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Industry News - January 28th 2011



Ten Trends that Will Shape Meeting Reservations in 2011

Benchmark Hospitality International, a U.S.-based hospitality management company, which operates 30 award-winning hotels, resorts, and conference centers, announces its "Top Ten Meeting Trends for 2011" as observed by its properties.
Overall, Benchmark Hospitality’s properties are cautiously optimistic at the start of 2011, projecting moderate growth with marginal increases in spending. Looking a bit further afield, indications are that 2011 will have a strong finish, and 2014 may just be a great year.
  • Business is on the move again. Business travel (group and individual) is up in 2011 across Benchmark Hospitality’s portfolio. Booking pace for most properties is outperforming the previous year’s results. Customers remain highly rate conscious and value focused, though, and demand speed – as in fast Internet connectivity.
  • Planners want choice. The complete meeting package, sacrosanct for decades, could now be called the flexible meeting package. Planners still see the value of all-inclusive packages, however they want these to be customized to suit the needs and budget of their particular meeting. How hotels and conference centers develop and structure packaging components in the future will be influenced by this trend.
  • Heads in beds. The plan for 2011 is growing occupancy while maintaining rate integrity, which is generally comparable to last year. To win business, properties are negotiating added-value options, such as complimentary Internet access, cancellation/attrition flexibility, forgiving resort fees, and more.
  • The pace is positive. Booking pace for meetings may finally be turning the corner. Although still short term, more companies are responding to improved economic conditions by projecting increased business needs in every business quarter, especially the latter part of the year – and even into 2014. Along the way, meetings are increasing in quantity, but not size. 
  • Only connect. Social media usage is beginning to take hold within the meeting planning industry, but is not dominating communications like it is for the general public worldwide. The exceptions are LinkedIn and YouTube, with groups videotaping sessions and posting these online for the benefit of their colleagues back at the office, for reviewing key points going forward, and for encapsulating business concepts addressed in the meeting.
  • Cost still trumps green. Being green remains important for many planners who look for properties to have these initiatives in place. In fact, today it’s generally assumed they do. Government meetings demand it, as does, increasingly, the pharmaceutical industry. But, if asked to choose between being green or providing maximum cost savings, budgets still take precedence in 2011.
  • Taking time for teambuilding. Demand for teambuilding is back, though unevenly so throughout the country. Where there is demand, planners want unique programs delivered within tight budgets. These teambuilding programs may be culinary events, set up as reality TV programs, or utilize other clever concepts. It’s not likely, however, a ropes course will be involved.
  • Why so serious? Properties are at last seeing the return of recreation and entertainment as part of the meeting experience. To say there is a "comeback" would be stretching things. But inquires for entertainment options as diverse as theme parties, comedians, “meeting camps” and “think tanks,” etc., are coming from groups interested – for the first time in a long time -- in offering more than a strictly serious meeting experience.
  • They're back. Insurance, financial, consulting, high tech, healthcare and education …the tried and true industries that have supported the conference center hotel industry over the past decades. As companies within these industries step up hiring, training related meetings are becoming more prevalent. Although somewhat regionally driven, after a brief and deep retreat nationwide in 2009-10, these industries are coming back.
  • It's no longer anyone's guess. Planners and meeting customers learn about locations, destinations and individual properties through surfing the Internet. Whether searching websites, perusing online magazines, reading destination coverage, viewing hotel advertising, or receiving an e-blast, it's the Internet. With iPads, smartphones and apps becoming readily available to promote nearly every product and service today, communicating with customers online has never been more available, more complex, or more important.
  • Are planners making a comeback? Quite possibly. Whereas planner positions were streamlined or eliminated over the past years, with a recovering economy and improved business conditions, we may be seeing a renewed focus on these professionals and their valuable contributions to meeting productivity.

Improved Guest Services Lead in Gotham Hotel's PMS Selection

The Gotham Hotel on 46th Street in New York City has selected Agilysys’ Guest 360 Property Management System to streamline operations and enhance guest service. The 66-room boutique hotel opened in October 2010.
"We chose the Guest 360 property management system for our new hotel because it is extremely user-friendly, and it helps staff check in guests in an efficient manner to provide the best possible service," says Klaus Ortlieb, managing partner of The Gotham Hotel. "This solution is truly revolutionary, and we are confident it will help us meet and exceed guest expectations. It was also very easy to work with the Agilysys team who handled the installation."
The Guest 360 solution is a full-function property management system built from the ground up to utilize Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA). SOA enables the Guest 360 solution to be tailored to a hotel's business processes and allows for flexible integration with other software systems. Features of the Guest 360 Property Management System include: an attributes-based inventory engine; an innovative offer and rating system; and Guest Hub, a centralized repository for guest profiles, including history, itineraries, interests and preferences. The system's intuitive features help hoteliers exceed guest expectations by tracking preferences from visit to visit and hotel to hotel.

