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Siegel Sez

April 08, 2009

Siegel Sez

by: Richard Siegel

Is there a person you would love to meet in your lifetime? I really can’t say that I had “a person,” but that might be the New Yorker in me. In the late ‘70s I worked at the Sherry-Netherland Hotel, which was one of those exclusive small hotels in New York that catered to high profile guests.  I respect those who can sing or act, but never thought it was a big deal to meet them. But, last week I met someone who I had always wanted to meet and it was very cool.

At TravelCom here in Atlanta last week, Herb Kelleher, the founder and chairman Emeritus of Southwest Airlines, received U.S. Travel Association’s Steve Fossett Innovation Award. He was very humble when receiving this award, but then stayed on the stage to be interviewed by Henry Harteveldt from Forrester Research, Inc.  Henry did a great job and Mr. Kelleher answered questions as only he can–candidly and honestly. Afterward I waited to talk to him. What a great guy.  I lived in Dallas in the ‘80s and have always been a fan of Southwest Airlines.  In the airline industry SWA continues to be different, which is something I can relate to. I realized afterward that this was a pretty special moment in my life. Thankfully Geneva was with me and had her camera, so look for the picture in our next issue of Hospitality Upgrade.  Thank you to Vickie Singer and the staff at the U.S. Travel Association for inviting us to the conference. Attendance might have been off, but the program was top notch. It was great to be part of the event.

I would also like to thank everyone who took the time to watch my interview with Nelson Garrido of Noble Investments on http://www.hospitalityupgrade.com. We were approaching 1,000 views and this was before everybody all over the world was receiving the spring issue of Hospitality Upgrade. Your feedback has been appreciated.  I promise to get better the second time around. Remaining in the thanks mode, thank you for all the comments we have received on our spring issue. When somebody who has been reading our magazine for the last 17 years dropped us a note saying that this was our best issue ever, it kind of floored us. There have been lots of comments on the cover and how perfect the message was for these trying times. If you haven’t received your magazine or want to at least see the cover, then you should e-mail Geneva at mailto:geneva@hospitalityupgrade.com. We are purposely hiding the cover from our Web site, but if you e-mail her we will send it to you with another nice little surprise. Trust me on this, you will thank me.

Next week our whole team will be in San Antonio for our 5th Annual Executive Vendor Summit (http://www.vendorsummit.com). I know that many events are struggling with attendance but I can proudly say that we will be having our biggest crowd ever. We thank all those who are attending for their trust that this will be a very worthwhile event.

Before I finish I have gotten many e-mails asking how our little horse with a big heart is doing since his mishap in Florida in January. Backbackbackgone is doing great, is happy and is ready to run. He will be running in the Harry Henson Stakes on opening day of Hollywood Park in two weeks. Hollywood Park is close to the LAX airport if you want to sneak out of work on Wed., April 22, and meet me there, just send me an e-mail at mailto:rich@hospitalityupgrade.com. BBBG is going to try the grass this time and our hopes are high. Who knows, we might be able to get you into a winner’s circle picture.

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.


Technology NEWSSTAND

Systems News in Plain English from Jon Inge



- Do support fees need to be so high?
- L.A. Bonaventure targets Twitterers
Everyone’s looking to minimize their costs these days, and all areas of operations are under review.  Working with a client last week brought up an area that’s a regular topic of discussion, “why it costs so much” (namely support costs for hotel software).

Most vendors seem to charge between 22 percent and 30 percent of their software price for annual support, a figure that often causes raised eyebrows.  Many hoteliers ask why they’re expected, in effect, to re-purchase the software every three years to four years.  It’s especially contentious for those properties that make sure their staff is well-trained and who invest substantially in providing a well-managed, reliable and up-to-date operating environment for their systems.  After all, why should they pay as much for support as a hotel that hasn’t trained its staff in three years and calls the vendor for every problem on its poorly maintained systems?

