SIAMESE DISCIPLINES

Hotel technology and hotel operations are management disciplines more joined at the hip today than ever before. Hospitality technology enables operations to provide superior guest services more consistently with fewer personnel. The operations management team demands improved performance, functionality and reliability from IT, constantly pushing the envelope of what IT can and should deliver to the business.

As we approach HITEC, it seems time to reflect upon broad trends driving the behavior of operations and technology executives. Key ones include:

  • High-Definition Television (HDTV) migration
  • Converged Networks
  • Consolidation

The consumer electronics world will note that 2007 is the year HDTV technology went mainstream. Many hotel operators will see it as the year that mandates from corporate IT departments — and/or competitors who have already installed HD equipment — blew up capital budgets. In either event, many hotels are investing money in HD services and gear today, displacing capital expenditures from everything spanning new property management systems (PMS) and the proverbial ballroom carpet.

Some key points about the HDTV arms race in hotels:

  • The fight is already over in the home: 35 million American homes now have HDTVs, roughly one-third of the total. Nine million of these were purchased during the 2006 holiday season. And if consumers have HD in the home, do you think they will be satisfied with less in your hotel?

  • HD is a different class of product to install and support in a hotel. You need more equipment, different furniture and accessories, and you must source free-to-guest and pay-per-view from the same vendor or buy two sets of decryption equipment or run out of bandwidth. And yes, expect to pay more.

  • The worst thing the hotelier can do is install HDTVs and not offer HD content. Analog TV signals on an HDTV immensely expose defects and the wider aspect ratio tends to flatten images, especially a problem for sports

  • The lack of HD broadcast content is a major challenge for the programming industry

  • As with high-speed Internet access (HSIA), when the property across the street gets it, you need to also.

Converged networks represent another broad trend. Many new-build hotels are going up with one wire delivering both voice and data to the room, and some are opening with video and environmental controls on that network as well. This approach puts all communications to the guestroom onto a single IP-based (Internet protocol) network, eliminating much of the old agglomeration of diverse cables going to every room. This reduces cabling costs, especially for conduit, and increases manageability. But the network now requires managing, a challenge associated with realizing the dream of converged networks. Other issues:

  • Immature IPTV (Internet protocol television) applications and service providers

  • Building codes mandating life safety applications be on a dedicated cable plant

  • Corporate data security requirements that guest accessible networks be physically isolated from administrative networks

  • Cost of IP telephones for guestrooms

  • Lack of IP telephony applications for the guestroom

Consolidation is playing out strongly in both business operations and technology. While Blackstone is acquiring every trophy resort and available brand in sight, the global multiple-brand giants (Marriott, Starwood, Hilton, et al.) get larger and stronger. Speaking of Hilton, the recent acquisition of its international cousins represents another example of consolidation in action.

So what does this consolidation activity have to do with the technology side? For one thing, fewer buyers ultimately means fewer sellers. In fact, we are seeing consolidation in the hotel technology market, with Agilysys adding Visual One to LMS and the other elements of their hospitality technology portfolio; SoftBrands buying the venerable HIS name and product lines; and MICROS Systems buying a number of niche POS providers. Travelport, which already owned the Galileo GDS, snapped up competitor Worldspan, and Sabre Holdings is being acquired by a private-equity consortium. To bring things full circle, the leading provider of HDTV services to hotels, LodgeNet Entertainment, is acquiring its only meaningful competitor, On Command Corp. And this game of musical chairs is only beginning!


Mark G. Haley is a partner at The Prism Partnership, a Boston-based boutique consultancy servicing the global hospitality industry. For more information, call 978-521-3600 or visit http://theprismpartnership.com.

INTERNET TECHNOLOGY
High-speed Internet access via CAT5 High-speed Internet access via xDSL, HPNA or similar High-speed Internet access via wireless Integrated voice/data lines Proprietary ISP PMS interface High-speed Internet via CAT3 Participation in a wireless roaming network Bandwidth shaping tools Intrusion detection services
AltiusPAR
Centrada Solutions
Colubris Networks
EthoStream
Extenway Solutions
Fire2Wire
GoConcierge
Hospitality Leasing
iBAHN
InnFlux
Keylink Solutions
LodgeNet Entertainment
Lorica Solutions
Mintek Mobile Data
Multi-Systems Inc.
NxTV
Pegasus Solutions
RedSky IT
RoomLinX
Safety NetAccess
Swisscom Hospitality Services
Teledex
Telkonet
Thinix
Wayport

GUESTROOM ENTERTAINMENT/SERVICES
Free-to-guest TV Premium entertainment channels Pay-per-view movies at fixed times Interactive guide to hotel facilities/events/the area In-room fax machines Internet access Internet TV Printer/fax/copier Video voice mail Multilingual capability DVD Premium audio Audio downloading On-demand movies Business or Internet center kiosks Folio review/in-room check-out Satellite TV Televisions Refreshment center Computers Interactive guestroom shopping HDTV Bundled HSIA XM satellite radio Sirius satellite radio Remote Printing Airline Boarding Pass Printing
Amerisafe Industries
Applied Media Technologies
Brother International
DIRECTV
Dometic Corp.
EthoStream
Extenway Solutions
Fire2Wire
GBCblue
Guestroom Solutions
HBO
Hospitality Leasing
Hotel Technologies
iBAHN
InnFlux
INNCOM International
Keylink Solutions
LG Electronics
LodgeNet Entertainment
Minibar Systems
NxTV
Peerless Industries
Philips Business Display
Polaroid (Petters)
RoomLinX
Safety NetAccess
Sharp Electronics
Showtime Networks
Swisscom Hospitality Services
Teledex
Telkonet
Thinix
Toner Cable Equipment
Vertical Systems
VYOU
Wayport

POINT OF SALE
Hand-held Purchasing interface Labor scheduling Menu analysis Table management Retail module Touchscreen terminals Integrated f&b accounting Cost control Bar-coding module Credit-card processing Multi-property consolidation Sales & catering integration F&B Management Restaurant reservations
Agilysys
AltiusPAR
Amadeus
Birch Street Systems
BluFi Wireless
Extenway Solutions
InfoGenesis
InnQuest Softwaew
IQWare
Janus Digital Displays
Keylink Solutions
Micros Systems
Multi-Systems Inc.
PAR Springer-Miller Systems
RedSky IT
SoftBrands
Tiare Technology

CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIP MANAGEMENT
Enterprise CRM Guest recognition Loyalty program management Database marketing systems Rapid response Guest satisfaction survey tracking Concierge tracking Lost and found Package tracking ASP (hosting subscription model) Per-arrival/Post-departure e-mails E-mail marketing PMS and CRS interfaces Online profile updating by guest
Agilysys
AltiusPAR
Card Scanning Solutions
GoConcierge
Guestware
Hotel Concepts
IDT Group
IQWare
Janus Digital Displays
LMG Data Mining
Lodging Interactive
Micros Systems
Mintek Mobile Data Solutions
M-Tech
Newmarket International
Northwind Maestro
PAR Springer-Miller
Passkey
RedSky IT
SoftBrands
Topaz Hotel Services
TravelCLICK

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