Annual Review and Summary Financial Statement 2008

Driving demand

“Technology is an integral part of our daily lives. It's changed our behaviours and our expectations. Our guests have told us it's a big factor in where they choose to stay. So we need to meet their expectations to deliver a great guest experience.”

Tom Conophy
Chief Information Officer

Tom Conophy
log on, check in...

From Merlin to Magic, our technological wizards have been working on a host of innovative ways for hotels to boost their performance and increase bookings. Tom Conophy reveals how this even includes enabling concierges to 'twitter' at guests.

For the first time we have a single communications platform across all our hotels.

Take over 4,000 hotels across the world, give them up-to-the-minute information on their business performance, and what do you have? Answer: Merlin, our intranet system (the internal website for all IHG colleagues). Our biggest success over the past year has been to connect all of our hotels around the world to it.

20 technicians, as well as about 200 other people across the globe, worked on the project. We had to overcome the challenge of linking to some of our more remote locations and ensure that the right level of information is available to our employees.

By enabling business intelligence to be provided in almost ‘real time’, Merlin allows our owners and general managers to make decisions faster. This is important for revenue management, and shows how technology can really give businesses an edge – more important than ever in an economic downturn.

In today’s tougher times, it is also valuable to provide hotels with new ways of reaching out to guests, and we have achieved that by adding our hotels to Expedia, the Internet-based travel agency.

We have increased the number of customers which the reservations centres can manage and boosted the conversion rate from call to booking by moving the centres to a new Internet-based system. It gives more information on our call centre colleagues’ computer screens, so they have fewer screens to navigate and can answer questions more rapidly.

Other developments this year include the revitalisation of our websites, mapping all our hotels on Google Earth (see story, right) and the introduction of Hotel 360, a system to help us manage all our hotel and owner information more efficiently.

Connecting with guests

As social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter increase in popularity, guests expect us to be able to communicate with them using these websites. Our InterContinental concierges can now post information to guests using Twitter and we’ve launched an online community for some of our Priority Club Rewards members to share their thoughts on IHG hotels and test new marketing ideas. We’ll continue to test innovative ways of using the online world to enhance our guest services. One of our big plans for next year is Magic – a next generation loyalty system which enables us to market to all our previous guests in their own language.

Our stories

Now showing…

More than 150 videos about IHG and our hotels, some of them made by guests, can now be viewed on our new YouTube page. Log on to www.youtube.com/ihgplc

Screen shot of IHG's youtube page

Click and easy

Guests now have a new way to plan a trip and book a hotel room anywhere in the world in just a few clicks, thanks to our new Google Earth application. This groundbreaking tool enables guests to home in on their destination, find the nearest IHG hotel and book their room directly from the site. IHG was the first hotel company to plot all its hotels on Google Earth.

Screen shot of Google Earth

Check-ins checked out

Hotel owners can now install an extra, economical way of handling check-in and check-out. We’ve created a low-cost kiosk system that allows guests to avoid any delay at reception, view their room, upgrade, look over their bill and check themselves in and out. A number of hotels in the US have installed the kiosks and hotels in Asia and Europe are testing them too. Customers have told us they really like being able to manage their own arrival and departure.

A check in kiosk

Joined-up thinking

What do an iPod, mobile phone, gaming system and laptop have in common? They can all be plugged into a guest connection device that IHG has developed, allowing guests to easily hook up their electronic gadgets to the in-room TV, loudspeakers or Internet. Connectivity is crucial for our guests and the devices will be available to all our hotels in 2009.

A mobile phone