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Technology Pulse: A roundup of digital news
April 4 2013

This month's roundup of news from the technology sector: Hyatt names global head of technology; Google benefits as Priceline outspends Expedia; and Choice will sell PMS, yielding software.

HotelNewsNow.com’s Technology Impact Report each month features a news roundup from the hotel technology sector. Subscribe to the free monthly report here.

Hyatt names global head of technology
Hyatt Hotels Corporation announced the appointment of Alex Zoghlin as the company’s first global head of technology, according to a news release. In this role, Zoghlin will be responsible for all aspects of Hyatt’s technology platform and systems. He will lead the team charged with deploying innovative technology solutions to enable superior guest experiences and will be responsible for optimizing the company’s technology resources.

Zoghlin joins Hyatt with more than 20 years of technology experience, including more than 10 years in the travel and real estate industries.

Google benefits as Priceline outspends Expedia
Priceline.com has boosted annual ad spending to more than $1 billion for the first time, extending its lead over Expedia in the hotel-booking market and stepping up a rivalry that’s benefiting Google, according to a Bloomerg report.

Even as social-networking services Facebook and Twitter capture a widening share of the Web-advertising market, the top online travel agencies still choose to place most of their ads on search sites, where consumers can compare prices and complete a transaction in a matter of clicks.

Priceline, fueled by its Amsterdam-based Booking.com unit, has more than tripled spending on Internet advertising to $1.27 billion in the past three years. Aprroximately 90% of that goes to Google, according to Bloomberg.

Choice will sell PMS, yielding software
Choice Hotels International launched SkyTouch Technology, a new division that develops and markets cloud-based technology products to help hoteliers improve their efficiency and profitability, according to a news release. SkyTouch Technology launches with the market introduction of SkyTouch Hotel OS, a new property and rate management solution that draws on Choice’s award-winning ChoiceAdvantage property management system for handling reservations, guest stays and rates on any device with an Internet connection.

Under Choice’s development, ChoiceAdvantage has more than 5,500 successful installations in Choice-branded hotels worldwide.

SkyTouch Hotel OS offers many of the same functions of the ChoiceAdvantage property and rate management platform, as well as the ability to connect seamlessly with other systems used by chain and independent hotels.

Google launches mobile marketing calculator
The market for mobile advertising is forecast to reach $11.4 billion this year on the back of explosive growth in smartphones and tablets, but companies such as Google are all too aware of a big issue that could trouble the industry longer term: There aren’t enough tools out there for businesses to measure how effective their campaigns are relative to actual sales, according to a TechCrunch report.

So the search giant is rolling out a new service to combat that: a calculator, called the Full Value of Mobile, which helps businesses that use Google’s mobile advertising services—specifically using AdWords—to measure how their mobile marketing translates into actual business, both online and offline.

Middle Eastern hotels ramping online distribution
Online hotel sales are the sweet spot for investors in Middle East travel, partly because of the growth projected over the next three years, which will spike as more hotels make inventory available via OTAs and create identities on social media, according to a recent PhoCusWright report.

The top two markets to watch are Qatar, which will need plenty more rooms to host the 2022 Fédération Internationale de Football Association World Cup–and Saudi Arabia, which is making investments to alleviate its perpetual shortage of hotels for the growing influx of Hajj pilgrimage travelers.

Travel-related expansion, chiefly in the hotel space, is also happening rapidly in the United Arab Emirates, and all three markets owe these developments to a combination of strong government financing and private investment. Prospective hoteliers in the emirates and Qatar face fewer barriers than in Saudi Arabia, where travelers are less comfortable with credit-card use and complicated visa regulations remain a hindrance.

Expedia offers tips on working with an OTA
Expedia’s Josh Saunders, director of market management, recommends the following five tips to maximize your hotel’s return with its OTA.

1. Make sure you have a strong mobile presence. Mobile continues to grow and have an impact on the way customers purchase their hotels rooms
2. Grab your piece of the global traveler pie. Global travelers are a great source of incremental demand. 
3. Content is king. It is important to invest in one’s online brochure by having comprehensive room descriptions and plenty of pictures.
4. Invest in social media. Whenever possible, hotels should encourage guests to comment on their stay on any of the numerous review sites available. 
5. Work with your market manager to utilize market insight and help build your maximum profitability strategy. Market managers are fonts of local market information and best practices from around the country, and a savvy hotelier will make the most of their insight. 

TripAdvisor expands Management Center
TripAdvisor launched a new Property Dashboard feature, which expands the analytics services available on the TripAdvisor Management Center and gives Business Listings subscribers access to strategic data about their visitors, competitors and marketplace, according to a news release.

New features include in-depth visitor demographics; top countries sending traffic to the owner’s TripAdvisor property page; number of days travelers are entering during a search; analytics spotlighting how hotels compare with other properties in the area and more.

Omni joins HotelMe
Omni Hotels & Resorts has added its hotels and rooms for authentication at www.hotelme.com

Omni joins brands such as Hyatt, Hard Rock Hotels & Casinos, Preferred Hotels & Resorts, Sonesta Hotels, Best Western International, La Quinta Inns & Suites and Radisson Hotels, which have all made a commitment to an open conversation with travelers online via HotelMe.
 
LHW redesigns Web presence
The Leading Hotels of the World launched its newly redesigned website, which features an entirely different look and feel, enhanced functionalities, and richer, more in-depth content at LHW.com

Rebuilt from the ground up, the site operates on a state-of-the-art hardware platform and employs the latest techniques in Web programming trends. Seen as just the beginning of the implementation of a new digital strategy, the site is an aggregation and distribution point for the company’s hotel inventory, and offers rich educational and inspirational content.

The redesign is the result of an intensive global research and development project that relied heavily on user evaluation and input, including call center interviews, a survey on the existing LHW.com and usability testing of one of the early prototypes.

Gramercy Park relaunches website
The Gramercy Park Hotel in New York relaunched its website, aiming for a fresh online presence that will play a major role in this iconic property improving its position in a competitive marketplace.
The new website was designed to capture the distinct personality of the hotel while providing the information and functionality visitors need to easily book rooms and plan events. As a visitor scrolls through the home page, the experience of the hotel is revealed, beginning with the lobby and proceeding through the in-room décor and the exclusive Rose Bar.

When viewed on mobile devices, the site provides a similar but streamlined experience with access to a simplified mobile booking process.

Compiled by Jason Q. Freed. 

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