UltraRes, the new automated reservations system launched by The Hotel Industry Switch Company (THISCO), received a major boost recently when the International Association of Convention & Visitor Bureaus (IACVB) endorsed the product as a technology standard for the electronic transmission of housing reservations for conventions.

UltraRes has the potential to solve the longstanding connectivity problem between hotels and whomever is handling housing for citywide meetings-the association, CVB, or third-party vendor.

THISCO, which provides the switch for translating and downloading travel agent reservations directly into the reservations systems of major hotels companies, has taken that technology and applied it to group reservations.

Here's how UltraRes works: After compiling a meeting's rooming list, the association, housing vendor, or CVB sends that list to THISCO. The list can be sent via e-mail, file transfer, or disk. THISCO UltraRes then translates the information to fit a hotel's computer reservations system and downloads it directly into that system. No one at the property has to key in the information. The process not only greatly reduces mistakes, but condenses a week's worth of labor into one hour of automated data transfer, according to THISCO.

The cost for using UltraRes has not yet been determined, but will be a nominal fee for participating hotels and for groups using the service, such as the association or housing company, say THISCO representatives. There will be a sliding scale, based on volume of usage. IACVB members will receive preferred rates.

Chains such as Hilton, Sheraton, and Marriott already have their own in-house data transfer systems. Hilton's Rapid System (Reservation Automated Processing Input and Delivery), for instance, is free to groups. So, what is the benefit of paying even a nominal fee to use UltraRes?

"The biggest difference is that the planner, housing company, or CVB has to send one format one time, to us, instead of using a different layout process for each different locale," explains Kathy Burbank, director of product development with Pegasus Systems, the Dallas-based parent company of THISCO. "That will reduce costs by saving time and labor."

IACVB plans to conduct an extensive awareness campaign among its member bureaus worldwide. But, ultimately, the success of UltraRes will depend on how many major hotel companies buy in.

Hyatt has tested the product and will be using it, and Pegasus Systems is now marketing UltraRes to other chains. "We have aggressive plans to bring on two to three large chains this year," says John Davis, Pegasus president and CEO. Pegasus is owned by 15 hotel and travel companies, and because of that relationship, Davis expects hotels to be receptive. ITT Sheraton, for one, is interested, says Marietta L. Baldwin, vice president, director national sales at ITT Sheraton Corporation.

The response from Hilton Hotels Corporation is not so enthusiastic, however. Dave Scypinski, director of meeting and convention marketing, says UltraRes would not replace hotels' internal reservations processing systems. Thus, participating hotels would still have their own internal costs, and, in addition, would have to pay for using UltraRes. Acknowledging that UltraRes may be a viable method for standardizing transmission of convention housing reservations, he says Hilton is taking a "wait and see" attitude, adding, "There may be cheaper ways."