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Siegel Sez

June 03, 2010

Siegel Sez

by: Richard Siegel

Fees. You can’t live with them and today can’t live without them, especially when it comes to air travel. We have all heard about Spirit Airlines and its new charges for carry-on bags.  Have we all accepted that if you need to check bags that there are fees to be paid? Next week I am flying from Phoenix to Las Vegas and I only checked one airline–Southwest, of course. If any airline deserves loyalty for not imposing checked bag fees, then Southwest is it. I recently booked a trip on AirTran and if you want to choose your seats in advance there is an extra charge.  Many airlines charge fees for calling the reservation office to book flights. I wonder where their next fees will be coming from? Then I thought, why is the hotel industry missing out on all these fees? I am writing this from the Ritz-Carlton in Miami at the Eye for Travel Conference and was drinking my in-room coffee when I thought, why aren’t they charging me for the coffee in the room? Wouldn’t that lower the rates for the non-coffee drinkers since the coffee drinkers will make the hotel money? Why stop with coffee? Hotels could charge for using soap and shampoo in the shower. Yes, you could bring your own and save money.  Heck, why not stop including housekeeping with the room rate, if you want your room cleaned and fresh towels, there will be a charge for that. Clean your own room, save a few dollars.

Technology, of course, will be coming into play with cell phones being able to be used as your room key. Oh, you want us to provide you with a hotel room key? Yes, there will be a charge for that. I’m telling you, I think this will work. What other ideas am I missing?

Of course, the one thing in the hotel room that often does include a charge and gets much grief because of it is the need to connect to high-speed Internet.  I think we should expect changes there also. Last night I wanted to watch the hockey game but it wasn’t on a normal television channel. How in the world can the Stanley Cup Finals not be on regular TV or ESPN? Or did I have too many drinks and couldn’t find it? But I remembered that it is also shown on the NHL Website. Good luck trying to watch live TV on the Web in any hotel–there just isn’t enough bandwidth. This will have to change. No matter what hotel I stay at, when I try to do something like watch one of my horses run on the racing Website, it never works.  I can guarantee that either those who are not charging will soon charge if a proper connection like we have at home or in the office can be provided, and those who are charging will increase their fees. Yes, you will probably continue to see the basic connection for e-mail stay free or the same price it is today in certain segments, but to get what we really need it is going to cost. If in the hotel you are going to soon be charged for coffee, soap, shampoo and housekeeping, why not charge me for the proper bandwidth so I can watch a hockey game online?

I expect there will be many exhibitors at this year’s HITEC (http://www.hitec.org) that will be addressing this (the bandwidth, not my extra charges). I know there are educational sessions that will be addressing it. This is what has inspired many to come from outside the technology space to HITEC in recent years, and I hope that trend continues. If you are going to HITEC, please come by the Hospitality Upgrade/Hotel Online booth (No. 823). Who knows, maybe we will be handing out free soap and shampoo. I can assure you we will not have any extra bandwidth to hand out. Nobody ever does.

By the way, check out the upcoming issue of Hospitality Upgrade; we have an article addressing extra fees in the hotel industry and also one addressing the bandwidth issue. 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



- Clouds are beautiful but both vendors and hotels need to be prepared for changes in the weather
- Four hospitality companies’ IT projects honored in CIO Top 100
It’s not just because I live in Seattle (and was born in England) that I’m generally in favor of clouds - cloud computing, that is, as you’ll see from my article in the next issue of Hospitality Upgrade (due out in a couple of weeks).  Especially for multiproperty operations, the arguments in favor are pretty compelling in terms of speed of deployment, low cost of entry, more consistent data across properties and easier access to comparative reports, and I expect most hospitality technology software to move in this direction.

One challenge to the wider adoption of cloud-based systems has always been their need for interfaces to other systems, which is why they’ve mostly been adopted first by limited-service properties.  Their appeal is spreading up market as more applications become available in a cloud-based format, though, because it’s easier to link systems there.  IT consultant and pragmatist Bob Lewis points out, though, that getting systems to work together is only the start; you need to keep them working together as their vendors upgrade them. 

