What are the three big technology issues for the hotel industry?

Technology enables service. That’s the idea, anyway. In the hotel industry, thousands of companies worldwide provide hundreds of software applications to help hotels and hotel companies manage operations to provide better guest service.

But which technology or use of technology really provides strategic value for a hotel or hotel company?

The answer depends on many factors, but a group of hospitality associations has identified three key technology issues that are having, and will continue to have, a direct strategic impact on the hospitality industry:

  • PCI (payment card industry) compliance
  • Unique identification numbers for hotels
  • Support for guests with disabilities

The HTSIC (Hospitality Technology Strategic Initiatives Council) is an informal affiliation of associations and other entities whose combined memberships represents every aspect of the hospitality industry – not only hospitality professionals, and hotels and hotel companies, but also most companies that provide technology and technology services to the global hospitality industry.

Because of this, the organizations on the council have a full and broad view into the technology issues facing the industry.

1. PCI Compliance

One of a hotel CIO’s biggest nightmares is getting a phone call that one of their systems has been hacked by credit-card thieves. The fragmented nature and location of hotel systems means a guest’s credit card number could exist in multiple systems in formats of varying security in locations of varying security.

PCI compliance across all levels of a hospitality company has become critically important for the financial stability and market credibility of the hospitality industry.

Members of the HTSIC have addressed this issue in a coordinated approach:

  • HTNG has set up a workgroup that will a framework that will enable hotels to concentrate the storage of sensitive card data in a single system, managed securely by a vendor or the hotel company. The objective is to get every other hotel system out of the scope of PCI by shielding it from real credit card numbers. The initial goal of this workgroup, which is limited to hoteliers for the initial phase, is to document the framework so that all hotels can present it to their preferred vendors and partners as their vision of the path forward.
  • HFTP has set up a taskforce aimed at educating hoteliers about the implications of PCI compliance on property-based operations and systems, including building a knowledge base, an ongoing series of articles, and a series of educational boot camps and conference sessions.
  • Other council member organization initiatives include a white paper authored by AH&LA, a payment technologies committee established by HEDNA, and the support by OpenTravel of needed XML specification changes as required by the industry.

2. Unique Global Identification Numbers

The idea of a single global unique identifier for a hotel has been around for a long time, one of those ‘holy grail’ items like single-image inventory or the mythical super-PNR.

Originally, it was seen as a benefit for distribution channels that aggregate information and inventory from hundreds or thousands of properties, and for payment processors to more efficiently collect commissions from hotels.

The prevailing argument for the initiative’s slow progress has been the lack of a compelling commercial reason for a hotel to care about this kind of identifier.

HTSIC believes the changing nature of the travel business has provided those compelling reasons. Search is one (I wrote about this more in depth recently); it has become critical for hotels to appear correctly and accurately in search results, as search engine sites have essentially become the gateway to travel research and inspiration.

Search engine optimization is a great thing, but not when the property’s address is incorrect in Google, or the property is still listed under its previous flag in Bing.

Interestingly enough, PCI compliance is emerging as another driver for the global identifier initiative, as hotels work with their trading partners through the lifecycle of the transaction to ensure compliance.

Here’s a likely scenario as an example – when a distributor creates a guaranteed reservation for a hotel, they will need to contact the hotel’s designated token issuer for a token to replace the credit card. This requires being able to unambiguously identify the hotel so the hotel is able to charge the card and receive funds.

HEDNA, HTNG, HFTP, HSMAI and OpenTravel are all directly supporting this initiative and holding conversations with interested companies, with the objective to identify possible partners and governance structure and organization.

3. Support for guests with disabilities

In both Europe and the US, regulations are being released and revised to provide support to guests with disabilities. These are requiring hotels and hotel companies to review most aspects of their operations, from distribution to construction, to ensure compliance.

With the increase in electronic distribution of hotel information and transactions, hotels are working to provide better information and service to guests with disabilities.

Initiatives specific to distribution include the creation of standard room definitions and descriptions, guaranteeing accessible guest rooms and removing the accessible guest room from inventory when booked. HEDNA has worked on creating this vocabulary, and OpenTravel has revised its hotel schema, annotations and code list to reflect these changes.

As regulations evolve in 2012, HTSIC expects the hospitality industry to have to address more technological change to ensure compliance and provide service to this market segment.

Why HTSIC is a good thing

I can hear some of you now – what good can possibly come from creating an ‘association of associations’? Aren’t we just creating more overhead, more cost and more bureaucracy? In a word, no.

We are an informal group with no charter or legal standing, and our one requirement is that members of the group have decision-making authority. And our biggest strength is our commitment to work together, to eliminate redundant work or conflicting positions, to be transparent and open in our dealings with each other, and to address the most important technological needs of the hospitality industry.

