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Marriott Uses CRM Application To Boost Sales

Technology initiatives help hotel chain increase group bookings and streamline operations

2 Min Read

As demand softens in the hospitality industry, Marriott International last week said it's focusing on technology initiatives to boost sales and run its operations more efficiently.

A year into its implementation of Siebel Systems Inc.'s customer-relationship-management package, Marriott has put the tool in the hands of 2,000 salespeople and events-booking staffers. If a group is interested in the Manhattan Marriott Marquis, but the property is sold out, the software helps salespeople cross-sell other Marriott properties.

Marriott also relies on Newmarket International's NetMarketplace sales and catering software to link the inventory at its hotels into a single database that allows for cross-selling and centralized account management of business groups and meetings. Competitors Meristar Hotels and Resorts Inc. and Hilton Hospitality Inc. use the software to offer a unified image of inventory and lead generation. By using XML-based APIs, companies can link the software to traditional travel agency supply chains, as well as convention and visitors' bureaus and meetings-oriented Web sites like PlanSoft.com and Starcite.com, which let organizers post automated requests for proposals for their group business.

Marriott is focusing on other areas, as well. "We came out of our Y2K conversion with a lot of pent-up demand on functionality and spent 2000 making those maintenance and enhancement changes just to catch up with the projects that were on the back burner for the prior nine months," says CIO Carl Wilson. For instance, the company standardized its desktops on Microsoft technology; it had been using several different desktop systems.

The hotel chain also is planning upgrades to central reservations, revenue and property management, and CRM systems. For example, the property-management system is used around the world to manage everything from room inventory to kitchen supplies. Four years ago, franchisees were using 19 different systems, including some custom-made ones and one from the Micros-Fidelio division of Micros Systems Inc. Now, they're down to six, and Wilson plans to take another look at consolidation this summer.

Online sales, meanwhile, continue to soar. "We've been surprised, and have underestimated the growth every year," Wilson says. Last year, the channel contributed 570 million bookings--75% of them on its own Marriott.com site.

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