by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | February 01, 2004
Technology is the new weapon of choice for hotel chains as they battle for group business, and planners stand to benefit from the virtual arms race.
   In 2003, Toronto-based Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, Atlanta-based InterContinental Hotels Group and the Washington, D.C.-based Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. each began to create centralized global sales processes using Delphi technology. Developed by Portsmouth, N.H.-based Newmarket International, the tool lets a chain’s sales team check function space, rooms, pricing and availability across the entire portfolio speeding response times greatly.
   “Group business is very important, and we want to grow it,” said Tom Storey, executive vice president, business development for Fairmont. “To do that, we want all the group leads centralized and interconnected, so we  can get back to the customer within 24 hours.” Fairmont’s system will be rolled out over the next two years.
   InterContinental also is implementing an automated RFP process. “We are looking at ways to make it easier and more applicable for meeting planners,” said Stevan Porter, chief operating officer of the chain’s Americas Division.
   Last month, Beverly Hills, Calif.-based Hilton Hotels Corp. introduced Group Reservations Identification Program, which allows meeting planners to download registration lists, which are then automatically cross-referenced with a property’s rooming list. The software will help planners manage attrition and record-keeping.
   “The expectation of the client is that we should be able to help provide this for their meeting, and we are,” said Joyce Inderbitzin, CMP, vice president, meeting and convention services for Hilton. (For a related story, see the feature “Techno-Housing.”)