Service can not be Sacrificed.
By Efrem Harkham, President & CEO, Luxe Worldwide Hotels
Sunday, 1st January 2006
How Independent Hoteliers React to CRS Mergers and Acquisitions

"Individualized Services." "Targeted Revenue Management Strategies." "Personalized Evaluation and Training." Are these terms of the past as independent hotels fall victim of the latest round of mergers of Central Reservation System (CRS) providers? When an industry Goliath absorbs most of the competition, will independent hoteliers lose the personalized attention they expect from their CRS providers?

The question facing independent hoteliers in today's environment is, What happens when your CRS provider has been absorbed by an even larger corporate structure? The hotel must learn the new system, retrain staff, and simply jump on board a moving train. There are no bellmen to offer boarding assistance, no waiters to offer a menu, and no conductors to tell you the schedule. All one can do is go along for the ride, and hope for the best. This not only leaves the hotel confused, but unable to plan, strategize, personalize and utilize effectively the systems they have at their disposal.

As the owner of two luxury boutique hotels, I am personally familiar with the gradual eradication of individualized service from CRS providers and representation companies. It was out of that frustration that I founded Luxe Worldwide Hotels seven years ago. For independent hotels, there is a definite need to have full-service representation that is literally an extension of the hotel's own sales and marketing team, one that provides enhanced reservation services and revenue management; and offers desperately needed support and training. As an independent hotelier, I believe there is a responsibility to be synonymous with personalized, targeted, and successful revenue management services, while achieving global sales and marketing expertise. This goal inspires independent hoteliers throughout the world.

Successful independent hotels have successfully bridged that weakest link. My advice to hoteliers who seek help navigating the coming changes in providers is to focus on the end result. If an independent hotel simply wants to maintain the status quo, chances are they will not like the outcome. If they prefer to be pro-active, ambitious, and even aggressive about using the systems to their absolute potential, they should think beyond basic CRS platforms. For example, innovative revenue management and global sales and marketing strategies offer unique personalization, setting the standard for independent hoteliers to overcome the "assembly line" of CRS providers. Unlike larger competitors, most of whom are simply Global Distribution Systems (GDS) connectivity providers, we have found that while we use the advanced technology of SynXis, we are totally self-sufficient because we manage the system ourselves, build and update all of the information, and personalize the information for each of our 200 member hotels.

Additionally, representation firms position a network of vendors that their member hotels are able to utilize at either discounted rates or with some other advantage. These preferred suppliers bring a myriad of valuable e-business solutions that make the best use of advanced hospitality technology. For example: Preferred partnership agreements with companies like EZYield, Daylight, Leonardo, and Digital Alchemy offer members discount pricing, preferential treatment and even more options to reach their full revenue potential.

No, personalized service is not in jeopardy of going away. However, it will be up to each independent hotel to ensure that that does not happen. The relationships between the CRS provider and the hotel, between the hotel and its staff, and between the hotel and its customers are all crucial to achieving success. The right representation company will optimize each of those relationships beyond the hotel's ability to do so independently. The right representation, through personalized campaigns and strategic evaluations, will bring increased revenues. And, the right representation company will be a solid partner in the establishment and realization of long-term revenue goals.

Rather than mourn the consolidation of power among a handful of large GDS providers, independent hotels have a wonderful opportunity – provided they position themselves properly – to excel in this new environment. Independent hotels deserve their rightful place as leaders in this industry and should continue to seek ways to keep individuality and service alive.

Luxe Worldwide Hotels, based in Los Angeles, California, is a premier representation company of independently owned and operated hotels situated in prominent international locales. Luxe provides global sales, reservations, marketing and eBusiness services to hotel members from Beverly Hills to Barbados, Barcelona, Bali and beyond. Make online reservations and find more Luxe Worldwide information at www.luxehotels.com 

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