PDF’s Role in the Needs of the Hospitality Industry

Like many industries, the hospitality industry has adopted the Portable Document Format (PDF) standard as a means of electronic document archiving and distribution. And it’s easy to see why.

Today’s hospitality industry includes everything from stand-alone hotels to chains, family-run bed and breakfasts to luxury spas, conference sites to events centers. Many of the larger hotel facilities also include restaurants, business centers, spas, even casinos. The vast range of needs in hospitality also generates a vast amount of information, all of which has to be managed, searched, accounted for, stored and provided to users as needed.

So how does PDF software play a role in all this? Well, think back to the last time you made a reservation at a hotel. Perhaps you checked the hotel’s map, which was a PDF document. Or browsed the onsite restaurant menu, also a PDF document. Or downloaded a brochure detailing hotel amenities. Those are just a few customer-facing examples. For a deeper look, let’s look behind the scenes and consider a fundamental of the hospitality industry: real estate.

Location, location, location: managing real estate in the hospitality industry

Not surprisingly, hotels and hospitality groups deal with a lot of real estate. This usually requires organizations to invest in property management systems, which are computerized systems that facilitate management of properties, equipment and personnel, all one piece of software.

Property management systems replaced old-fashioned, paper-based methods, and not a moment too soon, as manual management of this information cannot keep up with the anytime/anywhere access required by hotelier management seeking to stay ahead of continually shifting trends in the travel and hospitality industries.

Most property management systems are, in reality, custom-built enterprise content management systems (ECMs). ECMs combine a wide variety of technologies and components, some of which can also be used as stand-alone systems, to form a content warehouse (both data warehouse and document warehouse) that combines company information in a single, uniform repository.

The five basic ECM component functions are:

1. Capture information. Various recognition technologies are used to process scanned documents and digital faxes. Among them is optical character recognition (OCR), a key component of PDF technology, which converts image information into machine-readable characters. document management systems control documents from their creation through to long-term archiving.

2. Store information. This can be for short-term or long-term archival purposes, and as we know, PDF/A is designed specifically to handle long-term archiving.
3. Preserve information. This deals with enabling long-term availability of information in electronic archives, where pdf software plays a critical role.
4. Manage information, which, in many cases, is included with “store” components.
5. Deliver information, meaning, get it to the users who want it in a format they can use. (pdf documents excel at being easily distributed, as we know.)

PDF primarily comes into play in storage, preservation and delivery in these systems.

PDF software’s role in storing data in ECM systems

In some cases, information stored in a hotel ECM system may already be in PDF. In many other cases, however, information has to be converted into a storable and accessible form. This is where transformation technologies come into play.

Transformation technologies are background services that are usually invisible to users. They perform conversion processes behind the scenes on documents and data to make them more readily available.

PDF is considered one of the key transformation technologies due to its intelligent print and distribution format, which enables:

• Platform-independent presentation of information
• Pure image formats like jpegs and tiffs to become searchable
• Metadata to be added for search capabilities
• Electronic signatures to be embedded for security and user verification

This is just part of what makes PDF software and the PDF format an invaluable tool to this industry. But storing is only part of the puzzle. The real value is in accessing the information.

Delivering information to customers, employees and management

When it comes to delivering information, the technologies that make up the kind of ECM used by the hospitality industry serve to provide their contents to users by various methods, in a user- and IT-controlled way.

These can be active components such as e-mail, data media, and memos, or passive publication on websites and portals, where the information is put so that users can get it themselves.

Types of output and methods of distribution include:
• Internet, extranet and intranet
• e-business portals
• Employee portals
• e-mail and fax
• Data transfer
• Mobile devices like mobile phones, pdas, and others
• Data media like CDs and DVDs
• Digital TV and other multimedia services
• Paper

The task of the various delivery components of an ECM for the hospitality industry, therefore, is to provide information to users in the best way for the given application, while controlling its use as far as possible.

Here, PDF software really shines for the reasons mentioned above. PDF documents are easily delivered to users of all kinds in hospitality, from the tourist planning her next European vacation to the business traveler checking maps of services at his destination airport to the hotelier reviewing photos of physical sites for their new luxury hotel.

Suffice to say, PDF is a key technology that makes for happy travels throughout this vast, demanding industry.

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