The answer, obviously, is that these payments cover more than just problem support, and I believe the question – and the mild resentment at the level of charges – could be diverted effectively with a simple change in terminology.  Despite every hotelier’s desire to get the best possible deal, it’s generally agreed that vendors do need a revenue stream to stay in business – and hoteliers do want them to be there to answer the phone when disaster strikes.  They also do want to take advantage of regular bug fixes and functional improvements made over time with input from many different hotels, as the cross-fertilization of ideas makes the systems more functional for every user. 

So is it too much to ask vendors to make this clearer in their pricing?  Could we see separate fees for support and for the enhancement program needed to keep the product moving forward?  If that’s not practical, can we at least re-name “support” more openly as “support and R&D fee”?
While not wanting to give anyone more encouragement to spend their days glued to Twitter reading its never-ending stream of social “news”, I do applaud The Westin Bonaventure in Los Angeles for a highly focused piece of niche marketing.  Giving away free room nights to 25 Twitter users not only increased its “cool” factor with them but also generated considerable publicity for the hotel in general.  As I said before, I personally don’t see a lot of point in much of the messaging traffic Twitter carries, but a lot of people do and they’re a definite marketing segment.  Kudos to the Bonaventure for recognizing it and acting on it.


- GroupRes launches meeting planner support tools
- Lodgian implements hotelSalesPro across all properties, brands
- Great Wolf Resorts implements Passkey
- Newmarket partners with EasyRMS to help hotels optimize group booking revenue
- Bridgeport Conference Center picks UniFocus’ MEETINGScope
- Benchmark Hospitality releases annual Top Ten Meeting Trends
For more on Sales & Catering, Meeting Planning for 04/09/09


- Hermani installs Aptech’s Profitvue Back Office at two properties
- PAS partners with Infinium to offer financial management suite for tribal casinos
- PAS launches design, financial reporting and analysis services based on USALI 10th Revised Edition
For more on Back Office for 04/09/09


- NEC launches UNIVERGE Sphericall for Hospitality
NEC Unified Solutions has launched UNIVERGE Sphericall for Hospitality, a lower-cost, software-based IP communications system offering hotels basic and advanced communications with self-service voice applications for guests.  Built on the Sphericall enterprise softswitch platform, Sphericall for Hospitality integrates with many existing property management systems and third-party in-room telephone handsets.  Features include:
* Self-service wake-up calls in seven languages with snooze option
* Direct-room dialing
* Streamlined guest checkin and checkout
* Direct E911 connection from guestrooms
* Automated notification of hotel management and call recording when emergency calls are made
* Unified messaging for e-mail, voicemail and fax
* Click-to-dial calling and conferencing
* Presence with IM and texting capabilities
* Customized reporting for room status (through integration with PMS solutions) and wake-up call status
* Broad support for an array of IP voice solutions, on-property wireless networks and property management systems


- Pullman at Sydney Olympic Park opens with Onity’s ADVANCE
The 212-room Pullman at Sydney Olympic Park has opened with Onity’s ADVANCE by Onity electronic locking system.  Onity was also selected to provide the locking solution for the Formula 1 at Sydney Olympic Park, using its HT24 Magnetic Stripe system for both guest room doors and car park access.  http://www.sydneyolympicpark.com.au, http://www.onity.com


- Rob Bender joins UniFocus as regional sales director
- Neil Blidner promoted to vice president of operations at TTI
Rob Bender has joined UniFocus as regional sales director, based in Texas.  Mr. Bender brings over 20 years of hospitality industry experience, most recently from 13 years as director of sales and marketing for PMS vendor CSS Hotel Systems.  He had earlier served as an account manager with Geac Computers, and as sales manager for the Doubletree Lincoln Center.
Neil Blidner has been promoted to vice president of operations at TTI Technologies International.  Mr. Blidner began working at TTI in 2004 as a field technician, and was later promoted to maintenance supervisor.