Hooters Ownership No Longer a Family Affair

Hooters of America, Inc. "HOA" announced the completion of a transaction which transfers ownership of the company from the estate of Robert H. Brooks who passed in 2006 into the hands of a consortium of private investors, including Chanticleer Holdings, Inc. (Chanticleer). Simultaneous with this transaction the investor group will also acquire Texas Wings, Inc., the largest franchisee of HOA.  
The two businesses will come together to strengthen the Hooters brand worldwide. The transaction brings to an end nearly three decades of Brooks' family ownership of the franchisor of the world-famous Hooters restaurants. Brooks was known in part for his colorful and often unorthodox expansion of Hooters into ventures such as an airline and NASCAR racing. However, Brooks is best known for his leadership and oversight of the dramatic growth of the Hooters concept. A fledging concept with only two locations in 1984 when Brooks acquired it, the Hooters brand has grown into a successful chain of 452 restaurants in 44 states and 29 countries.
"I am so extremely proud of what my father and our team here have built, and I am even more excited about our next phase of growth following this transaction,” says Coby Brooks, president and CEO of the company since 2003 and the son of the late founder. "My father built a great company. He was a visionary filled with a tremendous entrepreneurial spirit. However, he was often limited by a lack of financial resources. Since his passing the requirements of his estate have limited us even further. While it is bittersweet to see the end of my family's ownership of the company, I know this new investment will put us in a position to grow rapidly and fully realize the potential of the Hooters brand."
The combination of 120 restaurants from HOA and 41 restaurants from Texas Wings will create an operating company boasting 161 company-owned locations across sixteen states, or nearly half of all domestic Hooters restaurants and over one-third of the locations worldwide. "I am very pleased to join forces with Texas," continues Brooks. "Kelly Hall, the majority owner of Texas Wings, which is our largest and among our best franchisees, will bring considerable knowledge and passion to HOA." Hall will have a significant commitment in HOA and will serve on the company's board.
"I am pleased to finally complete this transaction and fulfill the vision I discussed many times with Mr. Brooks," says Mike Pruitt, president and CEO of Chanticleer. "It was his desire to see his family's interest protected and to see Hooters put on sound financial footings. The management team has done an amazing job of building the company and the brand despite limited resources. It will be rewarding to help carry that dream further now that the company will have the necessary resources to grow." Chanticleer and its limited partners will be equity holders and Pruitt will sit on the board.

New York's Plaza Hotel Brings Digital Concierge Services into the Fold

New York City’s The Plaza hotel has deployed Intelity’s award-winning ICE Touch (Interactive Customer Experience) software for the iPad. This guest-facing technology makes hotel services and local information available at guests’ fingertips while improving operational efficiencies in the back of the house.
Plaza guests will be able to access anything they need or desire using ICE software on in-room iPads. This gives customers 30 guest services that range from ordering in-room dining; making dinner reservations; arranging beauty and spa appointments to coordinating transportation; getting show tickets; making housekeeping requests and much more. Whatever the Plaza offers, it is there for guests at the touch of the screen. Additionally, the Intelity ICE software will allow guests to browse for local information such as maps and directions, flight and airline information and local offers and discounts.
Intelity’s ICE is an interactive guest service interface with full, real-time backend management tools, that is designed to generate higher revenue, reduce operational costs and increase guest satisfaction. ICE software does this by monitoring guest requests in an easy-to-read format which allows hotel management to identify strengths and weaknesses and streamline services.
ICE technology for hotels is available in five different versions. These include ICE Touch (on in-room touch screens and iPads); ICE Mobile (on smartphones); ICE TV (on in-room TV’s); ICE Lobby (on touch screens) and ICE Connect (on laptops). No matter which version(s) a hotel chooses, ICE is custom branded and designed with the hotel’s guest service content.

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