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Sat 27 Sep 2008 04:00 AM

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Assisting with hotel adaptation

Tech Talk asks Protel Hotel Software GmbH Dubai branch office manager Magued Malek how his firm's solutions can help hotels adapt to the ever-changing conditions of the Middle East.

Tech Talk asks Protel Hotel Software GmbH Dubai branch office manager Magued Malek how his firm's solutions can help hotels adapt to the ever-changing conditions of the Middle East.

When was Protel set up?

In 1994 the three founders of Protel Hotel Software GmbH (Manfred Osthues, Ingo Dignas and Jörg Hermann) started developing hotel management software solutions for the hospitality industry and the first Protel installation was made in 1995.

Protel headquarters is situated in Dortmund, Germany. Branch offices are in Austria and Dubai and in more than 40 other countries Protel has exclusive distributors that integrate our products and offer training and support services. In the GCC we want to expand our network of distributors and we are constantly looking for adequate partners.

What solutions does Protel provide for the hotel industry?

Protel provides solutions for all hotel types. Product lines include Protel Smart for small and mid-market hotels with up to 60 rooms, Protel SPE (Single Property Edition) for mid-market operators and large individual hotels of any size, Protel MPE (Multi Property Edition) for managing multiple hotels with centralised real-time data access and Protel HQ (Head Quarter) for managing multiple hotels with controlled data exchange.

Then in addition to the product lines, Protel provides the following expansion modules: Protel Banquet for planning and hosting receptions, banquets and events; Protel Sales and Marketing, a CRM expansion module for targeted sales and marketing activities; Protel WBE, an expansion module for easy and convenient multi-property online bookings - supporting many features like BAR, last minute sales and guest login - that is fully integrated with Google Maps and Google Analytics; and Protel-Xn Global Res, a new era product for managing electronic hotel reservations directly through Protel CRS/PMS.

In other words, Protel provides an integrated GDS and Internet channel hotel switch solution, seamlessly using Protel as a control centre for all channels.

Furthermore Protel customers benefit from several extensions, including Protel Interfaces to more than 1000 external systems - such as minibar systems, credit card systems, yield management systems and telephone systems - and Protel Add-ons, helpful applications that integrate specific, highly targeted functions into the products to suit the customer's personal needs without modifying the core of the database.

How do these solutions help hoteliers overcome specific challenges?

A major challenge hoteliers face is ensuring they use the right technology to quickly adapt to the market. From the start, every Protel product has been based on cutting-edge Microsoft technologies, such as Windows and SQL Server.

The benefits are swift implementation, a short learning curve for employees, secure data storage with fast access and maximum application reliability and stability.

Using Microsoft technology makes integration of new products easy and stable. Using Web browser technology within Protel, functionality written in Protel's own programming language or third party systems can seamlessly be integrated into its front-end, making Protel the control centre of hotel IT.

Multiple modern programming languages can be used immediately for extensions and adaptations required by the hospitality market can very quickly be implemented.

Being flexible is another challenge. Protel uses a Single Source Code strategy, where only one software kernel is used for all product lines, allowing migration in all directions. A hotel using Protel SPE in a single property can easily be migrated into a multi-hotel Protel MPE cluster.

Hotels can also be split from the MPE cluster easily, for example when properties change owners. Then comes integration into the hotel technology ecosystem. Integration with other products in the hotel technology ecosystem becomes more and more important, looking at the increasing number of booking channels and new internet marketing opportunities.

We ensure easy integration with Protel's unique CKIT programming language, which is also available for trained partners and customers. CKIT language allows functionality of any kind to be added to Protel's core logic, while the SOA based design allows integration of products using any architecture.

Because the Protel core is not changed by writing extensions, the system stays ready for upgrades without manual intervention of high level technicians. Process optimisation is another challenge.Central management of booking channels, reservations and financial controlling with Protel MPE (multi-property edition) and Protel HQ allows process optimisation to become effective.

Then finally there's globalisation. As a multi-property, multi-language and multi-currency system, Protel MPE unites properties in multi-national locations in a single cluster - in real time.

What challenges do hotels in the Middle East currently face in regards to technology?

Thousands of hotel keys are coming up in the next few years in the Middle East. Hotels have to distinguish themselves from competitors not only with a different idea but also by using up-to-date technology, like sophisticated and flexible web booking engines, that present the hotel's unique business model to the guests.

Hospitality systems and their interfaces are rapidly moving to web-based technology, which allows dramatically easier and more flexible integration and hence more complete guest or operational data.

Many hotel operators are moving to take full advantage of this opportunity to streamline their operations, but adoption is frequently hampered by older systems with inflexible software design. The investment required to upgrade is significant, but the full benefits of this change cannot be realised without it.

What are the current technology trends in the hospitality industry?

A seamless link to online distribution channels, maintaining a single image inventory and using a modern PMS as a control centre for booking channels and financial controlling; cost effective booking channels like the hotel's own booking engine; integration with internet technologies like Google Maps, Google Analytics and YouTube, and therefore using the Web 2.0 idea for finding new guests; and offering better guest services by using the advantages of real time multi hotel solutions like Protel MPE.

What is the key to a good PMS?

The combination of a secure, reliable, extendable and future-proven technology with a competitive price structure is essential. As marketing through the internet becomes more and more important, a primary aid to success is the way a PMS product can be integrated into web technologies and how fast it can adapt to the quickly changing needs.

What hotels does Protel work with in the Middle East?

Emirates Hotels and Resorts, Mövenpick Hotels and Resorts and Dubai World Trade Centre Serviced Apartments. Emirates Hotels and Resorts, the new premium hospitality division of the Emirates Group [is a good recent example].

The hotel chain is using Protel front office, sales and marketing and web booking engine technology in a MPE Environment. Emirates Hotels and Resorts centralised its reservation department to efficiently allow cross-property bookings for their hotels in the UAE and to enable it to follow projects in real time.

The challenge is bringing together all third parties as POS, SPA, PABX, HSIA, WBE and KEY card under one roof. The Emirates data centre, where the Airline systems are also managed, is similarly secured to Fort Knox standards, which was a bit challenging. But thanks to the professionalism of all the IT teams we managed to run all the modules.

You provide video tutorials on your website. How do these help hoteliers? What other services do you offer your customers?

Video tutorials are helping to take preliminary decisions and help hoteliers keeping their staff trained. Because internet video is a media frequently used by young hotel staff, it is easily accepted and therefore very effective.

We got enormous positive feedback when we published the video tutorials on our web servers. Protel Assist offers our customers a direct connection to our help desk, keeping track of requests and wishes, which helps us maintain the good support response times our customers have been used to for many years now.

Watch out forProduct:Protel Multi Property Edition (MPE)

Comment:At a glance Protel can illustrate in real time multiple properties simultaneously. A unique functionality on the market is to overview the rate grid, taking into account the best available rate (BAR) structure, which allows the user to sell the lowest rate on daily basis.

Product:XN GlobalRes

Comment:Controlling a myriad of origin sources for reservations - Global Distribution Systems (GDS), Web Booking Systems (WBS), voice, Internet Distribution Systems (IDS) - is a major operational headache. As hotel operators struggle to manage an increasing stream of electronically-generated GDS and internet web-site reservation booking channels, XN GlobalRes and Protel provide a seamless, end-to-end application service that offers hoteliers an integrated CRS, PMS and e-distribution switch solution in one.

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