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Siegel Sez

January 07, 2009

Siegel Sez

by: Richard Siegel

Welcome to 2009. Life can be just like a roller coaster and 2008 sure included a very large dip at the end. Hopefully, we are now starting that long climb back to the top. It might take awhile, but as history has proved, it is a climb that always comes. When it comes to business some take advantage of this part of the ride and others jump off. I hope you stay for the ride.

In 1996 Dick Johnson created the first-ever daily e-mail service and Web site for the hotel industry. Dick and I became partners in March of 2000. I hesitate to ever say we are the “best” daily e-mail today for the industry,  that is for you to decide. But we are definitely by far the most widely read when it comes to counting the number of eyeballs that read the daily e-mail and visit http://www.hotel-online.com/. And every one of you reading this has opted in; we have never spammed a single e-mail address and never will.

The smartest thing I ever did when we launched our technology review Siegel Sez nine years ago was enlist the help of Jon Inge, who is one of the smartest consultants in the industry. If you are a technology enthusiast or simply want to be able to “talk the talk” regarding current trends in the industry, then you must read Jon’s technology review today. If there is one review you never want to miss, it is this one. It is our first of the year and along with the tech news, it opens with Jon’s look back at what happened in 2008. Technologist or industry enthusiasts you must read it, he did a fantastic job. If you know anyone who should be reading it, then please forward it to them. They will thank you. 

We owe Jon a great deal of thanks for a superb job. What a great partner he is.

Jon’s opening comments about technology and what to expect this year is probably why the Hospitality Upgrade Executive Vendor Summit is going to have our biggest crowd ever this year. If you are a vendor of technology and want to attend the most unique conference in the industry then please e-mail Sharon at mailto:sharon@hospitalityupgrade.com. You aren’t going to sell your product to anybody at this event (though you might sell your business), but you will come out of our two-and-half day event with a better knowledge of how to succeed in this wild industry. Peer-to-peer networking is the trend today and often leads to long lasting partnerships. Of course this has never worked when it comes to my personal life, but has worked wonders for the business.

And now for what is important. On New Year’s Day our horse Backbackbackgone turned three years old and then won the Gold Rush Stakes at Golden Gate Park outside San Francisco. With five races, four wins with three of the wins in stakes races, this is unbelievably exciting. On January 24 at Gulfstream Park near Miami , our little horse with unbelievable heart will take on the big boys on Sunshine Millions Day. Anyone reading this who lives in the area or wants to come, let me know. It is going to be a fun day win or lose and I have a lot of people from the industry joining our group. Wish us luck.

Here is the real reason we are here, the aforementioned Jon Inge’s unbelievable Technology Year in Review. It is quite long, but worth every minute you will take to read it. I will see you at the end with this week’s attempt at “you-know-what.” Thank you for your support. It is very much appreciated.


Technology NEWSSTAND

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



- 2008 News Review
Last year’s news was certainly dominated by the financial challenges of the fourth quarter, but it helps to remember that drama sells newspapers and attracts TV viewers; the actual story is seldom as dire as the headlines.  Although the challenges are certainly real, I believe most hoteliers are taking rational steps to maximize their operating and marketing efficiency - and that takes good systems and technology.

There was plenty of other activity to keep us interested.  PCI certification was top of mind for most operators, especially now that lack of compliance is automatic grounds for potentially substantial fines from the credit card companies and banks.  Ongoing system enhancements will probably be necessary as the compliance standards are revised to counter new threats, and could become another regular expense for hotels to add to the cost of being in business.

More and more marketing, booking and stay management functions moved to the Internet.  CRM vendors became highly sophisticated in crafting guest-specific marketing messages, and activities such as spa, golf and dining were more commonly bookable online (e.g. through NORTHWIND – Maestro’s ResWave).  Hyatt extended Internet checkin/out to all guests, and Hilton opened its Homewood Suites online room selection function to all Hilton HHonors members.  Hyatt, Hilton and Kimpton partnered with StarCite to offer small-meetings booking online. 

