Room With a View
by Larry Mundy
May 2006

 The Future of Hotel Reservations
I keep hearing that by 2008, 113% of the rooms booked in the U.S. will be sold through the Internet.  If that’s true, we need to start planning now, what to do with all those useless telephones and reservations agents and brand directories.  You know those museums where you see a wax figure of a telephone operator plugging patch cords into a big console to connect calls?  Someday that same museum will have a wax figure of a reservationist wearing a little headset and staring at a GDS screen and visitors will remark, “How quaint.  To get something as simple as a hotel reservation, you had to talk to a human.”

Today’s hotelier not only has to get the beds made and the eggs fried and the carpet vacuumed.  Now you also have to get the revenue managed, make sure your Google placement is optimized, review click-through traffic, ponder conversion reports, check independent guest rating sites and make sure no one hijacks your keywords.  Soon your sales department will be staffed with people who learned their trade blogging and playing Nintendo.  They will have pierced eyebrows and torn jeans, but that won’t matter because they will never actually meet a client.

In the future, guests will make their reservations on a little Dick Tracy wristwatch which will automatically scan all the hotels in their destination area and rank them by price, location, amenities, eco-friendly laundry policies and bedspread color.  The Universal Reservation Computer, buried deep within Cheyenne Mountain, will receive the reservation from the guest’s mobile unit, along with a binary code which supplies the guest’s arrival and departure data, credit card number, room preference, stay history and any identifying warts or moles.  Within milliseconds the reservation is made and guaranteed, future rooms inventory is adjusted, the procurement system orders one more logoed Bic pen because the guest has walked off with 63% of prior pens, the clock radio is notified to tune itself to the guest’s favorite station on the day of arrival, and the guest’s historical filth index is transmitted to the system that schedules housekeeping.  

As hotel systems become more sophisticated, they will actually anticipate a guest’s future need for travel and make the reservation before the guest is even aware he will be traveling.  When the guest arrives, either by conventional means or by molecular reassembly in one of your new beam-down units, he will no longer be required to interact with the touch-screen kiosk, because the room lock will already sense his proximity, admit him to his preassigned room, and tell him in a pleasant prerecorded voice that the door’s magnetic imaging system detected a slight misalignment of his C7 vertebra.

But it’s not the future yet, unless you’re reading this a long time from when I’m writing it.  Today, we’re still struggling to be found, and have our rooms booked, by ordinary people surfing the Web.  And they can get just as frustrated as we are.   Spyware redirects their hotel inquiry to a popup window about refinancing their mortgage.  Web-searching sites bury the hotel they’re looking for, beneath 37 listings promising “luxury hotels cheap” (which, through nine successive intermediaries, sell your rooms for the same price you would have if the guest had just appeared in the lobby).  And when they do find you, they’ll have to call with any special requests or questions anyway.

So don’t go dipping your reservationist in wax, for just a little while longer.

Larry Mundy works for a hotel company in Dallas.  His views are his own, and may differ considerably from those of a sane person."

Larry Mundy
[email protected]

Also See: Soon Every Town in America Will Have an Unused Convention Center / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May 2006
Hotel Pool Safety 101 / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May 2006
Where Not To Build a Hotel / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / May 2006
“Exterior Corridors” – Disappearing, Because They Never Existed / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy
My Top Ten Worst Hotel Inventions / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / April 2006
Bed Tech / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / April 2006
A Sense of Arrival / Room With a View - a Column by Larry Mundy / April 2006

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