Exhibitors Report High Interest At HITEC Show

ATLANTA? It might be the approaching new millennium weaving an ?anything goes? spirit over the industry. But there was a cheerful acceptance on the exhibition floor of HITEC 99 late last month that a good deal of the technology available to hotels today would no doubt be replaced by something newer, faster and cheaper next year. And what that something new might be was anyone?s guess. Scott Anderson, evp of Cendant Corp., captured the mood of the entire show when he used the phrase, ?discontinuous innovation,? in a technology panel discussion. ?Discontinuous innovation is something that didn?t exist last year that is this year?s model. But what is going to happen next year?? he said. The mood at the show was that it wasn?t a matter of getting high speed Internet access into hotel rooms, but whether you would like it to be wireless or via guestroom television. Would you like to check guests in curbside or in their room? Do you want to know at any given moment where your hotel employeesare? How about your guests? Do you want your hotel key to simply unlock a door, or act as a smart card that tracks every transaction a guest makes? All of this and more was possible at HITEC (the Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition and Conference) this year, where exhibitors reported strong interest, spurred by hoteliers who need to keep up with consumer technology demands while trying to capture as much information about their customers as possible. One attendee asked a panel why they should provide high speed Internet access when not every guest needs it. ?Think of the customer who is in your hotel who wants it, and you don?t have it,? said Sal Dickinson, vp/ marketing for the resort division of MeriStar Hotels & Resorts. ?You have severed that relationship,? he said, indicating the intensity of the race hotels are in to keep customer share. Distinguishing yourself to the customer was a general theme at the show, which also ran a series of general sessions and educational seminars. ?Branding equals distinction,? said Barry Gibbons, the former chairman/CEO of Burger King Corp. and speaker. Gibbons, who is credited with restoring Burger King?s image, said to constantly reinvent yourselves by asking, ?if I were a new entrant in my sector, how would I do it?? ?Because many of these new guys often know more than you do,? he said. ?The winning distinction in branding is less about what you do than how you do it,? he said. Gibbons said that everyone in a hotel corporation, from the front line to the executive office, must have a part in reinventing a branding strategy. ?You need to create a ?challenge? atmosphere, so you can have the little guy say ?something is wrong,?? said Gibbons. Anderson of Cendant Corp. reiterated that communication is important within a corporation, as is managing your knowledge. Speaking on the ?Sales & Marketing Executives Talk Technology? panel, which focused on capturing customer knowledge via technology, Anderson stressed that ?Knowledge captured but not transferred is knowledge lost.? Anderson pointed to Amazon.com as a master of gathering customer intelligence to create one-to-one marketing. ?Amazon.com isn?t in the book business, it?s in the ?sell you what you want when you want it business,?? said Anderson. He noted Amazon.com?s method of suggesting several other titles when you purchase a book online. It garners these suggestions by electronically examining the buying patterns of other customers who have bought your book selection. This kind of customer ?scoping? has cost-saving potential, said Anderson. Cendant found, via capturing customer information, that a lot of its Super 8 clients hunt and fish. ?That kind of customer information helps determine where to advertise and with whom to partner,? said Anderson. On the same panel, Dickinson of MeriStar said to use all methods possible to get information about clients. ?He with the greatest scope of information will be the more effective competitor,? he said

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