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 standard for the electronic transmission of convention housing reservation information.

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

Using the new system, housing providers will send rooming lists to UltraRes via a file that fits THISCO specifications, and UltraRes will then transfer the data to multiple hotels. The system will reduce errors, and save time and labor costs, say THISCO advocates, because housing providers will no longer have to format and submit separate lists to each hotel company, and hotel personnel will not have to manually re-enter data. (See "Is UltraRes the Answer?" in the February issue of this magazine.)

"UltraRes makes the [reservations] process much more efficient," says Karen Jordan, IACVB's CEO. "It will make the housing experience a much better one for the customer."

IACVB members will receive reduced rates, paying twenty-five cents per net reservation, with an annual pre-paid minimum of $2,000 per year. (The exact cost for non-IACVB members has not yet been determined, but will be less than fifty cents per net reservation, say THISCO representatives.)

IACVB plans to conduct an extensive awareness campaign among its member bureaus worldwide. There is some confusion about UltraRes, acknowledges Jordan. "People say they were burned once with CHRS [Central Convention Housing Reservation Service]. They don't want to be burned again."

"There's not even a comparison [to CHRS]," responds Paul Astleford, president and CEO of the Chicago Convention & Visitors Bureau. Astleford has already used the new system-his bureau's housing vendor, ITS, participated in a year-long beta test of UltraRes.

"CHRS was an actual reservations service vendor. This is merely a technological link to any vendor that provides a reservations service. People in the industry have been talking about this kind of technology for 15 years. This is the culmination," says Astleford. (Pegasus, Inc., THISCO's parent company, is also the parent company of Anasazi, Inc., the hotel reservations company that operated CHRS.)

CVBs' support of UltraRes is critical to its success, says Susan Hodapp, brand director, Marriott Hotels, Resorts & Suites. "The bureaus have to lead the way," she says. Marriott, like other chains, has its own automated reservations system. But UltraRes has the potential to do what those individual systems cannot do-provide a standardized industry solution, Hodapp stresses. "We want to think beyond ourselves," she says, "and make a solution for planners. [UltraRes] offers an outstanding return for planners."

Even if bureaus sign on, the system won't become a standard without the major chains. In addition to Marriott, ITT Sheraton is interested in UltraRes, and Hyatt, which tested the product, will be using it. But not everyone is jumping on the UltraRes bandwagon. Dave Scypinski, director of meeting and convention marketing with Hilton Hotels Corporation, says UltraRes would not replace hotels' internal reservations processing systems. Participating hotels would still have their own internal costs, and, in addition, would have to pay for UltraRes. UltraRes may be a viable method for standardizing transmission of housing reservations, but Hilton is taking a "wait and see" attitude, Scypinski says. "There may be cheaper ways."

PGI Files with SEC Production Group International (PGI), an events, entertainment, exhibitions, and business communications company, has filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to consider a public offering. At press time, the Arlington, VA-based company was conducting the necessary internal review, and evaluating the potential market reaction. PGI representatives are bound by SEC rules not to comment on the specifics.

"We are evaluating the options available to PGI as a public company," says C.B. Wismar, senior vice president of corporate marketing and communications. PGI's board of directors could make its decision by the end of April.