- Springer-Miller releases next-generation SMS|World XA online booking engine
- Aliante Station picks Agilysys’ LMS, InfoGenesis and Guest eMarketing
- NORTHWIND-Maestro announces multiple new customers
- RoomZZZ City in Leeds City Centre to install Protel from Xn Hotel Systems
For more on Property Management Systems for 04/09/09


- Squirrel recognized by Epson with award for innovative technology
- SCI announces remotely hosted configuration for FOOD-TRAK
Squirrel Systems has been recognized by Epson with an award for innovative technology for its Squirrel in a Box system, which leverages partnerships with Epson and other hardware providers to deliver a reliable, affordable point-of-sale hospitality solution with a small footprint, bundled software and integrated credit card processing.  http://pos.epson.com, http://www.squirrelsystems.com
SCI announced a remotely hosted configuration for its FOOD-TRAK software.  Clients pay a monthly, quarterly or annual fee to use the software over the Internet.  http://www.foodtrak.com


- Courtyard by Marriott Princeton installs Thompson/DIRECTV HD distribution over co-ax
- Venetian implements Concierge Assistant to coordinate 70+ staff at six desks
- Acentic Panorama passes 4,000 guestroom installation milestone
- Noble Investment Group implements Flyte Systems products at two Atlanta airport properties
- Bardessono Hotel first U.S. site to deploy MTech’s REX housekeeping room expeditor
For more on Guest Services for 04/09/09


- WRI contracts with Pegasus for UltraDirect distribution service
- Barrhead Travel launches Web booking engine powered by Amadeus’ TravelTainment
- Amadeus releases Amadeus Vacation Link for travel bookers in United States and Canada
- Gekko starts beta test of profile-based location finder
- GetThere introduces Demand Management Suite
- Trust adds HBSi’s iDemand Gateway to its Distribution|Unlimited services
- Choice releases iPhone version of Choice Hotels Locator application
- myfidelio.net signs with WPS for commission processing
- Genesys report identifies two trends in review of travel agency technology
For more on Reservations for 04/09/09


- Nordic Hotels selects ZMail
- USA TODAY launches Hotel Check-In online forum for business travelers
Nordic Hotels has selected ZDirect’s ZMail as the e-CRM platform to manage its electronic marketing initiatives worldwide.  The group comprises Nordic Light Hotel, Nordic Sea Hotel with the Absolute Icebar Stockholm, Nordic Blue Hotel and the Seglarhotellet Sandhamn and Hotel Skansen Stockholm.  http://www.nordichotels.se, http://www.zdirect.com
USA TODAY has launched Hotel Check-In, an online news and discussion forum for business travelers, moderated by Barbara De Lollis.  This site will provide hotel news, consumer advice and information on hotel industry trends aimed at frequent business travelers.  http://hotelcheckin.usatoday.com


- Mandarin Oriental switches to SynXis’ RedX for distribution services
- SynXis upgrades RedX to version 6.6
Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group has switched its hotels to SynXis’ RedX Distribution Management System for all channels.  SynXis has provided Mandarin Oriental with a customized booking engine since 2000.  The Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group will also install Property Connect to integrate RedX with its standard Springer-Miller property management systems.

SynXis is upgrading its RedX Distribution Management System to version 6.6.  Enhancements include:
* Itinerary bookings for guests making multiple reservations at one property or across multiple properties in a chain
* Channel independent stay controls
* Improved group block management
* New facilities codes for Amadeus
* Firefox browser support


And now for you-know-what…

A passenger in a taxi leaned over to ask the driver a question and tapped him on the shoulder. The driver screamed, lost control of the cab, nearly hit a bus, drove up over the curb, and stopped just inches from a large plate-glass window.
For a few moments everything was silent in the cab, and then the still shaking driver said, “I'm sorry, but you scared the daylights out of me.”
The frightened passenger apologized to the driver and said he didn't realize a mere tap on the shoulder could frighten him so much. The driver replied, “No, no, I'm sorry, it's entirely my fault. Today is my first day driving a cab. I've been driving a hearse for the last 25 years.”

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