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EURHOTEC 2001: Experts predict

Leading developers of hi-tech products and services for the hospitality industry, shared their outlooks on the future of hospitality technology at Eurhotec<.> 2001, the IH&RA's 6th European Hospitality Technology Conference, held in Paris from 19-21 February 2001.

Technology that supports customer relationships is where the next wave of innovation will be seen, said Caroyn Viens, from IBM Travel Related Services, sketching a scenario of the travel experience of the future: A WAP phone that allows remote check-in and in-flight movie selection before arrival at the airport; in-flight video-conferencing with colleagues on other planes; voice-activated GPS equipment rental cars; hotel scanners that identify the guest upon on arrival allowing instant key delivery and customised information on the guestroom TV; automatic transfer of hotel e-folio to the guest's corporate expense report; WAP phone notification of flight re-scheduling information to the traveller, his/her home and office; bio-metric scanning to pass customs at the airport. This could be happening sooner than anticipated, said Viens, as the technology on which they are based is already being experimented with. IBM is currently testing a 'travel card' that will allow a personal digital device to receive a boarding card electronically within ten seconds of check-in.

According to Michael Hartmann, director of industry marketing hotels for Siemens ICN, the Mobile Internet will be the Next Big Thing to impact the business world. With the proliferation of non-PC Internet devices, business travellers are no longer tethered to a computer to access the Web. The challenge for hoteliers, said Hartmann, will be to spot alternative revenue opportunities because if a guest has mobile Internet access, he won't use the hotel infrastructure. For example, with a wireless LAN, the hotel could play the role of an Internet Service Provider and provide a portal – earning a percentage of the transaction fee. To be successful, he emphasised, hotels must be 'embedded' in strategic partnerships, eg. with airports, rail networks, and other providers in the travel chain.

The mobile Internet is indeed on the horizon, agreed Peter Agel, CEO of Trust International, based in Germany, where mobile Internet users are predicted to outnumber those relying on telephone access by 2003. Services in the M-business environment will differ from existing Internet services, he insisted. Success factors include having an online real-time distribution network, a big range of e-distribution partners, and a truly global presence. Most important, he said, will be multi-media content management that allows the customer to buy-what-you-see. "It's the services that will count in the future, not the IT," he insisted. "E-commerce and M-commerce will change the hotel managers perspective from the local to the global."

Inter-connectivity of in-room devices was tipped as the technology development of the future by VingCard Elsafe's VP of Marketing, Erik Olsen. He said it is only a matter of time before air-conditioning, locking, minibar, TV, phone, safe and energy systems will be connected via a central server to key hotel departments, such as front desk, kitchen and engineering. This type of connectivity could, for example, make it possible to alert guests checking-out that they have left passports and tickets in the room-safe. It could also be used to ensure that, in the event of a fire, guest room doors are simultaneously opened and evacuation instructions are issued.

In the ensuing debate, chaired by Jean-Paul Nichols, VP Marketing, Cendant Corporation Hotel Division, panellists made the following onservations: Technology will only 'stick' if it is customer-centric and if it helps the hotel to improve guest retention
The speed of the evolution of M-business will depend on the user-friendliness of the devices involved
Hotel that take the outsourcing option (eg using ASPs) will need to build strong relationships with their service providers
There is a pressing need not only for greater staff training but more guest education on what technology can do
IT competence will be a standard part of the skill-set of the next generation

Leading developers of hi-tech products and services for the hospitality industry, shared their outlooks on the future of hospitality technology at Eurhotec<.> 2001, the IH&RA's 6th European Hospitality Technology Conference, held in Paris from 19-21 February 2001.



Technology that supports customer relationships is where the next wave of innovation will be seen, said Caroyn Viens, from IBM Travel Related Services, sketching a scenario of the travel experience of the future: A WAP phone that allows remote check-in and in-flight movie selection before arrival at the airport; in-flight video-conferencing with colleagues on other planes; voice-activated GPS equipment rental cars; hotel scanners that identify the guest upon on arrival allowing instant key delivery and customised information on the guestroom TV; automatic transfer of hotel e-folio to the guest's corporate expense report; WAP phone notification of flight re-scheduling information to the traveller, his/her home and office; bio-metric scanning to pass customs at the airport. This could be happening sooner than anticipated, said Viens, as the technology on which they are based is already being experimented with. IBM is currently testing a 'travel card' that will allow a personal digital device to receive a boarding card electronically within ten seconds of check-in.



According to Michael Hartmann, director of industry marketing hotels for Siemens ICN, the Mobile Internet will be the Next Big Thing to impact the business world. With the proliferation of non-PC Internet devices, business travellers are no longer tethered to a computer to access the Web. The challenge for hoteliers, said Hartmann, will be to spot alternative revenue opportunities because if a guest has mobile Internet access, he won't use the hotel infrastructure. For example, with a wireless LAN, the hotel could play the role of an Internet Service Provider and provide a portal – earning a percentage of the transaction fee. To be successful, he emphasised, hotels must be 'embedded' in strategic partnerships, eg. with airports, rail networks, and other providers in the travel chain.



The mobile Internet is indeed on the horizon, agreed Peter Agel, CEO of Trust International, based in Germany, where mobile Internet users are predicted to outnumber those relying on telephone access by 2003. Services in the M-business environment will differ from existing Internet services, he insisted. Success factors include having an online real-time distribution network, a big range of e-distribution partners, and a truly global presence. Most important, he said, will be multi-media content management that allows the customer to buy-what-you-see. "It's the services that will count in the future, not the IT," he insisted. "E-commerce and M-commerce will change the hotel managers perspective from the local to the global."



Inter-connectivity of in-room devices was tipped as the technology development of the future by VingCard Elsafe's VP of Marketing, Erik Olsen. He said it is only a matter of time before air-conditioning, locking, minibar, TV, phone, safe and energy systems will be connected via a central server to key hotel departments, such as front desk, kitchen and engineering. This type of connectivity could, for example, make it possible to alert guests checking-out that they have left passports and tickets in the room-safe. It could also be used to ensure that, in the event of a fire, guest room doors are simultaneously opened and evacuation instructions are issued.



In the ensuing debate, chaired by Jean-Paul Nichols, VP Marketing, Cendant Corporation Hotel Division, panellists made the following onservations:


Technology will only 'stick' if it is customer-centric and if it helps the hotel to improve guest retention

The speed of the evolution of M-business will depend on the user-friendliness of the devices involved

Hotel that take the outsourcing option (eg using ASPs) will need to build strong relationships with their service providers

There is a pressing need not only for greater staff training but more guest education on what technology can do

IT competence will be a standard part of the skill-set of the next generation

Co-Founder & Managing Director - Travel Media Applications | Website | + Posts

Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.

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