The end of the paper trail?

Hoteliers frustrated by piles of passport photocopies are turning to technology to save time, improve the efficiency of front-of-house hotel operations, and meet the authorities' requirements.
The end of the paper trail?
By Administrator
Mon 10 Sep 2007 04:00 AM

All hotels in the Middle East are required by law to keep copies of guest's proof of identity, and until now have either entered them manually into a computer or kept paper copies.

But new technology is being created that will streamline this impractical process.

We’re moving towards a paperless environment by electronically documenting customer identification details.

"We're moving towards a paperless environment by electronically documenting customer identification details," explained Jayant Deshpande, regional director, Samsotech Middle East.

"Our scanPro scanning systems extract the data automatically according to clients needs. It is even able to send alerts to notify businesses on expiry dates of passports and ID cards."

Crowne Plaza Dubai purchasing assistant M. L. Priyantha Perera said the hotel still took photocopies of passports, but "it is a nightmare".

"You have to copy each one as the guests come in and there are bits of paper flying everywhere," he said.

JW Marriott Dubai purchasing supervisor Abid Hossain said his hotel used to use the same system, but it just wasn't practical.

"Before we were taking a photocopy and keeping the paper. It used to take up too much man power and we had to store all the paper," he said.

"Now it's much easier, just scan it one time and it's done. There's no need for paper anymore.

"We photocopy the passports and then we scan them for our records and they are stored on the computer. We've been using this system for about eight months or a year and it's much more efficient than before."

Although the new system used at JW Marriott is more efficient, the scanPro automates the process even further.

"Samsotech products are designed to quickly and accurately, scan and read the information from identification documents like Passports, ID cards and driver's licenses," Deshpande explained.

"Images and text data are then arranged in a structured database for easy backup, searching, tracking, exporting and creating management reports."
The benefit of the ScanPro, which incorporates Samsotech software with a Fujitsu fi-60F passport scanner to provide a compact solution to the problem, is that they not only read documents, but they authenticate the data, read through algorithms and create a structured database.

"[The system offers] high accuracy in reading identification documents combined with validation, correction and alert algorithms and our system can be easily integrated with hospitality systems," added Deshpande.

The system was developed specifically to counter the problems experienced by Middle East based hoteliers struggling to streamline the record keeping process.

It is designed to automate the process, saving time and money.

"Presently most of the hotels in the Middle East scan or photocopy the identification documents of all their guests and then enter details manually into their system. These routine activities - like photocopying, filing and manual data entry - increase costs, waste valuable time, occupy storage space and increase possibilities of errors due to manual data entry," explained Deshpande.

"Samsotech systems address all these issues. [They] save the time and cost of document copying and storage. These systems also minimise the errors associated with manual data entry and create an electronic database that replaces conventional filing of papers."

Once created, the database provides backup and enables hotel staff to search, track and export documents, as well as creating reports for management. This process completely negates the need for manual data entry, allowing for a faster check-in process, which has elicited a positive response from guests, according to Deshpande.

And as far as the hotel is concerned the product is simple to use and requires no training to operate.

"Operators need only ten seconds to scan and read the passport or ID card. The systems screen will then display the image of the passport and the recognised fields such as name, passport number, nationality and date of birth," Desphande added.

"Additional fields can be completed if required [such as hotel room number]. [Hoteliers have said that it is a] user friendly and useful system and we are committed to continuously improving our products to match ever increasing customer expectations.

"We are developing customised products to address the unique requirements of different countries and market segments. We have added two new products to our range."

One of those new products, the VICAS - Hospitality (Visitor Identification Capture and Archiving System) is designed specifically for the hospitality industry.

"It is a networked Samsotech ID reading system and is ideal for hotels where they need to collect guest identification information - from passports, ID cards - from several front desks for centralised archiving and processing. VICAS facilitates easy uploading of guest details to any website," said Deshpande.

Samsotech products are currently being used by a number of hotels in the UAE, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and more installations are scheduled in the next two months in these and other Middle Eastern countries.

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