Summit: Firms invest in technology despite recession

Major brands Hilton and Disney continue to invest in technology despite the current economic crisis, according to executives from both companies.

Hilton Worldwide president Europe Simon Vincent acknowledged that the hotel sector in general had been slow to adopt the web as a distribution mechanism, although he added that “there’s a lot that we can do with technology to make checking-in and out easier.”

Its recently launched iPhone app is an example of this.

In terms of distribution, Hilton is starting to launch property-specific web sites for its leisure-based hotels.

He said: “We’re rethinking and re-engineering our web presence. Our distribution has traditionally been a link into a GDS or direct to a corporate agent rather than focus on getting to the individual leisure traveller.”

Late in 2008, Hilton poached Paul Brown from Expedia to oversee its e-commerce operations.

Disney Destination International vice president and managing director Hugh Wood said that despite being around since 1930s, a lot of management expense and headspace was put into keeping the brand refreshed.

In terms of technology, he said the challenge was to get into the right channel at the right time, while also being wary of “jumping on bandwagons”.

He used mobile phones as an example, saying: “There’s a lot of noise about mobile but will people use their phone to book a Disney holiday? I doubt it. But they will want to research their break online. We must make sure our involvement is appropriate.”

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