The increasingly consumer-driven nature of the Internet and technology in general showed in many initiatives, though still more as isolated instances than as fully implemented standards.  Social networking was seen as a hot area to reach potential travelers, with many vendors offering marketing links to blogs, Facebook, Twitter and other social media.  Hotel Concepts integrated its CRS with Facebook, and location-based hotel/restaurant finders/bookers were among the first applications released for the new iPhone.  Runtriz launched an iPhone/iPod Touch-based application for guests to order room service, set wake-up calls, request luggage and other services, check messages or set the room to "Do Not Disturb", and DOCOMO interTouch showed its similar hYspace prototype.  Westin installed Nintendo’s Wii consoles for its WestinWORKOUT program at 10 U.S. hotels; aloft hotels offered PumpOne workout PDA programs in its fitness centers. 

InterContinental integrated Google Earth into its Web site for visual travel planning; Dolphin Dynamics did the same with Microsoft Virtual Earth.  New York City's Algonquin Hotel now loans Amazon Kindles to its guests, the Mondrian South Beach has TiVo recorders in all guest rooms, and Microsoft’s new Surface tables appeared in five Sheratons and in Seattle’s Hotel 1000.  Hilton Garden Inn even launched employee training programs on Sony hand-held game players. 

With so much social comment on the Internet, prudent hoteliers adopted tools to track and manage their online reputations, such as Standing Dog Interactive’s ReviewAnalyst (used by Starwood and Hostmark Hospitality Group), Avalon’s BUZZ Report (Outrigger) and Circos’ Brand Karma.  At a minimum, though, tracking comments on TripAdvisor and Expedia.com became mandatory for all properties.

2007 was the first year in which more travel was purchased online (51 percent) than offline in the United States, according to PhoCusWright, with that percentage projected to increase to 56 percent in 2008 and 60 percent in 2009.  Technology usage covers all age groups, too; a Radisson survey revealed more similarities than differences among different generations when rating life on the road, and PhoCusWright reported that tech-oriented travelers are just as likely to be over 40 as under 30.

Last year’s two top trends of growth in centrally hosted systems and in the use of business intelligence to improve efficiency both continued strongly.  Millennium put 14 U.S. hotels on a single OPERA system, and Spirit Group implemented Guestline’s RezLynx PMS at 36 sites.  Vienna International ordered Amadeus’ PMS to manage 44 hotels, purplehotels selected it for 15, and Scandic picked MICROS’ OPERA Enterprise Solution for more than 130 sites.  Outside the PMS arena, Hilton centralized all telephone accounting and call logging for nearly 80 U.K. and Ireland hotels on SDD's JAZZ Fusion.  

Business intelligence was never more important, as witness major sales by Aptech (35 Coral Hospitality properties, 600 La Quinta Inns and Suites, nearly 100 Inland American Lodging sites), ProfitSword (23 Larkspur Hotels & Restaurants, 67 Hersha Hospitality properties, 49 Sage Hospitality sites) and Datavision (now a Mandarin Oriental standard).  Several properties announced guest/staff survey initiatives to improve service and efficiency levels, using UniFocus or Market Metrix.  MICROS released its own OPERA BI module.

Revenue management also saw continued strong interest, with significant orders for EzRMS, IDeaS and Amadeus RMS, and an equal focus on channel management using EZYield, Guestline’s RoomLynx and Rate Tiger’s RTAllocator Pro.  The integration of RMS with PMS and sales and catering systems for more comprehensive and accurate forecasts also gained momentum; IDeaS and Newmarket integrated Delphi seamlessly with IDeaS’ V5i, and MICROS released its own RM module as an integral part of its OPERA suite.

As for guestroom technology, bandwidth demand showed no signs of slackening, and adequate Internet service became even more critical when travelers and meeting/conference coordinators look for accommodations.  ZigBee emerged as an interesting option for wireless networks, with SAFLOK launching its Messenger ZigBee e-locks and Hotech Edge offering its G-Mesh ZigBee-based wireless mesh network.  WiMax didn’t progress as far as had been predicted, but watch for it in 2009.

