Order an extra bathrobe at a five-star hotel in the Big Apple and housekeeping will deliver one to you faster than a New York minute. Try the same feat at a Beijing hotel and you may find yourself waiting considerably longer. One of the biggest challenges of managing a global hotel chain is how to maintain a uniform five-star experience across the world. Technology vendors such as Siemens believe they have the answer. The company has developed a software tool that allows hotels to monitor staff performance at its properties worldwide. If Beijing bellhops take five minutes too long delivering your bags to your room, headquarters will know. 'You need to provide a certain level of guest satisfaction, otherwise the guests are not coming back,' said Philip Krause, director of global product management at Siemens' Global Centre of Competence Hospitality. 'If you order something important, for example a baby bed, you can't wait half a day.' The software is one of the many ways hotels are using technology to improve the experience of guests. Ubiquitous wireless broadband access is becoming a must-have for high-end hotels. So too are wireless IP phones that guests can take with them anywhere inside a hotel, be it to the poolside or the gym. While market data is hard to come by, some industry experts put the global market for hotel technology spending as high as US$25 billion annually - a sum that seems grossly inflated given that several new hotels can be built for that much. Nevertheless, technology vendors agree there is an opportunity to win sales by catering for hotel guests' needs. Terence Ronson, managing director at specialist hotel systems integrator Pertlink, said: 'We're seeing greater interest than before from both large and small players to adopt advanced information and communications technologies that could help drive their business.' He said Great Eagle Holdings recently spent about $35 million to build a universal wireless broadband network at the 42-storey Langham Place Hotel in Mongkok. The network can also be accessed throughout the new 15-storey shopping mall and 59-storey office tower that are part of Great Eagle Holdings' 1.8-million sqft Langham Place complex. Great Eagle deputy chairman and managing director Lo Ka-shui said: 'In the hospitality industry, we must keep abreast of what our guests want. We want our guests to have the option of being completely connected and having information they want at their fingertips.' But the technology enthusiasts run the risk of getting a little carried away. Siemens envisions hotel staff carrying Wi-fi-enabled PDAs. If the guest in room 1301 asks for fresh towels, housekeeping receives the order via PDA and back-office software monitors how long it takes for the task to be filled. Mr Krause said the system could be used to monitor the performance of hotel staff. Those not measuring up are, presumably, shown the door. Many hotel chains are investing to replace proprietary, non-integrated office programs with more sophisticated enterprise resource planning systems (ERP) that provide their staff with financial management, material management, reporting and budgeting tools. Gary Kwok King-man, vice-president for hotel finance at Hyatt International Asia Pacific, said: 'We decided to leave the application development part to our technology partners - such as Epicor - so we can concentrate more on our core competency.' Epicor has installed ERP systems at 43 Hyatt hotel locations worldwide over the past five ?years.