Smart Hotel Online takes on the big boys

11-Infotech System Co. Ltd, a Thai company based in Bangkok, has launched a new booking engine for hotels that will take on the big boys offering the same service but at a much lower price. WIT meets up with its CEO Business Development, Chartchai Pothong (pictured left), to find out more.

Despite facing challenges such as "prejudice against "home-grown" technology, Thailand-based11-Infotech System, which offers Smart Hotel Online, is persevering with its mission of getting more small, independent hotels in the region as customers.

The company launched Smart Hotel Online, an online booking engine for hotels, at last year's ITB Asia and returned as an exhibitor in 2010.

According to CEO Business Development, Chartchai Pothong, the product gives hotels their own API (Application Programme Interface) and XML ((Extensible Markup Language) at a fraction of the price of existing products marketed by European and American companies.

He said that not only do hotels get "independent" XML and API under their own domain name and with full control of the site, all transactions are also done in real time. Additionally, the engine is able to "differentiate price according to nationality", which other systems cannot do, and Smart Hotel Online is "the only one globally to be able to do this”, he claimed.

Despite being cheaper and boasting these capabilities, Chartchai admitted that getting hotels to use Smart Hotel Online was difficult, even among small, independent hotels that are the company's key market.

"There seems to be a prejudice against home-grown, or in this case ASEAN-grown product such as an online booking engine, as preference is for large European companies offering similar products," he said.

However, with perseverance, intense marketing and the support and recommendations from some leading travel agents in the ASEAN region, Smart Hotel Online is now used in more than 70 hotels throughout the region. Most are small and independent hotels, as local grown hotel chains still prefer to use European booking engines, said Chartchai.

He expects the number to increase to 100 by the end of the year.

"We launched Smart Hotel Online last year at ITB Asia to help small hotels gain global presence with an online booking engine that is affordable for them. We are still building up our presence and doing a lot of marketing and PR exercise," he added.

Chartchai said that 11-Infotech Systems is also the first company in Asia to offer its clients "independent" XML and API and full control of their sites.

Another plus, missing in most similar booking engines, is "family plan".

"Many systems don't have a child policy. Our system can cater to the specified needs of the family – from requests for extra bed to other specifics – and the cost is calculated online and the customer knows exactly how much to pay."

Chartchai said that "what we are offering is more than just a booking engine, it's a complete solution for business that enhances your control with reservation and distribution global Internet marketing".

The cost is US$2,000 that includes design of the website, customising site according to client's specifications and setting up the CMS (Content Management System). The hotel then has complete control over the site and manages its bookings with direct access to the API and XML. Updates to the site can be done internally or by 11-Info System if major revamp is required, usually on a yearly basis.

The company gets US$1 per booking from the hotel, regardless of room nights. On how 11-Infotech System makes money from such small charges, he said currently the company is in the process of making the product known and used. 'When we grow big we can charge more.'

Smart Hotel Online is present in Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. In the Philippines and Vietnam, the penetration is lower as both countries do not have e-payment, while Singapore is a tough market to break through.

The competition is tough though and increasing as companies in countries like Korea, Spain and Australia are also coming out with similar products, he said. "However we pride ourselves on quality of the product and good service, which are hard to duplicate."

11-Info System has 60 full time staff at its headquarters in Bangkok and marketing offices in the countries where it has customers.

Posted on 03 Nov 2010 at 15:46 pm by Corinne Wan