Ecologically sound “green” initiatives became much more prominent last year.  Marriott was ranked No. 10 on Computerworld's first Top 12 Green IT Companies list, Hilton reported over 10 percent energy savings in Europe from its we care! initiative, and InterContinental posted a virtual Innovation Hotel on its Web site to generate comments from potential guests.  Sofitel purchased wind-generated energy for all of its nine U.S. locations, and Xanterra implemented one of the largest solar photovoltaic (PV) energy systems in the United States on five acres in Death Valley.  Green didn’t have to mean technologically complex, though; VingCard introduced keycards made of recycled plastic, and Sustainable Cards donated over 70,000 wood hotel key cards to Denver hotels during the Democratic National Convention.  And at the Hilton Cebu Resort & Spa in the Philippines, a simple piping system change to recycle the water used to cool three ice machine compressors showed an ROI in just 20 days. 

RFID is still struggling to make an impression, though Capton’s RFID-based Beverage Tracker is a prominent and successful application, and RFID-based identification wristbands have been adopted for some resort POS and access-control applications.  The previously forecast widespread adoption in inventory and purchasing applications hasn’t materialized, however.

Vendor consolidation slowed down a little, except among online suppliers, and especially booking engines.  Venere.com acquired Worldby.com, then was itself acquired by Expedia; Wotif.com Holdings acquired Asia Web Direct (HK), Thomas Cook bought hotels4U.com, and TripAdvisor acquired Holiday Watchdog, VirtualTourist.com and OneTime.com.  IBS Software Services acquired the controlling interest in Hotel Booking Solutions, Inc, (HBSi), while Microsoft bought online travel search engine Farecast.  Travelport GDS acquired G2 SwitchWorks’ key applications.  VFM Interactive took over Leonardo Media, and AT&T picked up Wi-Fi provider Wayport.

Among property systems suppliers, Agilysys acquired Eatec in March, and Lanyon bought RFP Express.  Hotel Concepts and Brilliant agreed to merge their internal services departments but keep two sales organizations and product lines.  SAS took over IDeaS in August, and MICROS Systems acquired e-commerce provider Fry, Inc.

So what happens in 2009?  With business tight, most hotels will probably focus on the basics of running more efficient operations, which I expect to translate into strong investment in business intelligence, CRM and revenue management and less on consumer electronics-derived initiatives.  Green projects will still be prominent where they have clear cost-saving benefits.  There should be some bargains to be had, with many hoteliers looking to maximize the return on their funds and many vendors willing to offer discounts to help a sale along.  And I wouldn’t be surprised to see some significant vendor mergers, either under duress or to offer a stronger, more comprehensive system set.  It’s certainly going to be an interesting year.


- Ram Badrinathan promoted to PhoCusWright’s general manager, Asia Pacific
- Frank Wolfe to continue as HFTP's CEO through 2012
- Michael Boettcher appointed to global quality director and ACE manager for Onity
- Christopher Freeman hired as Onity’s commercial product manager
- David Chestler joins Birch Street Systems as senior vice president of sales and marketing
- Charles Wilson hired as DB Technology’s new CEO
For more on People on the Move for 01/08/09


- Colonial Williamsburg picks Agilysys’ Visual One suite
- Columbia Hospitality standardizing property management on NORTHWIND – Maestro
- Jersey’s Atlantic Hotel deploys MICROS’s OPERA Xpress
- U.S. Navy extends contract with SoftBrands for systems at Navy Gateway Inns & Suites
For more on Property Management Systems for 01/08/09


- Omni Hotels has deployed its new reservation system, powered by MICROS’ OPERA
- Trust International launches Release 14 of Voyager|CRS
- Menzies Hotels switches to SynXis’ RedX for distribution and Web booking services
- OpenTravel Alliance publishes 2008B version of travel data integration specifications
- Search engine HotelsCombined.com signs supplier agreement with Travelocity
- Thomas Cook UK & Ireland allows travelers to post personal reviews at new Web site
For more on Reservations for 01/08/09


- Benchmark selects Aptech’s Execuvue for 30 sites
- Lodging Interactive rolls out HuBBub Travel 2.0 Marketing Services
- Tidan Hospitality Group picks VIZERGY for Web site design and marketing services
- One to One Hotels selects TIG Global as Internet marketing partner
- Schweitzer Mountain Resort to implement UniFocus’ STAFFScope at all facilities
- Setai San Diego to use UniFocus’ full suite of business intelligence tools
- Dolphin Dynamics integrates booking management with Pancentric's Enabler e-mail marketing
- Foxwoods picks Netezza Performance Server and SAS Marketing Automation software to improve data collection, analysis
- Hospitality eBusiness Strategies (HeBS) receives five Interactive Media Awards (IMA)
- InnPoints Worldwide contracts with ICE Portal for rich media services
For more on Marketing/Management for 01/08/09


