why are you arguing?"

One boy answered, "We found a 10 dollar bill and decided to give it to the person who tells the biggest lie."

"You should be ashamed of yourselves," said the teacher. "When I was your age, I didn't even know what a lie was."

The boys immediately handed the 10 dollar bill to the teacher.

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