According to the Bureau of Labor Statistic, more than 61,000 establishments, including resorts, hotels, bed and breakfast inns, boarding houses and RV parks, provided accommodations in America in 2003. The number of workers employed by the tourism and hospitality industry reached 1.8 million, the majority of them being employed in service occupations, such as housekeeping and food prep. Hotels are generally classified into five categories: resort, commercial, residential, casino and extended stay.
In recent years the tourism industry has witnessed the growth in extended stay properties, designed to accommodate guests for stays of five nights and longer. Among top hotel corporations are Intercontinental Hotels Group, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, Marriott International. Another giant in hospitality industry, Cendant Corporation is regarded as the largest hotel franchiser in the world, which also has a significant presence in the rental car market holding the Budget Rent a Car and Avis brands.
Together with nearly every sector of the tourism and hospitality industry, hotels are gradually adjusting to the Internet presence in planning and spending of travel. Currently nearly 69% of business travelers and 63% of leisure travelers use the Internet for planning some aspects of their trips. It has been predicted by the online travel retailer Expedia that online travel purchasing would grow at a rate of 25% by 2008. The Internet has long ago become a means of empowering consumers to shop for the most favorable and attractive deals by using such e-mediaries as Orbitz, Travelocity and Expedia.
At the same time hotels are increasingly becoming more dependent on the Internet and electronic database systems to book rooms.
Electronic distribution is now common across the tourism and hospitality industry, allowing consumers and travel agents to access available flights, rental cars and hotel rooms. This trend results from the Internet Distribution System and Global Distribution System models, forming the core of the travel industry. There currently exist four main booking systems that provide access to airline, hotel and car rental booking. These include Galileo, Amadeus, Worldspan and Sabre.
Following the growing demand for new improved technologies and solutions that would emphasize flexibility and speed and work effectively with a distributed mobile workforce, the Hospitality Industry Technology Integration Standards Project has been introduced to provide a number of compelling business solutions, namely wireless systems keeping restaurant servers on the floor and streamline the order taking process; new revenue generating guest services, like Internet-enabled telephony systems, video-on-demand and broadband Internet access; kitchen management systems using the Internet for communication with suppliers and vendors; and more.
Some of the benefits from employing network-enabled facilities include higher productivity and lower labor costs; reduced infrastructure upgrade costs; and streamlined business operations among others.