From the October 1999 issue of Entrepreneur

The information your hotel collects about you is usually inconsequential: your favorite newspaper, your husband's birthday, your preference for an ocean-side room.

But put it all together, and the data creates a powerful guest profile that allows the hotel to anticipate your needs. "Guest-history systems are an integral component of almost every property management system," says Andrew P.G. Mace, principal hospitality consultant and vice president of Talus Solutions Inc., a revenue management service provider in Atlanta.

Recently, however, travelers have expressed concern with the scope and depth of the information requested by hotel staff members. According to Mace, guest dossiers can contain data that's quite personal. What's more, properties are sharing the information within chains.

Frequent travelers are worried that personal decisions, such as which pay-per-view film they watch, might end up in the wrong hands. On Command, a leading provider of in-room video entertainment and information services, is also troubled by that possibility. It doesn't enable its hotel properties to access movie-buying habits of the guests who use On Command's services.

Is that going to stop hotels from gathering information? Not likely. For properties, the information is a goldmine of possibilities they aren't about to give up. So don't be surprised if you check into a hotel only to find a gift basket with your favorite candy in it. Remember: It's probably no coincidence.


Christopher Elliott is a writer in Annapolis, Maryland. Contact him at http://www.elliott.org.

Book Me!

Airline and nonairline alike--travel sites are flying high.

Airline Web sites aren't what they used to be. No longer static backwaters that merely display flight and gate information, carriers now feature customizable content, mileage information and discounted tickets.

A recent survey by New York City media research company Jupiter Communications predicts that within the next three years, 62 percent of online airline bookings will be handled by airline sites instead of nonairline travel sites. Just a few months ago, sales on airline sites represented only a fraction of online reservations.

This raises the question of where to book online. Nonairline travel sites such as Trip.com and Travelocity.com offer fares from a variety of carriers and suppliers. Most airline sites, however, only sell their own flights. On the other hand, a lucky traveler might find a price that's only offered on an airline's Web page.

Don't ditch one site for another just yet. Nonairline sites allow you to window shop and offer tips and special rates. "Each site has strengths and weaknesses," says Lorraine Sileo, a senior analyst at PhoCusWright, an online travel consultancy in Sherman, Connecticut. "But online travel agencies still offer the neutrality and choice that an airline site can't. It's best to shop around."

Road Notes

  • Southwest Airlines has added new daily nonstop service between Baltimore/Washington, DC, and Las Vegas; Los Angeles and New Orleans; Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and New Orleans; and Houston and Providence, Rhode Island.
  • Through February 29, 2000, all Gold and Platinum AAdvantage members will receive up to $100 credit toward food and beverage purchases when they stay three nights or longer and pay either corporate or standard rates at any Wyndham Resort.
  • US Airways has expanded the frequent-flier offerings on its Web site (http://www.usairways.com). Dividend Miles program members can now check account balances, verify their account profiles online, and view current or previous account statements.

Business and Pleasure

Park City, Utah

Even though it's home to the giant slalom and bobsledding events in the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, Park City isn't just a winter resort. Its proximity to Salt Lake City and abundance of warm-weather activities, such as hiking and mountain biking, make it a perfect fall destination.

Where to stay: The Stein Eriksen Lodge (800-453-1302) at the Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah, has all the amenities and facilities you'd expect from a big-city property.

Don't miss: Great golfing at The Homestead Resort in nearby Midway (800-327-7220).

For more information, call the Park City Mountain Resort at (800) 222-7275.

Contact Sources

Jupiter Communications,http://www.jup.com

On Command Corp., 6331 San Ignacio Ave., San Jose, CA 95119, (800) 842-2961

PhoCusWright, (860) 350-4084, http://www.phocuswright.com

Southwest Airlines, (800) I-FLY-SWA, http://www.southwest.com

Talus Solutions Inc., (404) 763-5454,