If a hotel chain hosts its main applications in its own data center, it can thoroughly test vendors’ (or its own) enhancements to make sure upgraded systems still integrate well before being put into operational use.  However, if your main systems are hosted by their vendors, each will need to provide advance notice of planned changes to all its interface partners, as well as a test environment for them to verify any impact on the interfaces.  Each should also provide two-version support, for clients who for whatever reason can't upgrade when the vendor is ready. 

This can raise issues about confidentiality and about vendors’ natural desires to make surprise announcements of new features, but these can be overcome through mutual non-disclosure agreements and a partnership mentality.  It also sounds like yet another reason for adopting interface standards (such as HTNG’s) wherever possible, to minimize the rework ripple effort. 

We don’t want the Facebook effect to spread to hotels, whereby the vendor changes functionality overnight without notice.  Surprises can be fun, but shouldn’t extend to hotels who find that their main system is suddenly on a new version and now doesn’t talk to its peers.
Four hospitality companies have been recognized in this year’s CIO magazine Top 100 awards for projects that show unique practices and substantial results:
- Pegasus Solutions for its RezView NG central reservation system, now implemented in 8,200 hotels worldwide and increasing bookings by delivering information more quickly to travelers seeking lodging.
- IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group)  for its mobile.ihg.com mobile phone application, which includes location detection to find nearby hotels, their phone numbers, custom driving and walking directions and which has contributed to a 1,500 percent boost in mobile Web bookings.
- Harrah's Entertertainment’s new personalized, episode-based game (developed with slot-machine maker Williams Gaming) that allows a player, if a game is interrupted, to continue where he or she left off at any of Harrah's slot machines.
- Marriott International  for its Direct Connect for External Channels initiative, which simplifies central reservations system connections with its partners' systems using a service-oriented architecture and OpenTravel Alliance standards. This is the 11th time Marriott has been recognized in the CIO 100.


- Rupert Gutteridge joins IDeaS as regional director of sales
- Annaliese Franzen hired to represent ClubPay on behalf of Jonas Software
- Tim Hart named chief executive officer at Rubicon
- Debra Taube hired by Genares as vice president of business development
- Tony Wright joins IndiCater as sales director
- Wesley Dean joins M3 Hotel Accounting as vice president of information technology
For more on People on the Move for 06/03/10


- Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort selects Agilysys Visual One, InfoGenesis, GeM and DataMagine
The 85-room Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort in Suquamish, Wash., has selected a suite of Agilysys software, including its Visual One hospitality management system (including sales and catering and spa management modules), InfoGenesis POS system, Guest eMarketing (GeM) guest correspondence and marketing management application, and DataMagine document management.
http://www.clearwatercasino.com, http://www.agilysys.com  


- EZYield.com becomes exclusive North American hospitality reseller of iNNtelligenz
EZYield.com has become the exclusive North American hospitality reseller of iNNtelligenz market intelligence tool for collecting and comparing hotels’ online rates in selected markets from major travel Websites.  iNNtelligenz pulls online pricing and availability data for the whole market on a daily basis, and converts the data into graphs and charts.  Three competitive sets are automatically pre-populated in the reports, for comparisons with direct competitors and those normally positioned below and above the base rate structure. The cloud-based tool alerts the user as soon as any relevant changes occur in their market.  http://www.inntelligenz.com, http://www.ezyield.com  


- Harbour & Jones implements IndiCater at 31 sites in four weeks
- StarCite, i-Meet.com launch Online Community meeting planner professional and social network
- FedRooms selects Cvent as sole technology provider for its groups and meetings
- Marriott to deploy Passkey’s GroupMAX across its 60+ hotel Innovention Network
- Disney and PSAV provide World's Widest Single Blended Video Display System
For more on Sales & Catering, Meeting Planning for 06/03/10


