In September and October of this year, the Middle East and European HTNG conferences took place in Dubai and Budapest respectively. With over 300 people in attendance at both events, and hotelier participation exceeding 66% in Dubai this year, both conferences were a great success.
Hospitality Technology Next Generation (HTNG) is the world’s leading trade organization for our industry. Its objective is to aid the development of next generation hotel technologies by bringing hoteliers and vendors together to work on common specifications. Every year HTNG organizes four key conferences, which are the perfect platform for networking with industry peers and learning about the latest innovations in the business. HTNG is not for profit and this really sets their conferences apart from many others. The atmosphere at the conference is informal and fully focused on learning and networking as opposed to buying and selling.
The Dubai conference kicked off with a panel discussion around the hotel operator's view on technology, which saw senior operations executives from a number of leading local and global hotel chains discuss issues such as IT’s involvement in business decisions and the other way around, the role of corporate IT and property based IT, and the question whether technology solutions should be customized. What struck me most from this session, which was moderated by industry veteran consultant Terence Ronson, was the thorough understanding and appreciation the operations executives have for the role of IT in their businesses. They all recognize that IT is one of the critical success factors in today’s hotel business and they feel strongly about IT working hand in hand with all other business functions. They also recognized the fact that they themselves were often the ones asking for customized technology solutions, whilst they now appreciate better why their IT professionals are trying to keep things simple and user friendly with off the shelf solutions where possible.
A few other highlights of the Dubai conference included a live on stage demo by one of the industry’s leading in-room control vendors showing off their new, beacon based, control system literally allowing guests to flick lights on and off with their phone or smart watch. There was also a panel on doing business in Africa, one of the fastest growing regions for hotel developments, and Dubai wouldn’t be Dubai without a showcase about one the city’s mega projects; the USD 3 Billion Habtoor City development presented by Mahmoud Kamal who spoke about the incredible infrastructure required to develop a 3000-key multi-use project from scratch.
The keynote in Budapest was titled “Enterprise System Design for Reliable Performance in the Cloud”, which was delivered by one of the founding HTNG members, Nick Price. He gave the audience a behind-the-scenes look into his latest work as the (interim) CIO of CitizenM where he has been in the process of redefining the way we deal with interfaces in the Cloud, a key topic on every hotelier’s IT agenda. Traditionally, hotels install point-to-point interfaces between systems, preferably based on HTNG specifications. After a major overhaul of the IT architecture, CitizenM is now using an enterprise service bus based integration with a redundant local and Cloud-based service bus that communicates with the peripheral systems through lightweight messages. The service bus is not limited to customer information and financial transactions, it even handles the online door locks and in-room televisions and this opens up a host of opportunities when it comes to mobilizing services and analyzing guest behavior. In his keynote address, Nick showed us how the service bus can be used to allow guests to unlock doors or change TV channels with a simple app. The opportunities for dashboards and business intelligence with a system like this are endless, as data from many different sources can easily be combined.
Some of my other favorites from the Budapest conference included Riko van Santen from Kempinski, who spoke in a power panel about the right balance between brand.com and third-party bookings, a hot topic for us all. What I learned is that it’s not all doom and gloom and that there are many ways in which hotel companies can succeed in securing more direct bookings. There was also an innovation session about robotics and the way they might be used in hotels. According to speaker Brennon Williams, we will see robots in our hotels performing simple tasks such giving directions to guests, as early as next year. Colin Abercrombie, a Dubai-based Executive Coach, gave a lively workshop to help IT professionals build their profiles and get noticed within their organizations. Everyone knows where to find us when things go wrong, but what do we do about getting noticed when everything is running smoothly?
Part of the HTNG fun is to be in a great and vibrant city. Both locations definitely met these criteria. Thank you Budapest and Dubai and thank you to the organizers, speakers and sponsors, you really made it a super success, once again.
I can’t wait for the HTNG North American conference, which is scheduled to take place from 23-26 February in San Antonio, Texas.
Since its founding, FCS has always understood the importance of contributing to a worthy cause, with efforts that have included donating our suite of products to aid in the education of the next generation of aspiring hospitality professionals. That’s why when invited to attend the Accor Race to Survive for "Cure Kids Fiji,” FCS country manager of Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific, Trudi Chambers, jumped at the chance to help out in raising awareness by taking part in the organization’s evening fundraiser. A charity with operations around the world, Cure Kids exists for the sole purpose of finding cures for life-threatening illnesses that affect children. Its members focus on raising funds so that vital medical research can continue.
