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Hospitality Technology Reveals 2012 Visionary Award Winners

Hospitality Technology (HT) magazine has named the winners of the 2012 Visionary Awards. Every year, HT presents a select group of lodging companies with accolades for outstanding achievement in delivering technological excellence. This year's honorees are the Flamingo Las Vegas, Hilton Worldwide, LaQuinta Inns & Suites and Gaylord Entertainment.
Visionary Awards are presented in two categories: infrastructure/back-office technology, and customer-facing/in-room technology. In order to ensure that companies from across the industry are recognized for their efforts, consideration is given to size, resources and individual market segment benchmarks. Winners were selected by HT editorial staff on a basis of innovation, thought leadership, execution, and forward-thinking vision.

"This is a very exciting time for the lodging industry, when we consider how rapidly technology is changing and providing unprecedented opportunities to deliver exceptional and highly personalized guest service," said Abigail A. Lorden, editor-in-chief of Hospitality Technology. "We at HT are delighted to honor this group of hotel companies for their outstanding efforts in technology innovation."
The winners were announced at the Hotel Technology Forum (HTF) on Thursday, April 19, 2012.

The 2012 HTF, held April 19-20 at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas, Nev., is produced by Hospitality Technology, and brings together senior-level hotel executives from high-growth hotel companies to share strategic insights and tactical analyses on the issues that are critical to hospitality businesses today.

The 2012 Visionary Award Winners
Hilton Worldwide was selected as an Infrastructure/Back-Office Technology Innovator for its development of a wireless High-Speed Internet Access (HSIA) solution to provide sufficient bandwidth across the Hilton brand on a global basis through a revamping of its StayConnected program. The goal was to build a rock-solid technical infrastructure for a host of innovative, guest-facing services and products delivered and accessed on mobile devices across an unsurpassed hotel wireless network. The system allows for real-time monitoring of bandwidth consumption, allowing Hilton to handle capacity issues before they become a cause of guest complaints.

"We are honored to be recognized with the 2012 Visionary Award for our StayConnected program," said John Flack, vice president, information technology, Hilton Worldwide. "Our program, an industry-first, was created in response to customer feedback, which was to provide faster, consistent, high-bandwidth internet access across all brands globally. In addition, StayConnected allows Hilton to leverage a consistent platform for enhanced guest experiences in a rapidly changing environment."

La Quinta Inns & Suites was also selected as an Infrastructure/Back-Office Technology Innovator for its multi-year project to get all on-property systems and telecom services in the "cloud." La Quinta, working with multiple solution providers -- Verizon, Thing5 and REMCO -- led all the initiatives to optimize the configuration of the solution for use at its properties. The transition from a custom-developed central reservation system to a software-as-a-service model has yielded a 60 percent growth of the La Quinta chain and has enabled new revenue management capabilities. La Quinta has also been able to reduce its IT operating costs by 50 percent as a result of its cloud computing and SaaS initiatives.

"Our cloud computing strategy impacts all parts of our business and has radically transformed the way we deploy technology solutions. It has not only reduced our technology operating and capital costs significantly, but also improved systems performance and reduced failure rates dramatically," Vivek Shaiva, CIO, states. "In addition, strategic partnerships with best-of-breed providers have enabled us to accelerate technology innovation while keeping our focus on driving business and guest satisfaction which is our core as a hospitality company."
The Flamingo Las Vegas was chosen as a Customer-Facing/In-Room Technology Innovator for its development of a digital signage system that serves a dual purpose. The Flamingo worked with FourWinds Interactive (FWi) to implement the interactive system that serves several functions. The signage is not only an interactive mapping source, helping players and guests locate amenities at both the Flamingo and other Caesars Las Vegas properties, but it also serves as a loyalty kiosk for players. The system can be used for players to login to their accounts, manage preferences, see available offers and send offers to mobile devices through SMS integration. Guests who don't already have a player's club account can set one up directly on the kiosks as well.

Every interaction with each sign is captured and plugged into a database which gives the property the ability to track users by a number of specifics such as gender, sign location and time of day. The signage has proven to be a powerful way to measure the effectiveness of content and promotions and make changes accordingly.

"We wanted to push the boundaries on traditional directories and maps at Flamingo Las Vegas by incorporating touch-interactive screens as a channel to deliver personalized messages, deals, and offers to our guests based on their particular interests," said Rich Kang, director of innovation and IT strategy for Caesars Entertainment. "Moving forward, we are looking to continue optimizing the overall guest experience and integrating the offerings into our other resorts. One of our long-term projects, LINQ, the 550-foot tall observation wheel that will open on the Las Vegas Strip directly behind Flamingo Las Vegas in 2013, will also incorporate this interactive guest technology."
Gaylord Entertainment has been named a Customer-Facing/In-Room Technology Innovator for leveraging mobile technology in order to improve customer service and provide proactive real-time service to guests. Not only has this rollout of mobile devices increased efficiency, but it has given Gaylord Entertainment a "wow" factor that impresses guests. The company deployed 122 iPads to all four of its properties, using the tablets at concierge and front desk locations to reduce lines and provide information to guests in a real-time fashion. Receptionists at the Florida property station themselves at the lobby elevators and check-out guests as they walk to the valet, eliminating the need to stand in line at the front desk. The mobile initiatives have also contributed to Gaylord's green consciousness. Utilizing iPads for convention services to make changes to contracts has saved 60,000 pages of paper on an annual basis.

"Gaylord Hotels' focus on providing guests with a world-class service experience compels us to continuously seek innovative practices that create an exceptional experience at our facilities," Rik Reitmaier, SVP/CIO of Gaylord Entertainment, states. "Gaylord Hotels will continue to provide innovative solutions and practices to create a world-class service experience for our guests. The future is full of opportunities to leverage mobile technology in other areas improving our STARS' [employees'] productivity and ability to provide flawless service to all our guests."

Past Breakthrough Award Winners Include:
Choice Hotels International (2011)
Morgans Hotel Group (2011)
Galt House Hotel (2011)
Royal Caribbean (2011)
CityCenter (2010)
Courtyard by Marriott (2010)
JHM Hotels Group (2010)
InterContinental Hotels Group (2009)
Harrah's Entertainment (2009)
Hyatt Place (2009)
Thayer Lodging Group (2009)
MTM Luxury Lodging (2008)
The Peninsula Hotels (2008)
Fairmont Hotels & Resorts (2008)
Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group (2007)
Ginn Resorts (2007)
Hilton Hotels Corporation (2007)
Rosewood Hotels & Resorts (2006)
Harrah's Entertainment (2006)
MGM Mirage (2006)
Wyndham International (2005)
Sea Island Company (2005)
Marriott International (2005)
Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group (2005)
Hyatt International (2005)


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