- UrbanSpoon launches RezBook iPad™ app and online reservations platform
- Hindsight Labs launches ChompStack service for restaurants to build their own iPhone apps
Restaurant review site UrbanSpoon is launching RezBook, an iPad app and online reservations platform that allows restaurants to manage their tables and reservation books and includes a customer relationship management database.  It is being tested with five restaurants in the Seattle area but is planned to expand nationwide over the next few months. 
UrbanSpoon's iPhone app currently claims over 8 million users. http://www.urbanspoon.com  
Hindsight Labs has launched ChompStack, a service that allows restaurants to build their own iPhone apps and upload their menu items, locations and promotions.  ChompStack processes the customization and submits it to Apple’s App Store.  Restaurants will be able to update their menus in real time and notify their customers of new promotions, events and discounts through a Web-based control panel; customers can browse the menu, search for the nearest location, look up recent promotions and send feedback directly to the restaurant.  http://www.chompstack.com  


- InterContinental testing OpenWays’ smartphone door lock acoustic keys at two properties
- Uniguest partnering with Thinix to develop selected new technology
- Kessler Collection signs Roomlinx for Doubletree Castle Hotel, Orlando
- Andaz 5th Avenue hotel, New York contracts with Roomlinx for network, iTV, HSIA and FTG programming
- Sky Ute Casino Resort adds KoolConnect’s Intrigue HD Video on Demand and Interactive TV
For more on Guest Services for 06/03/10


- JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa opens with Adaco.NET
The 1,002-room JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa has opened with Adaco’s .NET procurement application.  The resort includes seven restaurants, over 140,000 square feet of indoor space, two golf courses, a 26,000 square-foot spa with a café and boutique, and six acres of water attractions.  http://www.jwsanantonio.com, http://www.adaco.com


- Alva Park Resort & Spa, Costa Brava, Spain, installs VingCard Classic door locks, Elsafe Infinity II in-room safes
The 86-room Alva Park Resort & Spa in Costa Brava, Spain, has installed VingCard Classic door locks and Elsafe Infinity II in-room safes.  http://www.alvapark.com, http://www.vingcard.com, http://www.elsafe.com


- Best Western lists 4,000+ hotels on meta-search engine HotelsCombined.com
- Nippon Travel Agency adds 500 high-profile properties to HBSi's iDemand Gateway
- Hostelworld unveils Hostel WithMe collaboration, search and booking engine for Google Wave
- Connected Hospitality announces Websites for hotels to manage their own smartphone-optimized booking
- American Express Business Travel releases mobileXtend application for itinerary consolidation
- Trust International completes implementation of yourVoyager CRS to all group customers in eight months
For more on Reservations for 06/03/10


- Aptech releases EV Lite multiproperty graphical performance reporting tool
- Shell Vacations Hospitality rolls out ZDirect eCRM to 16 destinations
- Boomerang Hotels implements ZDirect eCRM platform for GuestHouse International and Settle Inn brands

For more on Marketing/Management for 06/03/10


And now for you-know-what…

A group of 40-year-old girlfriends discussed where they should meet for dinner. Finally, it was agreed upon that they should meet at the Ocean View restaurant because the waiters there had tight pants and nice buns.

Ten years later at 50 years of age, the group once again discussed where they should meet for dinner. Finally it was agreed that they should meet at the Ocean View restaurant because the food there was very good and the wine selection was good also.

Ten years later at 60 years of age, the group once again discussed where they should meet for dinner. Finally it was agreed that they should meet at the Ocean View restaurant because they could eat there in peace and quiet and the restaurant had a beautiful view of the ocean.

Ten years later at 70 years of age, the group once again discussed where they should meet for dinner. Finally it was agreed that they should meet at the Ocean View restaurant because the restaurant was wheelchair accessible and they even had an elevator.
Ten years later, at 80 years of age, the group once again discussed where they should meet for dinner. Finally it was agreed that they should meet at the Ocean View restaurant because they had never been there before.

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