Event Tech Evolution
By Kevin Fliess Vice President Supplier Network Product Marketing, Cvent | September 07, 2014
Sometimes it takes time for us in the meetings industry to adapt to new technology – or let go of old technology. The telephone, for example, was invented in 1876. One hundred years later, it was still the primary means by which meeting planners were communicating their meeting needs to hoteliers, and hoteliers were responding.
Were there no innovations in the meantime? Of course there were:
- Westin created the first brand-wide hotel reservation system in 1947
- IBM produced its first, large-scale computer in 1953
- SABRE debuted the first real-time global distribution system (GDS) for travel agents in 1962
- Xerox PARC created the first personal computer in 1972
And all that was decades before the worldwide web (WWW) was invented by CERN in 1989!
Point is: The meetings industry often has trouble embracing technology that could make its work a lot easier. The single exception was planners' use of the fax (facsimile) machine to send out requests for proposals (RFPs) with specific queries regarding attendee registration, conference services, rooming, food and beverage and assorted other aspects of the planning process to hotels – to which the hotel sales teams responded, also by fax.
But not always: Early in his career, when Harold Powell, Jr. was a group sales executive for The Homestead in Hot Springs, VA, a group inquiry would come in, "But you weren't able to quote availability while the lead was on the telephone. We had a function book, which was updated to the minute, and a function book coordinator, who would check the dates and space requested before giving the go ahead." Now a regional vice president of sales & marketing for Benchmark Hospitality International, Powell has an appreciation for the advantages created by technology: He and his team work with an electronic enterprise sales and catering system that confirms availability on the spot. The system interfaces with the property management system. "Whether the dates in question are the next day or not for two years, guest room inventory is live right down to room type, and the same applies to function space," he explained.
A generation or two ago, there was also a clear hand-off from the sales department to conference services and the rooms division. But now, noted Barry Goldstein, chief revenue officer for Dolce Hotels & Resorts, "The technology exists that allows everyone in the meeting on both the hotel and planner side of the table to see the big picture simultaneously. It means that everyone can respond a lot easier to any question that might come up at the same time they have their individual areas of responsibility," he said.