From my own perspective, as CEO of OpenTravel, participation in HTSIC has allowed me to coordinate our work with that of other organizations so we don’t waste OpenTravel’s time or our members’ time – I hate wasting our scarce resources, and worse, wasting the resources of our members who volunteer their time to work for us.

Could this model work for other travel segments? Oh yes indeed. Will other segments adopt this model? Stay tuned…

NB: Here is the full list of HTSIC members:

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Valyn Perini

About the Writer :: Valyn Perini

Valyn Perini is a contributor to tnooz and the Vice President of Strategic Relationships for Nor1.

She was most recently the CEO of the OpenTravel Alliance, where she oversaw the operations of the organization, including developing and executing strategies to reach the goal of standardized electronic distribution of travel and traveler information.

Her travel career includes stints with InterContinental, Westin and Swissôtel, with PricewaterhouseCoopers as a travel technology consultant, and as the director of product strategy for Newmarket International.

Valyn speaks on industry topics at events around the world, and writes about travel when she can find the time.
Originally from Atlanta, Valyn now lives in Boston.



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  1. Bal Rana

    The subject of free WiFi seems to come up more and more often when it comes to guest technology requirements. As a service provider in this market for over 8 years now, we have seen evolution of this service and the market it is provided in. The challenge for most hotels is the strategic decision to invest in the service! Having developed a revenue stream in years gone by, the concept of refreshing their technical infrastructure becomes one of investment for hotels. In addition the need for legal compliance (all countries in one form or another) means that the service needs to be provided by a managed service provider. However, seeing these challenges as an opportunity to improve services to guests and letting go of the golden days of ‘generating revenue’ means that hoteliers need to focus on their core product, namely occupancy. Freedom Hotspot acts as a silent partner providing services for hospitality in a way that provides added value and enhances the brand reputation.

  2. Beth Koesser

    Thanks for articulating the issues and keeping us informed Valyn. As a representative of Northstar Travel Media, I have been involved in the HEDNA Unique ID committee for many years and am happy to see the topic finally getting some industry exposure. While I agree that HTSIC makes great sense from a knowledge and productivity perspective, (I am wondering about communication, it feels a bit like Oz right now (magic happening behind a curtain), lots of talk about HTSIC but no official information). how do you see HTSIC communicating its position on topics like a Unique Hotel Identifiers going forward?

    Thanks, Beth

  3. Santiago

    I agree with your views. But often cannot set aside that most hotels still have a way to go in providing WI FI service that can be secure and affordable. As a consumer and hotel guest often third party providers will have a splash page to go to that is not the most secure. With business and leisure travelers the need to stay connected and the numerous devices to plug in for power is always an issue as well. ( I admit that some hotels are getting better about it with providing work areas but lets face it most laptop or IPAD users want to be mobile even in our guest room). Some hotel layouts provide for better Wi Fi connectivity than others and having to go down to the hotel lobby to get connected can be a bother. Of course what I mentioned above is only what affects the hotel guest directly.
    In hotel operations the biggest issue is still securing private confidential guest and employee information.

  4. Ralph Talmont

    WiFi that is reliable, free and secure.

    In detail: wifi which doesn’t require a login every time I type in a new URL, doesn’t drop out every five minutes, is open-standard compliant, login-protected, available in every room of the property, and not outsourced to some ad-supported scumbags who will throw up pop-ups.

    It’s the third thing I look for when booking a hotel room – after location and price – and it usually weighs in as the deciding factor. French hotels in particular are pretty uniformly useless in this respect and even if free wifi is advertised very often it does not work as expected. Usually small, family-run properties are actually far better at it than large international chains, in my experience.

    The question of whether or not free wifi is a strategic advantage should have been answered a long time ago. Those who think it isn’t haven’t realised that it actually is – for those who provide it. Why should it be a strategic advantage when it should be a basic service, like a toilet or soap. I don’t want satellite television with fifty channels which I never watch. Give me wifi instead of satellite TV and I’ll be happy.

  5. Anna Pollock

    Given the 24 comments you have had on this post: https://www.tnooz.com/2011/10/04/news/forget-pillow-menus-and-hotel-plush-interiors-gen-y-travellers-want-wifi-like-fresh-air/ then maybe you should add a 4th issue to the list: the universal provision of wifi as a basic hospitality service in a connected world.

    • Valyn Perini

      Hi Anna,

      You make an excellent point based on guest demand.

      I would point out though that the technology of providing wifi is a known quantity – there are many viable and legitimate providers of this service worldwide.

      The commercial decision of whether or not to provide it free is the strategic decision here, and happily, we are not in the middle of that debate!


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