- Doyle Collection picks Nexus' HotelworX sales force automation system
- MarketTools awards Newmarket third consecutive CustomerSat Achievement in Customer Excellence (ACE) Award
- Pennsylvania Dutch Convention & Visitors Bureau selects Passkey

For more on Sales & Catering, Meeting Planning for 01/08/09


- Amadeus offers Socket Mobile SoMo 650 hand-held computers with POS system
Amadeus now offers Socket Mobile SoMo 650 hand-held computers with its Restaurant Management System POS system.  Amadeus has already implemented the mobile POS in several hotel restaurants, including the Ringberg Hotel in Suhl, Germany and the Spa Therme Blumau, Austria.  http://www.socketmobile.com, http://www.amadeus.com/hotels


- Peninsula Hotels deploying OPERA Revenue Management at all 10 hotels
- HotelsCombined.com adds FastBooking’s inventory to search database
- Trump International Hotel and Tower Chicago implements EzRMS’ Internet Suite
- Royal Yacht Hotel implements Xn’s globalRES distribution/channel management
- Amari Hotels & Resorts picks EZYield.com for channel management at 12 properties
- ReservHOTEL contracts with Rate Tiger for XML-based RTConnect interface
For more on Revenue Management for 01/08/09


- Fraunhofer Institute testing a hotel room of the future
- DiamondHead Beach Resort implements Intelity’s ICE self-service system
- Personality Hotels selects GuestWare's Enterprise Guest Recognition system
- iBAHN, Business Travel World ask traveling public to help design a hotel room online
- Elsafe launches Sentinel II in-room safe series with RFID/NFC and RF-online options
- Fontainebleau Las Vegas picks Tri-Power Group and MobileAccess for wireless infrastructure
- Conrad Hilton Hotel in Chicago signs with RCN Corp for guestroom video services
- Sheraton in Bellevue, Wash. installs HP Touchsmart PC as its public Internet kiosk
For more on Guest Services for 01/08/09


- YourBuyer Inc. files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy
YourBuyer Inc., a purchasing company established by two former managers at failed PurchasePro.com, has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.  Mark McNally, a former data processing manager at PurchasePro, and Chief Operating Officer Doug Miller, another former worker at PurchasePro, started the company six years ago.


- Marriott switching to greener products as older inventories deplete
Marriott International is replacing the 24 million plastic key cards that it purchases annually in the United States with alternatives made of 50 percent recycled material, saving an estimated 66 tons of plastic from being discarded (so to speak).  Among other items being replaced with new, greener products as current inventories become depleted are Eco-Smart pillows filled with polyester micro fiber made from 100 percent recycled PET bottles, coreless toilet paper rolls (eliminating 2 million cores a year) made of 20 to 40 percent recycled fiber, and recycled paper products such as desk notepads and the folders holding guests’ key cards and folios.  Additionally, in the Middle East and Europe, more than 100 Marriott, Renaissance and Courtyard hotels are purchasing 43 tons of oxo-biodegradable plastic laundry bags annually; these disintegrate in two to five years if not recycled and reused first.  http://www.marriott.com


- Call Management Products (CMP) celebrates its 20th year
Call Management Products (CMP) is celebrating its 20th year of designing and manufacturing telecommunication products.  CMP was founded in 1988 by a group of Bell Laboratory engineers and launched its PhoneSuite telephone system for the hospitality industry in 1998.  http://www.callmgmtprod.com


And now for you-know-what…

Saturday morning I got up early, dressed quietly, made my lunch, grabbed the dog, slipped quietly into the garage to hook the boat up to the truck, and proceeded to back out into a torrential downpour with the wind blowing at 35 mph. I pulled back into the garage, turned on the radio, and discovered that the weather would be bad throughout the day.

I went back into the house, quietly undressed, and slipped back into bed.  There I cuddled up to my wife's back, now with a different anticipation, and whispered, "The weather out there is terrible."

My loving wife of 20 years replied, "Can you believe my crazy husband is out fishing in that?"

I still don't know to this day if she was joking, but I've stopped fishing.

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