|By Robert Evatt, Tulsa World,
Okla.McClatchy-Tribune Business News
Jan. 14, 2007--Travellers want to know whether they have a hotel room waiting for them at the end of a long drive. They want to specify the size of the room, the smoking preference, the number of nights of their stay.
A few people will want extra towels.
Nearly every hotel, motel, and bed and breakfast uses computer programs to keep track of reservations, customer requests and other operations, and some turn to a Tulsa company that tailor-makes this software for a variety of properties.
Megasys Hospitality Systems Inc. offers a suite of property management software tools called Portfolio HMS that's now used in 90 boutique hotels, gaming resorts and vacation properties across the country.
Mark Jewart, vice president of operations, said the past year has brought dramatic change at the company. Portfolio HMS was transformed from a text-based system to a graphic-based system, and the company is weeks away from launching Camp Backpack, a modified version of Portfolio HMS for campgrounds.
"We think the campground business could double our sales," he said. "No other management software company is serving them."
Though Megasys makes software for properties across the nation, the company was created to fill a local need. Bob Reid, a pilot for Pan American World Airways laid off during the company's downturn in the 1980s, decided to start a new career managing hotels.
"As a pilot he had stayed in so many hotels, he figured he could buy one," Jewart said.
Reid picked up the Ramada Inn-Tulsa Airport, now operating as the Radisson Inn-Tulsa Airport, but soon realized that the hotel didn't have a computerized management system.
So he decided to make one.
Megasys was founded in 1984, but the first version of Portfolio wasn't completed until 1989. Jewart said the development process was lengthy to iron out bugs and determine what kind of structure was the most efficient and easy.
"Getting things right was a necessity," he said. "There were many beta tests and test launches."
When Portfolio finally took off, it carved out a niche with boutique hotels and resort destinations, since these types of establishments didn't have in-house management software like chain hotels and motels do now.
Reid retired from Megasys in 2004.
Megasys overhauled Portfolio last year, adapting it to a Windows-style interface that allows users to click on graphics with a mouse pointer and quickly access various functions.
"It's easier for new employees coming in, because all younger people are familiar with Windows," Jewart said.
Tulsa's Ambassador Hotel, operated by Coury Collection, has used Portfolio since it opened in 1999.
Phil King, executive vice president of Coury Collection, said the software worked so well for the company that it was installed in Coury's new Oklahoma City hotel, the Colcord.
"We believe in what the company has to offer, and we feel the product has a good value," King said. "We're still getting used to the new revision, but it's looking like it'll be everything it's promised to be."
Portfolio can handle every bit of business that goes on in a hotel, from checking in to movie rentals, phone charges and room service, with more functions added at client request. Jewart said it's even been modified to handle all operations of a resort's attached restaurant.
He said these locations often use the software for targeted marketing to former guests, by collecting information such as names, addresses, birth dates, room preferences and conference attendance.
"These places need to market to their guests and find ways to get them to come back," Jewart said.
Portfolio is now used at more than 90 properties.
For its next big modification, Megasys wants to help kids register for summer camp. The new Camp Backpack software has been in the testing phase for several months and should be ready to launch in coming weeks.
"We realized our product had very little gaps that needed to be filled for campgrounds," Jewart said.
Though the software hasn't been finished, Jewart said 10 to 15 campgrounds, both kid-centric and adult-oriented, have been calling each week to ask about it.
Jewart hopes the new camp software, as well as the growing number of gaming resorts in the area, will allow Megasys to be used by more local companies.
Then again, he doesn't want its name to become overly familiar.
"Employees shouldn't know the name of their product line, because it should never break," Jewart said.
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