The Cure Kids Fiji event took place at the Sofitel Resort and Spa, with Trudi having the honor of being personally invited by the property’s general manager and his wife, Alan and Tanya Burrows. The fundraiser was attended by approximately 130 individuals from the hospitality industry and local groups. Attendees took part in attempting to answer a range of international and local trivia questions, with funds raised by the event going towards improving the lives of children throughout Fiji.
For more information or to see what you can do to help the Cure Kids cause, please visit: http://www.curekids.org.nz
November 13th saw one of hospitality’s most important charities, IHG Shelter in a Storm, host its gala dinner fundraising event at the Intercontinental Dubai Festival City. An organization that continuously seeks to raise funds for its network of over 4,500 hotels across the globe, IHG Shelter in a Storm exists for the sole purpose of ensuring that those stricken by natural or man-made disasters are able to seek safe shelter at hotel properties, if necessary. FCS is proud to announce that together with our Valued Business Partner in the Middle East, CADD Emirates, joined forces to sponsor a table at the Event. FCS is much honored to be part of this event and shared IHG's Shelter in a Storm’s message with a few key customers.
Thanks to the selfless actions of its members, the IHG Shelter Fund has already assisted thousands of people who have suffered damage or the loss of their home, displacement, injury and/or food and water shortages. During dire times of need such as the tsunami in Japan or the violent tornadoes in Texas and Oklahoma, IHG Shelter in a Storm ensured that vital resources were available to provide assistance to local communities right away, instead of having to wait to raise enough funds after the fact. To learn more about IHG Shelter in a Storm or find out how you can help, please visit www.ihgshelterinastorm.com.
At the 2014 Equip’Hotel Show, which took place November 16th – 20th at the Porte De Versailles in Paris, France, FCS and Ariane Solutions co-exhibited the recently released FCS/Ariane Online Check-in System. The system combines FCS i-Guest with Ariane’s award winning online check-in/out solution to offer a mobile-friendly online check-in experience.
Throughout the event over 100,000 professionals from the hospitality industry trafficked the tradeshow floor where Eric Roger, Regional Director for FCS UK & EMEA, promoted the FCS/Ariane solution with continuous demonstrations of how hoteliers can improve the guest experience while boosting hotel workflow efficiency by implementing the online check-in technology.
Hotels who select the FCS/Ariane solution will provide the ability for each guest to online register and check-in before they arrive, then pick up their guestroom keycards from interactive kiosks located on the property. During pre-arrival check-in guests can also order additional services, such as an infant crib or extra towels via FCS i-Guest.
The integration between FCS and Ariane works with other FCS solutions, such as e-Connect for service request work order tracking and e-Housekeeping for rush room request, prompting the assigned room attendant to clean the room with top priority, if it is not currently ready. In addition, the joint solution allows for a streamlined mobile check-out process in which Ariane simultaneously sends an email to the guest with folio charges for confirmation, payment details and completion of the check-out process.
Together FCS and Ariane are providing hoteliers with a best-in-class solution that gives guests the feel of VIP treatment all while improving operational efficiency with automated room assignments and job dispatching – a combination that positively effects bottom line.
To schedule a demo or meeting for the combined FCS/ Ariane solution, please email [email protected].
All FCS Mobile Apps, including m-Connect, m-Housekeeping and i-Guest apps, are now compatible with the Apple iOS 8 operating system, ensuring your service level is maintained regardless of changes in technology.
More and more, hotels are using FCS mobile Apps in their daily operations, such as runners using the m-Connect app for guest requests and inter-department work order management, or room attendants and supervisors using the m-Housekeeping app for room cleaning / inspection assignment and other housekeeping duties. Meanwhile, hotel guests are also using the i-Guest app to check hotel information and make service requests, including bell service, housekeeping services, in-room dining and restaurant booking, etc.
FCS Unicorn and Phoenix, the industry renowned gateway products for interfaces, billing, voice and digital messaging, have successfully completed the certification process with more PMS and PABX systems.
Both gateway products already support over 50 interfaces for different PMS and PABX systems in the market, now adding three more interfaces to the product suite:
The certifications will strengthen hoteliers’ confidence in our products that will communicate efficiently and reliably under any environment involving multi-vendor systems and without inter-operability issues. Check out other supported interfaces, please contact [email protected].
To strengthen FCS’ support of other technology forums for the hospitality industry, FCS participates in many events to showcase our various solutions. This allows customers in other parts of the world to get to know FCS better.