hangzhou3.gifIBM has won a contract to transform Hangzhou's Dragon Hotel into a “smart hotel” using a battery of new technologies designed to improve the guest experience.

The 507-room hotel, which claims it was the first four-star hotel in Zheijang province, has decided to move upmarket and technology is an integral part of this transformation into the first “platinum” five-star hotel in Hangzhou.

IBM will implement a new IT infrastructure comprising more than 20 sub-systems and solutions using IBM's industry expertise, integration capabilities and latest technology.

Under the agreement, IBM will integrate the hotel's major systems — the hotel management system, the communications system and the one-stop service centre. There will be personal digital assistant (PDA) systems for the staff, self check-in kiosks, interactive TV, RFID tracking, IP telephony, and the latest in guestroom control and entertainment systems.

The press release claims that the refurbishment will cost 1bn yuan, which seems a huge amount of money to spend on modernising a single hotel. Nevertheless, in China they rarely do things by halves and presumably the hotel wants to attract more well-heeled tourists attracted by Hangzhou's scenic beauty — Marco Polo, supposedly the first westerner to visit the city, described it as the “city of heaven”.

Hangzhou is also an important commercial centre — it is the headquarters for carmaker Geely, for example. the Dragon Hotel Hotel has been chosen as the official venue for conferences hosted by the Hangzhou Municipal Government.

China's travel and hospitality sector is a good market to be in for western IT vendors. Massive new hotels are being thrown up at an astonishing rate, and many older establishments like the Dragon Hotel realise that they need to modernise their infrastructure to appeal to the higher expectations of western and, increasingly, local guests.

This type of contract plays to IBM's strengths as system integrator. While there are many specialist local IT suppliers that could supply parts of the system that the Dragon Hotel wants, there are not many that can source the complete solution and coordinate the whole project.

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